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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

“Homeland Security USA”

All mad props to Jeffrey Rosen for his TNR post on the new ABC show, “Homeland Security USA.” In case you have been blessed enough to miss the show’s premiere, it’s a breathless tribute to the “heroes” who work for this famously screwed-up federal mega-agency. As Rosen explains, the first episode trades heavily on the hope that DHS is protecting us all from terrorists, but actually focuses on more quotidian border control actions dealing with drugs, immigration documents, and, well, belly-dancing accoutrements.
Yes, a big chunk of “Homeland Security USA” deals with an incident wherein a Swiss belly-dancer seeking admission to the U.S. is detained and questioned, mainly because she lacks a work permit. The ABC voice-over for this segment tells you everything you need to know: “Something seems amiss with this Swiss Miss.”
This is relevant to a political site, and to U.S. taxpayers, because “Homeland Security USA” boasts of the cooperation it has secured from DHS, and because the show will obviously have a bearing on how Americans perceive DHS and their own degree of safety.
It’s pretty clear that this ludicrous show is the crown jewel of DHS’s own propaganda efforts, reflected in the establishment in early 2005 of a Office of Multimedia designed to vet Hollywood film and television projects and scripts that might requite cooperation from the Department. The original director of this office was a former actress (who once played a hooker on Designing Women) named Bobbie Faye Ferguson, whose one reported triumph was the torpedoing of a movie script that did not sufficiently meet DHS needs.
This all might be nothing more than a silly sideshow if not for the simple fact that DHS is haphazardly organized department whose only overriding mission is to enlist American citizens in a self-confident national effort to protect the country from the new threats of the 21st century, which do not, by most accountings, include poorly documented Swiss belly-dancers.
DHS badly needs new leadership and a new sense of coherent mission, even if, as it probably does, it also need a reconsideration of its component parts. If that can’t be accomplished, the whole idea of the department needs to be skeptically reviewed. What it doesn’t need is hamhanded and self-parodying propaganda via publicly-endorsed vehicles like “Homeland Security USA.”
Janet Napolitano has her work cut out for her at DHS, and as a big fan, I wish her well. But she could go a long way towards signalling a different philosophy for the department if she’d mock “Homeland Security USA” during her confirmation hearing.

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