As Lee Bailey noted in The National (Abu Dhabi, 16 October 2008), “Jack Shaheen, a Lebanese-American academic, has published two books documenting the representation of Muslims and Arabs in American film. One, Reel Bad Arabs, dealt with the period before 11 September, and the second, Guilty, considered films made after the attacks.”

Bailey added, “…Of approximately 1,000 films that depicted Muslims and Arabs before 2001, [Shaheen] estimated that only 65 portrayed them in a positive or even-handed manner…” In other words, Americans have been brainwashed by anti-Arab propaganda for decades. More than 9/10ths of Hollywood’s productions involving Arabs have made them ugly in the minds of viewers.

On 11 October 2008, James Zogby was reported as saying,

“We are disturbed by the degree to which ‘Arab’ has become the metaphorical mud to sling against your opponent. This week, for example, the Republican Jewish Coalition released a document in which they use the term pro-Arab as a pejorative accusation. For his part, Rush Limbaugh has joined in by declaring that Obama is in fact an Arab American. Then, on Friday, after a supporter called Senator Barack Obama ‘an Arab’, Senator John McCain came to the defence of his political opponent by saying, ‘No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man and citizen…’ From this we are left to infer that an Arab man is less than a decent family man.”

Zogby’s right. It was the first thing that came to mind when I saw McCain remove the mike from the woman. However, Zogby missed my next thought: if McCain was the honourable maverick he claims to be, he would have said to the woman: “He doesn’t have an Arab heritage but so what if he had?”

But then McCain was brought up on more than half a century of Hollywood’s vilification of Arabs, so the images of “rag heads”, jihadists, Islamic extremists, terrorists and womanizing sheikhs has been implanted as deep in his mind as in 250 million or more other mentally programmed Americans. Jack Shaheen’s Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People and Guilty: Hollywood’s verdict on Arabs after 9/11 should be required reading in the schools.

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