James Mullan

Meet Al Qaeda’s Greatest Nemesis – David Letterman!

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

A secret platoon is fighting the American’s so-called ‘War on Terror’ in Saudi Arabia.  Every day they reach all corners of the Kingdom and do battle with Al Qaeda’s recruiting sergeants.  And they’re winning.

But now, in common with many others, their cover has been blown by Wikileaks.  Step forward David Letterman, Al Pacino, George Clooney and the cast of ‘Desperate Housewives’. Are these to be Osama bin Laden’s true nemesis?

According to a secret cable titled ‘David Letterman: Agent of Influence’ the shows and movies that feature on MBC’s various channels have been much more effective than the traditional propaganda offered by Al Hurra in helping the U.S to win the ‘war of ideas’.

Gibbon, the author of the great (and surprisingly relevant) ‘Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire’ remarked that the Romans could gauge the success of their colonial adventures by the desire of the locals to wear a toga, the traditional garb of the Roman citizen.   In a telling comment  within the cable a senior al-Arabiya news channel director told the U.S diplomat: “…this programming is very popular in remote, conservative corners of the country where he said ‘you no longer see Bedouins but kids in Western dress who are now interested in the outside world.”

Certain themes in American movies appear to resonate strongly with Saudis, according to the diplomats: heroic honesty in the face of corruption (that’s George Clooney in Michael Clayton), supportive behaviour in relationships (a low budget drama featuring an American husband dealing with a drunk wife who smashes cars and crockery when she isn’t assaulting him and their child), and respect for the law over self-interest (Al Pacino and Robin Williams in Insomnia).

One obviously needs to be careful about extrapolating too much from the views of a few diplomats but although initially startling, the comments are, on reflection, hardly surprising.  Joseph Stalin, who knew a thing or two about the projection of power, once famously remarked that if he could gain control of Hollywood for a day he could take over the world.

Since reading this report a scene from a yet-to-be-made blockbuster movie has been playing in my head.  It’s September 12th 2001. The Pentagon.  Generals, Secretaries of State, Experts Galore gathered round an enormous table. The question is: ‘How do we win this?’  Round the table it goes. Same answers – ‘Afghanistan’, ‘Saddam Hussein’, ‘bin Laden in the cave’ until a youthful voice pops up from behind the ‘grey heads’.

‘Excuse me but I think we’re overlooking something.’ The assembled room, startled, turns as one to face down the interloper. ‘Yes, young man,’ says a be-decorated general. ‘You have something to say?’  A clearing of the throat:

‘ Ross, Chandler, Phoebe, Monica, Joey, Rachel. If we want to make friends, we’ve got to give ‘em ‘Friends’.

I’m sure it’d be a winner on MBC.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login