On the Joy of Killing Arabs and Muslims: From Fiction to Reality

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The Grand Entry Western Store advertises 'Chris Kyle' hats for sale on their street sign February 11, 2015 in Stephenville, Texas. AFP/Brandon Wade/Getty Images

By: Yazan al-Saadi

Published Thursday, February 12, 2015

“American Sniper” has become the second highest grossing R-rated film of all time on the domestic US film market. The financial and critical success of the film shows how startlingly normal it has become to dehumanize and vilify Arabs and Muslims in American fiction. This ultimately seeps into reality, as it did in the cold-blooded execution of three Arab Muslim students in their homes by a white atheist terrorist, or the incineration of a 13-year-old boy by a US drone strike.

The citizens of the United States have spoken. They have done so in the most democratic way possible within the American context — through their wallets.

Today, “American Sniper” is the second highest grossing R-rated film domestically, earning almost $283 million since its nationwide release on January 16.

The average cost of a movie ticket in the US is estimated to be around $8.12. Given that average, we can roughly estimate that around 34.85 million people — almost 10 percent of the total American population, or around 27 percent of Americans who voted in 2012 — paid to watch “American Sniper.”

(Yes, this is slightly reductionist and glosses over factors like repeated viewings, IMAX prices, the massive marketing behind the film or other pesky issues… I guess I’m just momentarily inspired by the low standards prevalent in articles, books, and analysis published in the West by ‘experts’ on Arabs, Muslims, the West Asian region, and indeed the rest of the non-Western region).

That’s quite a feat for an R-rated movie, considering that the rating restricts, in theory, individuals below the age of 17 to freely watch the movie (without legal guardians). And yet, “American Sniper,” at the moment, is the highest grossing war film of all time in America.

Why do I bring up “American Sniper” long after other, much more refined writers have tackled the film? Allow me a moment to explain.

I am a proponent of the idea that the consumption of fiction (what is being consumed and how it is consumed) can be a useful indication of the sociological sentiments of a populace. On that basis, we can deduce a few things about the American public from the success of “American Sniper.”

Americans love worshipping their heroes, particularly if their heroes are affiliated with a military entity, and even more if said heroes are killing nefarious Arabs.

The fact that “American Sniper” is loosely based on the biography of Chris Kyle, a routine liar and notorious bigot, who relished in the killing of 'savage Arabs,' inviting no hesitation from the film’s producers, director, and actors, speaks volumes about how valuable Arab lives are to the average American mind.

Clint Eastwood, who directed the movie, laughably argued that “American Sniper” was inherently an anti-war movie. He argued that the film made, “the biggest anti-war statement any film can make.” Then again, Eastwood once ranted against an empty chair during a Republican National Conference in 2012 so we can excuse him for any deluded statements he makes.

The film itself is such a fantastical distortion of reality that it shrugged aside and white-washed everything regarding Kyle, especially in terms of what he thought about war.

Kyle was never anti-war. He loved war. He wrote that he wished he could have killed more Arabs, and saw the killing as part of doing God’s work. This was exactly who he was. He wrote this clearly in black and white in his book, the book that was adapted into “American Sniper.”

Yet, after being run through that magical processing plant that is Hollywood, Kyle has been transformed into a larger-than-life tragic hero, and the apologist myths surrounding the brutal Anglo-American invasion of Iraq are once again perpetuated, enhanced, and absorbed.

Much can be gleaned from the fact that “American Sniper” was showered with award nominations, despite the fact that the film is not original, is not a technical masterpiece, and is neither ground-breaking or thought-provoking.

The accolades desperately flung at it from so-called ‘critics’ and ‘award judges’ are simply a repetition of the blind support thrown at other pro-war films in recent history like “Zero Dark Thirty” (Katheryn Bigelow's celebration of torture) or “The Hurt Locker” (another terrible film, also by Bigelow, in which an American soldier deals with his superficial guilt over the Iraq war), or the countless war movies that solely present the American military perspective, oblivious to the sentiments and perspectives of the non-American victims of war.

There is an almost prescribed holiness to “American Sniper,” where in effect the movie has become a de facto litmus test for American patriotism. Its stellar financial and critical success shows how mainstream and absolutely lucrative it is to be anti-Arab and anti-Muslim in America. The vehement (and arguably pathetic) defense of the film is extraordinary, to the point that even the US First Lady Michelle Obama felt the need to defend “American Sniper.”

How incredible. A film, based on the life of a bigoted liar, who relished killing Arabs, is embraced and elevated. It is human. Emotional. Brimming with pain. Oh, how sad it is that this bigot was killed by another American veteran. What a brave man he was. Hark. Sob.... and scene.

This is only one tiny aspect of the colossal “Military-Entertainment Complex” that permeates Hollywood, the video gaming industry, comic books, television, and other forms of US entertainment, which, as documented by American academic Jack Shaheen, has a special, long history with regards to Arabs and Muslims.

This state of American storytelling bleeds into reality.

One can point to the recent case of the Chapel Hill murders in North Carolina, in which a 46-year-old white atheist man went into his neighbor’s apartment and shot three American Muslims — Deah Shaddy Barakat (23), his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha (21), and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha (19) — in the head, one after the other.

Not only did the American media take their sweet time to report the story — and only after there was a massive social media campaign that forced them to pay attention — but also no mainstream media institutions used the words, “terrorism” or “terrorist” in their analyses. We all know that if a 46-year-old American Muslim executed three white atheists, it would have automatically resulted in the ubiquitous use of the word “TERROR” in every headline from New York to Los Angeles, and London to Tel Aviv.

And that brings us to the extraordinary audacity of the local police, who announced that they are considering a “parking dispute” as the motive behind the execution, despite the fact that the white atheist terrorist’s Facebook page, and statements by the victims’ families, indicate otherwise.

(If the Chapel Hill murders were due to a ‘parking dispute’, then surely we should consider the notion that Zionists ethnically cleansed Palestinians over a ‘landscaping dispute’, or that the Charlie Hebdo attackers killed people because of ‘artistic differences’).

Underlying the devastating terror in Chapel Hill is a mammothian system of harassment, vilification, and abuse directed towards Arabs and Muslims — as well as the many other non-white communities — within US borders and elsewhere.

Let’s be viciously honest here: in American mythology and reality, the only good Arab or Muslim is either dead or blindly submissive to the political, sociological, and economic narratives advanced by the American state.

This is the blunt truth today, a truth that was once eloquently articulated by a 13-year-old Yemeni boy, Mohammed Tuaiman al-Jahmi, thousands of miles away.

He said: “In their eyes, we don't deserve to live like people in the rest of the world and we don't have feelings or emotions or cry or feel pain like all the other humans around the world.”

Jahmi is absolutely right… So hauntingly right that he was incinerated to a crisp by a US drone about a week after he made the above statement.

Yazan is a senior writer for Al-Akhbar English. Follow him on Twitter: @WhySadeye

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar English's editorial policy. If you would like to submit a thoughtful response to one of our opinion pieces, send your contribution to our submissions editor.

Comments

All of the commentaries made herein by those who wrote their opinion, have indeed expressed their point to satisfy themselves by seeing themselves as contributors. As a psychologist I just want to point out something about ourselves. Once we are born, we grow up totally influenced by those who rear us, which includes close and also distant family members and of course we are then further influenced by our school mates, our local environment in reference to the government we are under, and of course let’s not forget the pursuit of religious doctrine to which we are pushed towards from the time we are born.
Once we have absorbed all of the above, we reach the point where we have now gained a form of expertise for casting our personal opinion on whatever we are either pleased with or displeased about. The ‘American Sniper’ film makers, knew well that such a film would cause worldwide commentary This is exactly what the film makers wanted. The film makers are raking in the money and give little thought to everything else, especially commentaries like the ones read here, especially while the dollars are constantly raking in. Many movies that are based on partial true factors are psychologically undertaken to get people to react. Much like the semi-true film story ‘Titanic’ which I believe is the top grossing (money wise) film to date.
As for the secondary matter, this is based on our diverse mentalities, for this in truth is the greatest factor of all as it gives us the ability to learn about others and of course our panoramic surroundings, which had we all been equal, we would all instead possess robotic minds and forever be the same as everyone else, which in turn would make every commentary be the same. How boring that would be…….

The movie “American Sniper” stands out for 4 big features:
1. The movie implies that Iraq was responsible for 9/11.
2. Some American say the Sniper was a war criminal, not a hero.
3. It is shown in the American media that the Sniper was also a big liar
4. The movie director, Clint Eastwood, totally destroyed his legacy by directing a trash of a movie with a bunch of lies—a real Hollywood production!

Many of the points in this article are, sadly, valid, but I do take exception to the broad brush approach to the view of Americans. While 10% of the population may have seen the movie, 90% have not, me among them. I have no desire to watch films that glorify war since and barbarity. I consider war a human failure, not a solution. In fact, what I've read about this movie's story line disgusts me. So while it may be the most successful war movie ever, (I suspect part of that is because of the fact that Kyle was murdered and that event fueled curiosity,) the fact that the vast majority of Americans didn't bother to see it also says something, but that is not likely to be the subject of anyone's OpEd.

you have obviously not watched Turkish movies like Valley of the Wolves that make you, Mr Anonymous, into a blood sucking vampire of a human being. And you are an angel compared to their treatment of the Jews.
And though the murder of those three young people in Carolina was a crime worthy of the death penalty, the perpetrator was an insane leftwing atheist who targeted them as much for his madness as their religion. When a rabbi was murdered by a Chinese man in California last year over a rent dispute, it was not considered a hate crime. Nor was the drive by murder of a rabbi in Miami.
Keep these things in mind.

It's too bad this article exaggerates its points because there is plenty of merit in the debate about the role of popular culture in forming attitudes towards Arabs and Muslims in the US (and elsewhere). But this is just a bit too much. To begin with, while Kyle was certainly a violent and bigoted man, the movie doesn't portray him as such--and the movie itself can't be described as inherently anti-Arab or anti-Muslim. This is a big problem for the argument in this article. Yes, it's a stupid film, it's simplistic and sentimental, and extremely violent. It also casts Arabs and Muslims as victims of Islamists--and this is certainly what the film is: anti-Islamist, anti-Jihadist. You can't learn much about the origins of the war from the film, it lionizes the military and most definitely is a cinematic hagiography of a talented sniper who may well have had a very dark soul. But to the extent that Americans get to know Chris Kyle through the film they meet a kind of real-life superhero, a standup guy with a big heart and the ethic of a "sheep dog" intent on protecting his herd. I've watched it and I've let my teenage kids watch it and what we ended up talking about was the ethics of sniping and the psychological effects of this method of killing on a soldier and related subjects. And I gave them a little lecture on the lies of the Bush administration that got the US into that mess in the first place, which they brushed off because "everybody already knows that." My eldest didn't have any problem hanging out with his Muslim friend in the following days.

To anybody reading this editorial: Yes, much of what you just read is true. But ask yourself, "Are there not lots of people like this in my country also?" Just today this website published a story describing tension between different ideological groups in Lebanon. Has there never been a Lebanese movie glorifying Hezbollah attacking Israel? My guess is that the answer to that is yes,and my second guess is that there were lots of Lebanese people who did not want to see it. The same applies to American Sniper. There are many Americans who would never watch it, including myself. If the solution is peace, than pointing fingers and playing the blame game will not lead to peace but even more division.

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