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The fourth season of Claire Danes’ hit show Homeland premiered Sunday night, but I wasn’t watching. Its glorification of the CIA has crossed a line, and I can no longer view the show as pure entertainment.

Homeland Glorifies CIA

Homeland uses a hip, anti-establishment tone to promote even the worst abuses of the Central Intelligence Agency. It is today’s equivalent of the 1960’s show Mod Squad. Mod Squad featured “the hippest and first young undercover cops on television.” It used figures from youth culture to promote the reactionary and racist Los Angeles Police Department. Mod Squad villains were drawn from the same counterculture elements that the LAPD was beating up on city streets.

Homeland uses a similar strategy. Its star, Claire Danes, has the blonde look of Mod Squad star Peggy Lipton. Danes’ Carrie Mathison’s character, like Lipton’s, is a woman in a man’s game. Carrie acts like she’s battling the establishment while promoting the CIA’s core agenda at every turn.

Who Turned Iran?

Carrie’s role in glorifying the CIA became crystal clear in the show’s reinvention of Iranian politics in Season 3.

Homeland’s message in Season 3 was that the CIA had the ability to change Iranian politics by getting someone it controlled in power in Iran. The end result—Iran’s agreement to nuclear talks—was portrayed on the show as 100% a product of the CIA’s wiles.

But in the real world, internal forces within Iran, not the CIA, led Iran to become more accommodating on nuclear policy. The difference is quite significant.

In its essence, Homeland is reclaiming and reviving the same dangerous myth of the “CIA knows best” that has caused misery to millions across the globe.

Since its founding, the CIA has routinely assassinated world leaders and key political figures under the guise that such acts were necessary to bring “democracy.” The CIA did this in Iran in 1954, replacing a democratically elected leader with a dictator. A dictator who murdered and tortured hundreds of thousands of Iranians until he was overthrown in 1979.

Homeland doesn’t offer this history lesson. Nor does it ever reveal the many other nations where the CIA used assassination and violence to replace democratic leaders with dictators.

Because to tell viewers the truth would cause many to wonder why they are rooting for Carrie and her CIA colleagues in carrying out their missions. In its essence, Homeland is reclaiming and reviving the same dangerous myth of the “CIA knows best” that has caused misery to millions across the globe.

Danes’ Carrie Mathison is the chief vehicle for getting anti-establishment types to buy into this message.

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The other vehicle is Mandy Patinkin’s character, Saul. Saul plays the tormented Jewish CIA chief straight out of a Malamud novel. Nobody could possibly believe that a gentle, thoughtful soul like Saul would wrongly kill people—so when that’s what he does, it has to be that the CIA is following the moral course.

Homeland places Carrie and Saul—and by implication the CIA—are on the right side of history. The CIA’s actual history notwithstanding.

In the last episode of Season 3 there was an exchange between Carrie and Brody in which the latter questions what all of the CIA killing really accomplishes. But Carrie does not even give pause to consider whether the man she loves and admires most in the world may be on to something.

It’s Only Entertainment!

Yes, Homeland is not the real world. Yet as Alex Gansa, the show’s creator admitted “viewers will again find in “Homeland” parallels to real events in the Mideast.”

That’s the problem. Homeland creates close parallels to real life events via a fictional CIA whose real world operations are very different. The real world CIA failed to foresee the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Iran. It also failed to anticipate Mubarak’s problems in Egypt. It missed the rise of ISIS entirely.

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The real CIA is not controlled by principled and thoughtful analysts like Saul and Claire. The real CIA is driven by people like Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, for whom ideology and politics always come first.

Does Homeland’s deviation from reality matter? The LAPD certainly thought television shows about its work shaped public perceptions. That’s why it closely cooperated with Dragnet, Adam 12 and other LA cop shows to create an image of a caring, non-racist LAPD entirely at odd with the facts.

J. Edgar Hoover also thought television shaped attitudes. That’s why the Bureau so closely cooperated with The FBI television show that ran from 1965-74. At a time when the FBI was pressuring Martin Luther King, Jr. to kill himself, and was illegally wiretapping civil rights activists, each week the nation got a portrait of a fictional FBI that was honest and upstanding.

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Randy Shaw

Efren Zimbalist, Jr.’s FBI agent, like Jack Webb’s Joe Friday character on Dragnet, would be too straight laced to be of ideological value in today’s more cynical times. Instead, we get Claire Mathison, whose anti-establishment image promotes the most establishment of intelligence agencies.

Brody was the only character in Homeland who raised questions about the CIA’s mission. He was put to death by public hanging at the end of season 3.

Randy Shaw
Beyond Chron