A few weeks ago, Rush Limbaugh ripped into one of his previously favorite shows, Showtime’s spy drama Homeland, saying it had “descended into full-blown anti-Trump paranoia.” But he was falling for the writers’ ingenious trap—which was counting on the current media narrative to misdirect us, even as they eventually used it to decry just how easy it has become to divide us.
Two episodes into Homeland, Rush Limbaugh forgot that every season has a twist. Remember when a burnt-out Carrie Mathison started the season working for a pacifist pro-refugee NGO in Berlin to atone for her “sins” (the collateral damage done by her anti-terror work)—and ended up foiling an ISIS attempt to gas the Berlin subway using the cover of the refugee migration?
But worst of all, Rush fell into the trap of using the Left’s own assertions about Trump to assume the president in question was Trump. If a president is authoritarian, impulsive, and paranoid, well then it must be Trump—right? Et tu, Rush?
Dr. Freud, call your office.
Here are five mistakes that Rush made in analyzing Homeland. And the clues about this being the case were already in the script.
(I’ll try to do this with as few spoilers as possible, but the ultimate premise is part of the surprise, so fair warning.)
1. The President Isn’t Trump
The president is a left-wing, military-hating woman who is authoritarian and paranoid (well, to be fair, someone did try to assassinate her). Since when does television let someone who isn’t conservative have fascistic tendencies? That alone should have gotten Homeland some credit.
2. The Right-Wing Talk Show Host Isn’t Rush, and His Followers Aren’t Mainstream Conservatives
If anything, the podcast broadcaster on the run from the president’s post-assassination attempted purge is a stand-in for Alex Jones—and even more astounding… he has a point!
Rush told his audience, “This is what they think about you.” But in setting up a Ruby Ridge-like scenario and having the FBI Hostage Rescue Team and its overly aggressive leader itching for a fight, Homeland was actually decrying the assumptions that the Feds and the Washington establishment make about people with certain views and lots of guns.
3. The Russians Didn’t Install the President
When a Russian agent used fake news to make the siege explode, Rush mocked the supposedly wide reach the Russians are credited with in the show instead of realizing it was a clue. He went as far as to assume the Russians were going to be credited with installing the president.
In fact (SPOILER ALERT) the only real objective the Russians have is turning Americans against each other—you know, like having bots promote both pro- and anti-Trump rallies? Like sending out provocative “news” stories on both sides of the NFL anthem kerfluffle? That would never happen…
In fact, the Russians are trying to frame the president in Homeland. (That is a point conservatives ought to be making about Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak’s 2016 activities: If Trump were actually a Russian agent, would the ambassador really be so openly seen around his campaign—unless the Russian FSB wanted it to appear that way?)
4. The Resistance Is on the Right—and They Have a Point
Sure, the followers of the ersatz Alex Jones are a little extreme. But the real heavy hand, as I said before, was the federal response.
Rush expresses dismay that Carrie is a member of the Resistance. He remembers that she was once a patriot battling foreign enemies (even if mentally ill). But (SPOILER ALERT) Carrie is later identified as a useful idiot, played by Russian intelligence—and she forms a team to strike back.
5. In Howard Gordon We Trust
Rush expresses shock that his friend, producer Howard Gordon of 24 and Tyrant fame, would be involved in such left-wing propaganda. He should have trusted his buddy—and he owes him an apology.
Far from being Leftist propaganda, it turns out that Homeland this season was a rather earnest plea for Americans on both sides of the political spectrum not to consider the opponents to be the enemy but to engage in political debate in good faith—as Americans.
By the way, in case you are thinking it’s easy for me to see this in hindsight, as Paula Bolyard is my witness, I pitched this column the day after Rush’s rant. But, unlike el Rushbo, I decided I better let this story play out, Homeland being Homeland; we’ve all been suckered before.
Outrage Merchants Gotta Outrage
But while Rush at least was mostly just premature, falling for Homeland writers ingeniously playing with the audience’s expectations built on the current media narrative, Newsbusters has no excuse.
After Episode 10 their bewildered TV critic (others also couldn’t see the pro-Christian episodes of Young Sheldon and Silicon Valley for what they actually were) was still refusing to give up the fundraising-inducing narrative that Homeland is out to get Trump. She even said there were “several plot holes” because the president is a bad fit for Trump and is a victim of the Russians. Hello?
In so doing, she unwittingly reinforced the main point of Homeland this season: that outrage is the default setting of too much of American media and politics.