Two bold, ISIS-themed commercials—one real, one fake—have hit the air this week and in their different ways reveal the depth of American hysteria.
We all know about the Saturday Night Live parody ad: against the pastel atmospherics of the Toyota spot it spoofs, Dakota Johnson plays a young woman leaving home for the first time. “You be careful, OK?” says her tearful dad (Taran Killam). “Dad it’s just ISIS,” Johnson says, and winks. “Take care of her,” Dad tells one of the black-clad fighters, who whispers, “Death to America.”
Funny? Tasteless? Helps ISIS? Hurts ISIS?
You can ask similar questions about this real ad, also starring black-clad terrorists: Tasteless? Helps congressional right-wingers? Hurts them?
Of the two ads, the one above, made by the American Action Network, a Super PAC close to Speaker John Boehner, is far more shocking, because it spews its fear-mongering and patriotic one-upmanship not at liberals, as the GOP’s been doing for years, but against fellow conservatives. As David Nir writes at Daily Kos, “To see the very same rhetoric deployed against Republicans is nothing short of stunning.”
TV spots in the $400,000 campaign are running in the home states of Tea Party–friendly Representatives Tim Huelskamp, Jim Bridenstine and Jim Jordan, and related radio spots and robocalls are targeting dozens of other reps in conservative districts. These are the brainiacs who tried to shut down the Department of Homeland Security in order to (in their own minds) force Obama to reverse his executive action on immigration.
Ultimately, Boehner caved—he allowed the House to vote, yesterday, on a clean bill to fund the DHS through September that passed with mostly Democratic support. Nancy Pelosi pushed Boehner into that corner, but so did some not-crazy Republicans, like former congressman Steve LaTourette, who (using some unfortunate imagery, considering the topic) advised Boehner: “You got to chop off a few heads…and take no prisoners. I don’t think it’s appropriate that after six members who voted against him on opening day have now been promoted to be subcommittees chairmen.”
The ads—and AAN implies there could be others that will spank unruly hardliners in the future—show Boehner finally, if temporarily, entering the arena with a one-two punch. He’s attacking his right flank (no more tears, no talk of his ouster as Speaker, for now) while simultaneously giving the finger to the left by appointing Bibi Netanyahu the new Republican president of the United States.
Actually John Boehner is really letting his freak flag fly lately. When asked earlier this week if he’d let the House vote on a clean DHS bill, Boehner replied by pursing his lips and making kissy faces.
Boehner’s been almost as nonchalant about these questions of import as the SNL ISIS skit was. But the latter’s been the source of more tsuris in media. Elisabeth Hasselbeck railed that there’s nothing “funny about ISIS”; Twitter was all over it, on both sides.
H.A. Goodman wrote at the Huffington Post and said on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show that the SNL skit could do more to defeat ISIS than any bombing campaign—that through satire, “‘terror’ will finally lose its ability to gain followers.” Not true, countered terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann. ISIS will love this ad. It makes them look glamorous, and surely the marketing-savvy terrorists figure, like Sarah Palin, that any publicity is good publicity when Lorne Michaels is involved.
But whether or not the skit dents ISIS, it does jab at American ISIS hysteria—the belief that Sharia’s coming to get you, that your children are going jihadi, and that ISIS (like Ebola before it) is an existential threat to the American way of life. Or as Lindsey Graham says of Obama, “This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed here at home.” All. (See Graham, other ISIS overreactors, and the Boehner kiss on Jon Stewart ’s show here.)
While SNL did an ISIS spoof in November, with Chris Rock, it’s brave of them to keep cranking them out.
In the end, they’re bolder than Boehner.