Jack Ryan Gets the World Really Wrong

Jack Ryan Gets the World Really Wrong. Hamas routinely sacrifices their own children and people so that the world will look at Israel and her allies as fascistic and murderous individuals who care nothing about civilian casualties (See here, here, and here).  Innocents die to create Hamas’s propaganda.  Amazon Prime TV, in their new show Jack Ryan, is choosing to disseminate that propaganda to a mass-market audience utilizing a multi-million dollar budget.

In the following I explain what Jack Ryan gets wrong in the pilot episode, how that mistake functions as propaganda, and the power of false information.

The opening scene of Jack Ryan functions as propaganda for the enemies of Israel.  A little boy and his brother dance to Western music.  As they are playing on their roof, they see planes approaching.  The fighter jets carpet bomb the entire village.  Both boy and brother flee for their lives.  Before the audience knows whether the children survive, the scene cuts from 1983 in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon to modern-day Washington D.C.  At the end of the episode, cutaway scenes between the past and the present reveal that the boy and his brother now run a terrorist organization.

The implication, which the writer explicitly reveals in an interview, cannot be more clear.  The terrorists possess no qualitative difference with their enemies.

Rousseau asks why man is born free but everywhere is in chains.  Reminiscent of these musings, Jack Ryan depicts children dancing without a care but enslaved as adults to a violent ideology.  In sum, the show offers an extremely poetic notion: the West fights the enemy it created.

What the idea offers in irony, it sacrifices in historical value.  While some reviews of the first episode assume American jets drop the bombs, America did not launch an air raid in Lebanon in 1983 in the Bekaa Valley.  On the other hand, both Israel and France did launch air raids during that year on Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who started Hezbollah.  Given that the characters on the show experience Islamophobia in France exacerbating their radicalization, it makes sense to assume the pilot episode depicts the French air raid which took place November 17, 1983.

At this point, the show’s historical inaccuracies reach unforgivable levels.  The French Air Raids did not carpet bomb a civilian village; they targeted specific places where the Iranian Revolution Guards were training the Lebanese Shiite militias.  France launched their attack in the Bekaa valley because, days prior, Iranian organized elements drove a truck bomb into their barracks, killing 58 French soldiers.  Backed by a regime that professed a belief in an imperative to annihilate Israel, these same Iranian elements threatened Israel’s peace in Galilee, which borders Lebanon.  For those reasons, both Israel and France bombed the same targets in the Bekaa Valley days apart.

By all accounts, civilian casualties were low.  Some say no civilians perished, the Lebanese said one civilian died, and other sources claim that a number of civilians died.  However, all accounts could uniformly agree that the idea that the French destroyed an entire village offers an inane, imbecilic, and idiotic historical reconstruction.  The notion that the French targeted kids dancing to 80’s music and playing monopoly at best smacks of leftist sentimentalism and at worst demonstrates a psychotic break from reality.

Yet, the writers display the origin story of the antagonist based on an urge to be intelligent, to make the character intelligible to a Western audience.  The first way to achieve intelligibility is to identify a similarity between different things.  For instance, whoever figured out that sea cucumbers and starfish belong to the same phylum deserves a prize.  In this vein, the show attempts to formulate the idea that the terrorist is the terrorized; it establishes an identity between the protagonist and antagonist.

While discovering similarity and identity is half of what it takes to be intelligent, discovering the difference between things makes up the other half.  For instance, someone who is unable to discriminate between wine from a gas station and a ‘89 cabernet demonstrates that they have poor taste.  Being able to find similarities between things without the ability to articulate differences, functions about as well as tongs with only one side: it is impossible to grasp the thing you’re trying “to get a handle on.”

In the same way, the writers of Jack Ryan fail to grasp the nuance of Lebanese conflict in 1983 by identifying Israel and her allies as terrorists. With that said, I support the writer’s goal of having villains with depth.  Had they depicted the terrorist antagonist as a loving family man or a deep believer in his cause, I would have watched with piqued interest.  If they had even shown him as a character who had lost family members by way of civilian casualties in a targeted strike, my compassion would have been kindled.  However, portraying the character as someone who had been a victim of a terroristic atrocity reduces the work to propaganda for Israel’s enemies.

Propaganda is a powerful thing because it shapes the way America and the world views Israel.  As public opinion turns against Israel, their security diminishes.  T.S. Eliot notes that pop culture is dangerous precisely because we imbibe it without thinking.  Left unchallenged, fictions and propaganda can replace the truth about how Israel and her allies carry themselves.  These fictions can permutate into disastrous unilateral decisions from the US and terrible UN directives.  Knowing the power of propaganda, Hamas actively uses their own people as human shields to inflate the civilian death count.

Reflecting now, I am thankful that we have a President who stands with Israel.  As well, I am reminded that a biblical mandate exists to be a blessing to Israel.  Just as America has many failings along with her glorious history of liberty and democracy, Israel is not infallible.  Where they are wrong, they should be repudiated.  However, we ought to also challenge smear jobs on Israel and her allies when appropriate.

I had been looking forward to Amazon Prime’s Jack Ryan TV series starring John Krasinski since its Super Bowl commercial.  After watching the first episode, I have made a decision not to renew my Prime membership.  Typically, I shy away from boycotts.  Rooted in my desire for unity to conquer division, I support conservatives enjoying Starbucks and liberals eating Chick-Fil-A.  However, I choose to boycott Prime membership because I refuse to be complicit with propaganda that continues to cost the lives of children in Gaza today.