Saturday, October 10, 2009

Law & Order Episode "Great Satan"

National Broadcasting Company's long-running series Law & Order's episode "Great Satan" (Season 20, Episode 3) portrays the use of an informant to convict a group of New York City Muslims for a terrorist plot against a synagogue.

The episode does an excellent job of portraying the informant in a sympathetic light. The informant, a career petty criminal, testifies despite his testimony's revealing a crime he committed before naturalization, thus condemning him to losing his U.S. citizenship and deportation to Syria. He does this after Lt. Bernard says that the World Trade Center used to have a prominent place in his favorite panoramic view of Manhattan from Brooklyn.

I think it's appropriate to remind viewers that the argument for informants, namely that these "anti-American" plotters would eventually figure out how to put a bomb together and that the use of informants (aka instigators) to move a plot forward towards conviction puts dangerous people in jail, is laughable if it were not today's standard law enforcement technique.

The fact that the actual, convicted plotters could hardly find their way out of a wet paper bag does not seem to deter law enforcement personnel from beating their chests over their heroic defense of our safety and then extending their hands to the public treasury for more money to combat "home-grown" terrorists. Meanwhile, police are extending their surveillance beyond Muslims to include vegans, anti-globalization activists, environmental activists and other "dangerous" groups.

I think the show sent a very poor civil rights message.

P.S. Report on Terrorism and Drug War in TV Dramas