Monday, July 30, 2012

The Mohammadan Ministry of Truth

Arab television is weird.  For one thing, there are an absurd number of home shopping channels.  It is hard enough to believe that anyone buys things from such channels in the States, but the fact that six or so are successful cable channels in the Middle East is bizarre. 

Stranger still are the censorship policies.  On Arab television, the word "Jew" is bleeped out, lest any viewers become so enraged by the word that they detonate their explosive belts while watching TV.  That does not mean that there are no Jews on television.  Part of an ad for a television show featured an Orthodox Jew flipping over some poor Muslims guy's dinner plate.  This sort of thing is both horrible and hilarious.

In addition to the word "Jew," drugs are censored.  That is, the physical drugs themselves are censored.  A tasteful flower covers the part of the screen where drugs would appear.  This system is hilariously ineffective because the physical drugs are the only narcotic related thing that gets censored.

A few nights ago, our group was staying at a hotel in Zakho.  Before going to sleep I flipped through the channels and saw some very funny drug censorship.  One channel was showing a stoner movie that featured a song about marijuana.  The word "marijuana" was not censored, but when a character smoked a joint, they appeared to be smoking a flower instead.  Breaking Bad, a drama about a meth cooker, was showing on another channel.  Characters in the show were obviously consuming drugs, but their cocaine was covered by flowers.  Not only is the censorship totally ineffective, it actually makes drug use more noticeable by pasting flowers on the screen.

Drugs and Jews aren't the only things that look strange on Arab television.  The Olympics are painful to watch on the Dubai sport channels because whoever is in charge of their programing has a severe case of attention deficit disorder.  Most of an event will be shown, and just as the winner is about to be decided, the program suddenly switches to a different event, or to an awards ceremony.  The awards ceremonies are normal, except for one thing.  The Arabs mute the American national anthem.


  1. Have to laugh at the fact that the drug us is "covered by flowers". Growing up in the 60s with the hippie, flower child, drug culture arround, this is absolutely hilarious that Arab TV censors drug us with flowers. Monty Python couldn't have come up with anything this funny.

  2. Patrick said "I hadn't thought of that!" Don't worry, given you weren't arround at that time, & probably haven't gotten into any depth in studying that era, I didn't expect you to think of it. However, when you return to the States, for a little remedial studies, watch a few episodes of Laugh-In. Especially the episode that Richard Nixon made a guest appearance in.

  3. @"Al"- Re the "flower child" era; I thought the same thing! I'm definitely revealing my age. -- Rosemary