At BGSU, we would rail against students who had no options or interested. Everyone liked Family Guy Saved By The Bell and or Friends. Sometimes an adventurous 17 year old girl would confess she walked Gilmore Girls. No one take a stand and no one wanted to stand out. I think John Roderick nails it:
Punk-founded doubt and fear has directly spawned the cowardly culture of modern irony. Fear of being called out or targeted for enjoying art that doesn't meet the stringent criteria of punkness—a criteria too ineffable to codify, but pernicious and deadly to underestimate—has given us no outlet for the vagaries of our taste but to claim that we enjoy the things we love only out of mocking disdain for the awfulness we pre-emptively ascribe to them.
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.  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. 
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.
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. ↩
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. ↩
This is the first of several essays I will be posting about Homeland. The two posts about Season 1 were written before watching season two. These essays are full of spoilers. You have been warned.
A List of Things About Homeland
- Putting aside politics and plot, the first season of Homeland is a masterpiece of structure and plotting. It is very rare that I find myself enjoying thrillers or mysteries. Even when Homeland tends to do a thing I hate in television. In the last few moments in episode, there is a big reveal or twist. It is one of those things TV programs would do in order to get people to come back for the next episode. But Homeland is able to pull off those moments organically within the pacing of the episode. Homeland has so effectively used the tropes of a thriller that the last-moment-twist does not seem like a crutch. This is key because like 24, Homeland must ramp op the tension each episode in order for the show to work. It is the mystery that makes it not only an interesting show to watch, but what makes it great entertainment art.
- There is a moment in one of the late episodes when Mandy Patinkin’s Saul figure starts to see the pattern of Abu Nazir’s actions. There is a slight push in as Saul studies Carrie’s research. It’s a small, simple thing but it is in that moment of realization that the audience knows that Carrie is not crazy. Top notch acting.
- While we are talking about acting, Claire Danes’s and Damian Lewis’s performances in the final episode is nothing short of astounding. It is no wonder they won all of the awards.
- I know several people who are strongly critical of the shows politics; describing as a liberal polemical counter to 24. While I can see that reading of the show, the ideology and politics of both shows are far more complex then this argument lets on. The polemic argument is driven by two plot points. First is the sheer
hawkishness of Vice President William Walden. He could have easily been a VP on 24. At one point even saying, “it doesn’t matter why terrorists do what they do because they are terrorists” . Second, is the anti-drone war politics. The use of drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and North Africa has been one of the liberal-left’s biggest criticisms of the Obama administration. Both are valid arguments. Walden is cartoonish in his actions; CIA Chief Estes’ is the worst sort of political climber. But the use of drones-as-motivation goes a long way in demystifying terrorism and The Terrorist as a modern character type.
This past weekend Aaron Swartz committed suicide( after a lifelong battle with depression, and more recent battle with overzealous federal prosecutors and MIT. Aaron fought for open access to knowledge. In tribute to him I have made available PDFs of my published academic work as PDFs.
Today Mitt Romney doubled down on his statements regarding healthcare:
"We don’t have a setting across this country where if you don’t have insurance, we just say to you, ‘Tough luck, you’re going to die when you have your heart attack,’ ” he said as he offered more hints as to what he would put in place of “Obamacare,” which he has pledged to repeal No, you go to the hospital, you get treated, you get care, and it’s paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital. We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.”
Its not about being rushed to the ER after having a heart attack. Its about wellness and quality of life. Even in great hospitals or not-for-profit hospitals, medical care in the United States is driven by the bottom line. Is there charity assistance for people in need? Of course, but one has to fight for it. If you are a single parent working multiple jobs, you dont have time to set in endless lines trying to see a desk-jokey to get charity care.
Health Insurance is (or should be about) getting care before you are sick. getting regular check ups, vaccines and real follow up care. it should be above PREVENTING the heart attack, not paying for the care after the heart attack.
He is so far removed from the reality of health care in the United States that he could hardly start to give a shit. Obamacare sucks - but its what we have and its better then what we had before.
Also, stop drinking soda.
I am working on a big project over on my other blog—Babies Are Like Puppies. Sarah and myself have started working series blog posts about our research into diapers and baby waste removal. We will be putting up new blog posts over the next few weeks. The first major piece of research, however, is our Diaper Price Guide.
This is a living project. Please set comments for feedback to my on twitter via email.