Paul Haggis
Emmy Award Winning Writer-Director

Sorry, but I'm just not troubled by this.  We live in a time when Americans feel the need to promote ourselves to ourselves.  (Like our President, we honestly don't much care what the rest of the world thinks.)  So, it is no surprise that, to us, we look like pretty dandy folk. In our view, Americans promote democracy, human rights and liberty around the world and anything we are forced to do to "evildoers" is well deserved.  We choose to watch programming that continually reinforces the reality that we are the good guys, and that everyone else is just jealous. 

 

Should shows like Alias and 24 have CIA reps working as consultants?  Why not?  Why should we hold them to a higher standard than The West Wing, a critically acclaimed show that every week tells us that our most senior government officials are good, wise, thoughtful and basically honest, if flawed, human beings?  Oh please.  Spend two minutes behind any closed door in Washington, Republican or Democratic; listen to your Nixon tapes or talk to a Clinton staffer. People watch West Wing and actually believe it is an accurate portrayal of a day at the White House.  It's pure wish fulfillment.  I haven’t seen The Agency, so I can’t say -- but at least Alias and 24 don't pretend to be anything other than good escapist entertainment. 

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If we wanted the truth, we'd get it. We don't.  End of story. You can't blame the CIA or TV networks for that.  It is our national bias. 

We know from movie mythology that being a good guy is risky stuff. It requires discipline and self-sacrifice.  A hero can't judge himself more favorably than he judges others -- if anything, he has to be harder on himself -- hold himself to an impossibly high moral code. 

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Down here in front of the screen, we'd rather not do that.  We'd rather make excuses for our behavior and point the finger at others. Much easier to just say that we are the good guys than go to all the trouble of actually being it.  Better to say that our brave men and women in the armed forces are on a mission to root out evil, than to consider that our brave men and women are being used by self-serving politicians. Better never to ask how that "evil" was created, or whether we have a hand in keeping it in place.  Better to vilify our enemies for committing atrocities than admit that our friends, allies and trading partners commit those same acts and worse against their own people or neighbors.   

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Some day, after even more terrible things happen, we will wake up and start to ask serious questions about what has been done in our name.  Until then, blame us, not the media.  They're just playing the lullabies.  We're the ones sleeping."