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The British Islamofascist menace – more than a ripping yarn from the BBC

Are you sick of popular entertainment with every sort of bad person being bad in it except the actual bad people we all know we are actually up against?

Go see a movie. The terrorists trying to blow up the world will be from the Balkans, won’t they? Or they’ll be Germans. Or Russians. In Hollywood movies the villains (and many of us over here take a kind of quiet pride in this) are often British.

What they won’t tend to be is Islamofascist. Islamofascist bad guys are just too close to the truth. If Jeremy Irons wants to make a living playing Brit villains, or German villains, fine. Nobody will confuse that with reality, so no skin off any noses. But Islamic villains? Well, that might cause actual offence, mightn’t it. That might reinforce conventional stereotypes. The sort of conventional stereotypes that are quite widespread. The sort of conventional stereotypes that are quite widespread, because they are rooted in reality. Because, that is to say, they are true. So, no true stereotypes please, they’re trouble. Get Jeremy Irons to do another implausible European, and confine the plausibility to such things as detonators and passports and hidden cameras and AK47s.

However, this does rather create a realism problem. Take this TV series they’re showing now, on the BBC, called Spooks. Episode one of the new series, shown last night, had a villain from – yes you’ve guessed it – the Balkans. A Serbian to be exact, steeling guns from the British army and then shooting up or blowing up the “Cobra” committee or whatever it is, which consists of the Prime Minister and Head of the Army and other such Head Government Persons. But we have a real terrorism problem in our midst and we all know it. Spare us this.

Episode one was on BBC 1 from 9pm until 10pm, and then episode two was at 10.30pm on BBC 3 (a digital channel which I now have), and at the end of episode one they showed foretaste excerpts of episode two which made it seem quite enticing and interesting. For what is this? Episode two starts up, and a fat bloke in a beard and with a cloth around his head, is spouting stuff about how this country will one day soon be entirely Islamic and that it is the great achievement of “a boy like you” that you have kept yourselves pure, so try this on. And he hands this boy a suicide jacket. All the pre-publicity for this show was that it is escapist rubbish. Says Alison Graham in the Radio Times:

As with the first series, Spooks is great fun. I have absolutely no idea whether it bears any relation to the everyday workings of MI5, and frankly, I don’t care. It’s simply a ripping yarn, full of energy, flash, and good old-fashioned excitement.

Simply a ripping yarn.

But episode two was a hell of a lot more than a ripping yarn. It included as convincing an enactment of how a British-based Islamofascist manipulator and unleasher of suicide bombers might go about his evil business as I have ever heard or seen from the BBC, on any programme. It was the complete reverse of escapism. It was facing one of the bitterest and nastiest truths about this country and its future that is now out there for us to face. The only escapist fantasy was that at the end of the episode, two people died in the bomb explosion rather than several dozen. But a bomb explosion there nevertheless was, and we saw the poor silly suicide bomber pull the wire.

The BBC phone lines are probably already buzzing with outraged Muslim fundamentalists complaining about how the BBC is misrepresenting their vile and rancid opinions by presenting them as vile and rancid, such misrepresentation being obvious because the fat bearded bloke had his cloth wound on his head in the wrong direction.

I don’t know why the pre-publicity was that this was nothing but escapist rubbish, but I can guess. The majority BBC view about these things is, I suppose, that too much fuss is made about Islamofascist terrorism and it’s all about oil blah blah blah, so I guess calling this extremely convincing and disturbing portrait of the Islamofascist menace in our midst escapist rubbish is their way of taking the sting out of it and of making sure that no one notices how good and true it was, and how outrageous it is that people like Fat Bearded Cloth Head have been allowed to operate here with impunity. Either that or they were only shown episode one by the show’s makers and they genuinely thought it was all nonsense. Maybe the Radio Times will tell it like it is next week.

Either way, the point of this posting is that the truth about British home-grown Islamofascism is definitely circulating here – even if this particular bit of it is circulating somewhat under the official radar and without the newspapers appearing to notice. The truth of Islamofascism’s ambitions, the truth of its methods, the truth of its utter indifference to the lives of non-Muslims and Muslims alike, the truth about how peaceful it really is, and the truth about how ruthless we are going to have to be to deal with these damned people – it’s all being spread around.

And now these truths are even being spread around by the BBC, in a popular TV show that really is popular.

24 comments to The British Islamofascist menace – more than a ripping yarn from the BBC

  • Scott Hillis

    The only major Hollywood movie I can think of that used Islamic terrorists as the main bad guys was “True Lies” with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis. I saw it again recently and wondered to myself if the script would stay the same were the movie made today. Several movies recently have used the Chinese as bad guys, and the last James Bond, “Die Another Day” made a good choice by going with North Korea. But even portraying such unquestionable evildoers as, well, evildoers was too much for some South Koreans, who protested the movie as insensitive and racist.

  • cheshirecat

    There is another movie that portrays Islamofacists as the baddies—“The Seige”, starring Bruce Willis and Denzel Washington, hitting a little close to home, as the setting is Manhattan, NYC.


  • Don’t forget “The Siege.” It might be a bit too equivocal for some tastes, since it gives us a white bad guy played by Bruce Willis who tortures and eventually murders a suspected terrorist in pursuit of information, and appears to be running a shadow foreign policy as well.

    On the other hand, it also repesented the root of the terrorism problem as being “blowback” from US support of Islamists during the Soviet Afghanistan war—gee, that sounds familiar—and the final target of the Islamofascist terrorists in the film turned out to be a peace/civil rights demonstration on behalf of innocent, persecuted muslims, which pretty accurately reflects both the depths of evil the terrorists are capable of, and the reaction peace demonstrators in the real world ought to expect from the Islamofasdcists they’ve been trying to defend.

  • Let’s not forget the James Bond film “The Living Daylights” in which the enemies are the Soviets, and in which Bond helps and is helped by an Osama-type character in Afghanistan.

    During the 80s give or take, there was a whole slew of U.S. TV movies in which the bad guys were Arabs. I got tired of seeing people dressed like Arafat taking over planes.

    Regarding the BBC, I blogged about a proposed show in which the fate of actors playing refugees would be decided by the audience. After the audience had voted, whether the refugees had in fact been granted asylum would be announced. Apparently that has several people upset. But, why wouldn’t they want the decisions of immigration officers to be reviewed in such as way? Is there something they’re afraid of?

  • I doubt it is available outside the U.S., but the CBS TV show “The Agency” about heroic CIA Agents (and their Directors) routinely offers Korean, Chinese, and Arabic villians. I also think a few episodes of the summer replacement series “Secret Agent Man” (from 1999? or was it 2000?) had Chinese or Arabic villians.

  • Andy

    _The Siege_ is actually based on a book by Edwin Corley where black (err..African American) Muslims (and other associated AA radicals) take over Manhattan during the late 60s.

  • The film of the Tom Clancy novel The Sum of All Fears last year turned the villains of the piece from Islamic terrorists (as they were in the book) into neo-Nazis. Having Islamic terrorists detonate a nuclear weapon in Baltimore was a little too close to the bone. (Quite a few people thought that having anyone explode a nuclear weapon in Baltimore was a little too close to the bone, but they still made the film).

    (The bad guys in Executive Decision were Islamic, were they not? )

  • Guy Herbert

    Really, I doubt there is any useful conclusion to be drawn from a recollected impression of the nominal identities of villains in various “thriller” films and tv series…

    What I find more interesting (and disturbing) is a common subtext within the genre:

    1. The baddies are inexplicably and irredeemably bad. They are bad for the sake of being bad.

    2. People in general are vulnerable sheep to be prayed on by these wolves. Civil institutions (such as law abiding police-work) are useless against them, weak and vacillating.

    3. Our hero (or heroes) is/are an outsider, with no respect for civil society, who saves the day by exceeding the brutality of the evildoers. But that’s alright because he is by definition good (and probably is also fond of small children and puppies). And we are invited to take sadistic satisfaction in his violence.

    It’s the complete expression of an authoritarian credo: right and wrong are unquestionable, absolute, and best imposed by unrestrained force; law and fair-dealing hamper the good, are exploited by the bad; and most people are but sheep, to be protected by the strong, who also have an infallible intuition of the good.

  • Richard Garner

    The current (in the UK) series of 24 has islamic fundamentalist bad guys plotting to nuke LA. Following straight after 9/11 some critics thought it would be US propaganda, but the fact that the series opened with some people in an islamic country torturing someone on behalf of the CIA, followed by the president taking the opposite route from Bush and not declaring war, whilst also authorising the torture of a senior US operative, and pursuing a covert body within the NSA that is perhaps in league with the Islamists, I don’t really think it is pro-US propaganda. At least, not pro-US government.

  • Absolutely agree with Guy Herbert on the disturbing message of most screen thrillers. As one critic once summarised it in a television discussion I saw “the basic plot is ‘ask an informer to find out who did it, pursue the suspect to an exciting location such as a scrapyard or warehouse, and kill them'”.

    And Lonewacko! What a fabulous idea for a TV show! Reality TV with refugees being voted in and out! Very clever indeed. Is there some way of doing this gameshow?

  • What really gets my goat is when they have IRA bad guys – e.g. Brad Pitt in “The Devil’s own” – and they are, without exception, “renegade” bad guys, as if the “regular” IRA guys are paragons of honour and virtue.

  • Speaking as a sourly anti-IRA, anti-UVF, anti-all-of-that-lot Englishman, Frank, I agree, but am actually even more offended by Hollywood’s long and sentimental affair with Sicily’s Cosa Nostra.

    All those nostalgic, bittersweet paterfamilias al fresco scenes where pasta-eating Grandpa huskily invokes honour and restraint among the lemon groves. Yuck.

  • Intelligent and discriminating people (ie yer average bloggers) are highly likely to be dissatisfied with the scripting of screen fiction. Hollywood – and, even more, the small screen – aims its output at the widest possible audience. That’s entertainment, as they say. It’s also, inevitably, propagandising of one sort or another.

    The question Brian Micklethwaite seems to be asking is whether the high incidence of certain types of villain is mere squeamishness. Often it is, no doubt. But might it not sometimes be something more? Are there, for example, any common, non-business interests among the girls and boys who commission the scripts and produce the films?

  • Heh.

    Nevermind another stock buy guy group are the far-right (and religious is good too) whackos about to KILL everyone (usually everyone with a perma-tan). (And heck, if they are a little anarchist, that’s just sauce.)

    Nevermind the vast majority of vicious murderous (terrorist) groups of the last century has been LEFT wing and not particulary religious (at least not inthe catholic/protestestant/hindu sense) and incredibly authoritarian/statist as well.

    (Not saying there weren’t some right-wing ones, but off-hand I’d bet 95-5% they weren’t and the right wing loonies don’t even make the top ten.)

    Think I’m exaggerating?


  • Russ Goble

    To Richard Garner: “24” has completed it’s 2nd season here in the US so I know how it ends. I’ll try not to spoil anything for you but I’ll just say that President David Palmer actually acts with more IMPATIENCE than Bush ever did at a state level. Also, right now for you, it appears they are actually pointing to Islamofascists as the MAIN bad guys. Alas, that’s not totally the case. Hopefully I didn’t spoil anything for you. Before I read your posts I was going to mention it in much more detail but, again, I really don’t want to spoil anything for you Brits that watch the show. But, “24” is still a fairly good series, though with WAY more plot holes than the first season where the bad guys were from…wait for it…The Balkans. Also, you get a nice bit of White Redneck violence on innocent Muslims. Don’t worry that’s not too major a storyline, but it is an example of Hollywood falling back on the “safe” stereotypes of Right Wing Eastern Europeans and white folk from the Southeastern part of the United States. Sigh.

    Even good TV has bad Hollywood politicing (sp?). “24” is a great example though. You have a supposedly Islamic terrorist plot and the (white) citizens of the U.S. start taking out their anger on fellow Muslim citizens. This might be interesting if we didn’t actually have a real world event where U.S. citizens, at the behest of the supposedly Christian wack job president, did nothing of the sort. There was nearly as many anti-muslim hoaxes as their were actual acts of hate post Sept. 11th. But, Hollywood screenwriters still apparently get all their tips from college class rooms, so they fall back on the American as neanderthal image. Again, hopefully I didn’t spoil too much for the “24” watchers, but I thought what I did share was relevant to the discussion.

  • Rajesh Sharma

    With respect to Spooks and the lack of any discussion of the 2nd episode, surely that’s because reviewers only get to see the current episode.
    The 2nd episode was being shown on BBC3, which has such a low viewership that no one would actually preview any show from it.

  • Rebecca Harris

    The entertainment industry (particularly in this PC era) tries not to offend any particular group if possible. Sometimes I think their caution comes at the expense of exposing a necessary truth. As for Arab villains, it must be understood that the entertainment industry is also heavily populated with Jews. This is not a comment, simply a statement of fact. One can hardly blame them for doing almost anything to avoid being charged with disseminating “Jewish propaganda”.

  • In “Back To The Future” the terrorists in the mini-bus who attacked Doc were Libyans.

  • A_t

    Yeah, can’t name many names, offhand, but my impression was that the ’80s definitely saw a swathe of ‘arab villain’ films, particularly as the cold war petered out & the use of Russians/East Germans started to seem distasteful (or just wrong!).

    There seems to be some kind of unwritten code vis-a-vis villains; they should be a vaguely conceivable threat, but not represent anyone we’ve actually had a physical fight with recently. Hence why there are very few middle-eastern villains now, since the first gulf war; too contentious and (yes correct) likely to cause offense. And fair enough… it’s only entertainment. If they were making *documentaries* on terrorist threats to the US, and failed to mention Al Quaida etc., then they’d be failing in their jobs. As is, hollywood’s mission is to entertain, & I suspect a large portion of their audience would be far less entertained by the portrayal of a realistic terrorist attack than by one which seems a little farfetched, & wouldn’t worry them in their beds that night.

  • Raymund

    Anyone remember the 1980s US professional wrestling bad guys, Nikolai Volkov and the Iron Sheik? (Yes, I grew up lower-middle class in the Midwest).

  • Regarding the proposed TV show featuring asylum seekers being “voted off the island”: that’s a real BBC proposal, I didn’t come up with the idea. And, despite the Guardian’s first paragraph, it supposedly would feature actors, and it would deal with cases that had already been decided.

    If there aren’t that many Arab villians, it’s probably because of “moderate” groups like CAIR. (See Salon’s piece on CAIR here. See also E Pluribus Umbrage.

  • Patrick

    What upsets me, being an anti-dentite, is that Hollywood is always villianising the guy with bad teeth. I hate Hollywood and their perfect teeth bias.

  • jack birnbaum


    One of the attractions, for me, at the beginning of season 2 was that indeed, the bad guys were of the same religious-political background as the current real-life bad guys. How refreshing and non-PC, I thought!

    Alas, it was not to be. Islamic extremists are involved, but are apparently being manipulated by (drum roll) rich capitalists trying to incite a war against innocent Middle Eastern governments in order to profit from the resulting instability! So that was it!

    In one of the (unintentionally) funniest scenes of recent memory, a youngish well-groomed and nicely dressed (in an ordinary suit) fellow, whose skin color is marginally darker than the average Euro-American but certainly not distinguishable from the average Hispanic living in L.A. (where the scene is set), is driving at night, with a blonde next to him, when a small coterie of intoxicated morons sees him and begin yelling things to the effect of “Get the Rag-Head!” before brutally attcking him. Which, considering the racial make-up of the city, the lack of ambient light and their alcoholic condition, was quite an amazing insight, since our doomed hero was, indeed, an Arab intelligence agent. But then the need to illustrate the intolerence of the American “street” was more important than any damage to the credibility of the scene, I guess.

  • Johan

    I’m making a comment on jack birnbaum’s comment, so DON’T READ IF IT WILL RUIN THE REST OF THE SERIES (“24”) FOR YOU here too.

    “Islamic extremists are involved, but are apparently being manipulated by (drum roll) rich capitalists trying to incite a war against innocent Middle Eastern governments in order to profit from the resulting instability! So that was it!”

    While everyone is talking about the bad teeth myth and villians always being from the Balkan or somewhere else – I must say that I’m sick and tired of all the anti-capitalistic messages conveyed in films, (and books and music, too). Not even James Bond in “Die Another Day” was speared the bullshit. The North-Korean villian took time throwing crap on how bad and aweful rich capitalistic countries were abusing other poor countries. *sigh*