So last night I watched the special West Wing episode dealing with the fictional administrations responses to the real-life terrorist attack. Which is a little bizarre. But seeing as Martin Sheen made in-character stump speeches as President Bartlett during the last campaign, the blurring here had already happened.
For the most part, I was impressed. A simple premise, a question-&-answer session between Josh Lyman and a bunch of high school kids as they tried to reason through the whys and hows of terrorism and appropriate response. Other characters came through and added a new dimension to the discussion. CJ Craig wanted more power for the CIA to do their job. Toby Zieglar warned of loss of liberty and privacy that could occur if the response is over-reaching. Sam Seabourne tried to convince these kids that terrorism always fails, while admitting that it keeps happening anyway. Meanwhile, Leo questions a suspect who works in the White House. That was the most interesting part, showing the anger of Leo, erupting in unconcious racism and fear of arabs, all arabs, any arab, without reason. Most importantly, though, was Leo’s final admittance that such a reaction was uncalled for. That the suspect was both innocent and supportive of certain ‘anti-American’ policies (such as withdrawal of US troops from Saudi Arabia), was well done.
I do, however, take umbrage with the overall theme
Nowhere, not once in the show, was US foreign policy raised as a possible cause of this aggression against America. Like virtually all mainstream media, the hatred of America was simplified down to the idea that terrorists hate the idea of freedom and choice. I think Rob Lowe’s character says ‘keep accepting other ideas’ as a way to defeat and defend against terrorism.
I understand that it would be unpolitic to question the current administration’s response to the attacks, but I think that questioning the mainstream media’s take on reasons for the attack would have been appropriate, and possibly, the only mainstream outlet that could do such a thing without the censure that so many other have experienced, as they could couch it within the ‘fictional’ west wing universe.