A Larger, Still Developing Point About Homeland’s Politics

While we don’t know what drives Nazir , Brody’s convention to terrorism is driven by the death of Nazir’s son, his student, during an American drone strike. Brody becomes a “terrorist” for the same reason most people become a terrorist. A terrible thing happened to Brody at the hands of unseen forces. Lacking any recourse, he turns to asymmetrical violence against a nameless ,faceless state. Brody’s story is the story of 10,000s of young men and women who have commited horrendous acts of violence when all hope is lost. [1] Violence (and often one’s own death) becomes the only act of rebellion capable of making a dent in the status quo.

Brody is not evil. He does not hate America a priori. He has not been completely brainwashed. He is not a zealot. He is deeply conflicted about his role in Nazir’s plan. A zealot would have had no problem pulling the trigger and killing the leaders of the military industrial complex and the perpetrator of the drone war. But he doesn’t. It may be because he has something to live for (his family) or because he sees playing the long game as a more effective means of political change.

But of course Brody is largely an exception. He is not an impossibly poor farmer from the frontier of Afghanistan, a disaffected kid from the streets of Riyadh, and the pissed off second generation and college graduate Turk living in Paris who cannot get a job. He is an American Marine. Brody has more in common with Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen than with Mohamed Atta or Ayman al-Zawahiri. Brody is an exception because “Terrorist Masterminds” exploit the desperate conditions of the Pashtun farmer, kid in Riyadh, or pissed Turkish college graduate open to be exploited. [2]

Homeland and the Demystification of Terrorism

The sociological conditions that lead to terrorism are extremely complex. The modern media landscape, fraught with columnists, radio talk show hosts, and cable news pundits, tried to frame terrorism and The Terrorists as a homogenous ground of individuals driven by a unified and unwavering ideology.

Through the first season we see this portrayal of the terrorist as a complicated figure. Brody is a complex character. His actions throughout the show are driven by an equally complex set of conditions. This not only makes compelling television, but is an important counter example to a dominate political narrative.

  1. The DoD defines terrorism as any unlawful act of violence meant to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or intimidate governments or societies in pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.  ↩

  2. Of course, Brody is a POW, tortured and manipulated into the being the “perfect sleeper.” So perhaps I am splitting semantic hairs. In my other examples we see people being driven to terrorism out of organic circumstances. As opposed to Brody, who becomes a terrorist out of the situation as a POW. Nazir must have seen something in Brody and his partner Tom Walker to condition them as sleepers.  ↩