Hollywood's sniper and the manipulation of information

Hollywood's sniper and the manipulation of information
4 min read
10 Mar, 2015
Comment: American Sniper is a propaganda movie that misleads and rewrites history
Director Clint Eastwood at the premiere of American Sniper [Getty]
American Sniper, the film that tells the tale Chris Kyle, a sniper in the US army who served during the Iraq war and who has killed more 160 people, caused controversy upon its release and subsequent Oscar nomination.

The film which is based on Kyle's autobiography, depicts him as a national hero who enthusiastically defends his country. However the film is more suitable to gee up US soldiers than for general release. It is a propaganda movie steeped in nationalist fervour to the point of misleading the viewer and rewriting history.

The film only presents the US version of events in Iraq, and extricates the US of any wrongdoing. It blames the "other" for any morally questionable acts. Furthermore, it is a typical example of a media portrayal based on a rewritten account of history that employs a stereotypical "us" and "them" dichotomy of "good" and "evil".

In the movie, Chris Kyle enthusiastically joins the US army after watching the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam on television. He responds to the 11 September attacks by going to Iraq, without the film alluding to the weapons of mass destruction excuse concocted by the Bush administration to justify its invasion of Iraq, which had nothing to do with the 11 September attacks.

However, the film ignores the inconvenient context of the war, to present a narrative that fits the heroism of a US sniper who was forced to invade Iraq with his colleagues to defend the US. Thus, the invaders become soldiers protecting their country against the threat of "terrorism".

Facts are once again abandoned for convenience, as Kyle is shown at the beginning of the Iraq war fighting al-Qaeda, as if the war on Iraq was a war on al-Qaeda all along and as if al-Qaeda had been operational in the country prior to or in the early days of the invasion.

The film neglects to mention the fall of the Iraqi regime and the subsequent events that led to involvement of al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups in Iraq, driven primarily by the US invasion. Instead it paints the Iraq war as a purely defensive war against al-Qaeda.
     The good American guy fights the terrorist bad guys stereotype is strongly present in the film.

The goodguy American soldier fights the bad-guy terrorist stereotype. This stereotype plays quite prominently particularly after the reversioning of historical events to suit the US war narrative, which leaves no reason for Iraqis to fight Americans except that they are evil terrorists.

Kyle and his colleagues are portrayed as a group of good men who have taken it upon themselves to fight evil in this maliciously naïve moral story. Further, as part of the moral war, Kyle is "forced" to kill women and children because they are armed. It is as if those "savages" do not leave you with any other option when they use their women and children in battle and push them to commit evil acts.

The rewritten version of history and the manipulation that follows does not leave any room in the film for an honest account of the nuances and complexity of the Iraqi situation. The fact that many groups were fighting the US whilst also fighting amongst themselves as part of a civil and sectarian conflict, or the fact that Iraqi Awakening Councils were fighting al-Qaeda was all omitted. 

This film is like many other Hollywood offerings that are rife with stereotypical portrayals of good and evil and mislead the viewer. They ignore US crimes around the world, and explain the violence faced by the US invaders as being due to savagery and barbarity without any consideration for the context or the nationalist motives that might drive people to resist invaders. 

The US media has systematically made humanity, morals and emotions the preserve of the white man, while entrenching its racist portrayals of the "other" as inhumane, uncivilized, freedom haters. This image was further used as the answer for the ludicrous question of "why do they hate us?" that was prevalent after the 11 September attacks, that were so readily offered by so-called "analysts" who had not taken the time to revisit the US’s atrocities across the globe, to find a different answer.

The manipulation, fabrication and covering of facts will not erase the memory of the people, even if the largest and most influential media apparatus in the world were committing these acts. However, we still need to challenge these incidents of historical manipulation and expose their racist nature.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.