Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Homeland Security Idol

American Idol meets DHS in ABC's new reality show Homeland Security USA. Tonight, I watched it so you don't have to.

From the start, a faceless and booming voice-of-authority tells us how brave men and women safeguard our country and enforce our laws while patrolling our borders. I assume they mean these border regions that nearly 2/3 of the US population lives in, and the ACLU refers to as a "constitution-free zone."

So how do you turn an absurd bureaucracy with an Orwellian name into fun family entertainment? Well, you have to have some zany characters like the Swiss belly dancer who, in broken English, wanted to know if she would get a refund on her airline ticket because she was being sent back home. I was waiting to hear her sing, but then I remembered that show doesn't start until next week.

A reality show has to promise a lot of suspense. Oh look, we caught a terrorist using his real name and birth date! Oh wait. A case of mistaken identity. But how nice of the kindly agents to tell the family, after traumatizing their children with guns, how to handle the situation in the future. (We don't hear what this advice is, by the way.)

The producers must have an easy time making this show. Everything is right out of the Bush-Cheney propaganda handbook. They stick to the official script that DHS is securing the United States from terrorist threats and attacks. But where were the threats? The umpteen pounds of drugs confiscated don't scare me in the least. Make them legal already. The barbecued bats from Thailand? That's definitely gross and they might have made a few people sick, but I wish our government could put the same effort into inspecting imports which are a very real threat.

Finally, we're treated to the new American experience of airport security theater. The bizarre scene of a boy around age 11 dutifully reporting the contents of his backpack to an agent made me wonder if Bush ever envisioned a Youth League. Hey, it's not too late, George. You've got two weeks left.

The message of the show was clear. Shut up. We're doing this for your own good. Now stand still while we put this collar around your neck.

I rate this show "code red." Be on high alert if you dare to watch it.

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