Wednesday, February 21, 2007

America: Global Patriarch

Last night Joss and I were watching "The Unit". For those of you who are in the UK and/or who have not seen this show, it's about a team of Rangers - kind of like the U.S. Army's version of the Navy Seals; 'the best of the best', America's elite killing machines. It's not my favorite show on tv - too much "hoo haaa" testosterone - but, if you can suspend belief for 60 minutes, it's not bad entertainment (plus Scott Foley and Max Martini are hotties). Last night, all hot-bods aside, it was pretty hard to sit through.

To cut a long story short, the U.S. team were in Germany for their annual world "games" (kind of like the Olympics for special ops forces) along with similar teams from other countries across the globe. The goal was to run around Berlin on a "fake" terrorist busting operation. One team (unknown to the rest) were designated as "terrorists" with the goal of executing two operations - 1)hijack a U-Bahn train for 60 minutes and 2) kidnap a "fake" banker with a prize in his briefcase- and the rest of the teams were responsible for detecting which team was the terrorists and then fouling their attacks. All of this, of course, while remaining undetected by the general public. (We'll skip the obvious gaping holes in plausability here to save time). Germany had aparently beat the U.S. for two years in a row now, so our boys were ready and raring to whoop some Gerry ass.

Unfortunately, the whole thing goes horribly wrong when a "real" terrorist infultrates the games, spying on the fake terrorist team (the U.S.) and using their wily strategies to try and execute the attacks for real. Which is where we move into the annoying phase.

Cut to the strategy meeting. The U.S. leader, Jonas, is leading the meeting (because who else could possibly be capable?), describing the imminent threat to all the other country's teams. Oh dear, the terrorist now knows how to hijack a train by taking a subway central control post hostage!

"Ok," says one hapless foreign solider "So, they know how to stop a train for 60 minutes. If that's all the damage they can do, what are we worried about?"

"Well," says Jonas in his all-knowing tone of superiority (and I paraphrase). "Once they're inside the control area, they have access to the controls for all the trains in the network and they can wreak havoc on the system."

Are you freakin' kidding me? The world's best special ops forces all in one room and the only person who could make that giant leap of logic was the head of the U.S. unit?

And so it went on. The hapless foreigners asked dumb questions and the U.S. soldiers set them straight with their superior training and intelligence. All the forces went out to stop the terrorist's evil plot but only the Americans were able to handle the situation. And finally, the big reveal? The terrorist was actually one of their own - a jealous Turkish soldier, bitter because his team hadn't been considered well-trained enough to participate in the games this year. Of course the fact that Turkey is a muslim nation had absolutely no bearing on this plot twist. Ahem.

There is nothing more irritating to me than the American media's narrowly focused storylines (both real and imagined) that position America as the global patriarch to a world of bungling, inept (or just plain irrelevant) foreigners. It happens all the time in movies - world catastrophies that start or only seem to strike in the U.S., American heroes that are the only ones capable or brave enough to save "the world" - and its a common feature of news reporting to assume that the only stories worth reporting on are those happening in our country or to someone from our country. When I go home to England and watch the BBC news it's like I rediscover a whole other world - there are, believe it or not, pivotal events going on in other countries in the world and people in those countries that are smart, intelligent and doing important things.

For instance, just today:

  • A cyclone is about to hit Mozambique with 175km/h winds

  • Rogues in the Philippines army are killing its country's politicians, unchecked

  • The Italian Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, may be forced to resign after losing a vote on his foreign policy in Afghanistan

  • India and Pakistan signed a nuclear pact to reduce the threat of a nuclear conflict in the region

  • German researches have concluded that a natural birth control method, symptothermal, is as effective as the pill

And so concludes your educational session for today.

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