American Sniper: Anti-Muslim Threats Skyrocket in Wake of Film's Release
American Sniper continues to draw record-breaking audiences as it barrels into its second weekend in wide release, but a group representing Arab-Americans says the rate of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim threats resulting from the Oscar-nominated war film has already tripled.
Citing what an executive for the group told the Guardian was a “drastic increase” in hate speech on social media, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee wrote letters this week to actor Bradley Cooper and director Clint Eastwood to ask them to speak out “in an effort to help reduce the hateful rhetoric”.
The film, which was nominated for six Academy Awards including best picture, depicts the story of Chris Kyle, the famed US navy Seal notorious for the highest known single kill count in US military history. But its all-American depiction on screen has drawn heavy criticism from combat veterans and viewers alike – and especially about viewers themselves, many of whom have emerged from theatres desperate to communicate a kind of murderous desire.
A quick search on Twitter leads down a rabbit hole of anger.
“Great fucking movie and now I really want to kill some fucking ragheads,” read one tweet, in a set of screenshots that quickly went viral after being collated by journalist Rania Khalek for the online publication Electronic Intifada. “American sniper makes me wanna go shoot some fuckin Arabs,” read another.
One tweet read: “Nice to see a movie where the Arabs are portrayed for who they really are - vermin scum intent on destroying us.” While the word “vermin” is not uncommon in threads about the film, that tweet was tagged not only #AmericanSniper but, mystifyingly, #DeBlasio as well.
Even the actor James Woods got in on the action, tweeting: “Every time an American Armed Forces sniper pulls a trigger, those who would kill or maim an American warrior are no longer a threat.”
Abed Ayoub, the national legal and policy director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), told the Guardian that complaints from his organisation have skyrocketed the movie’s wide release – and $90m box-office take, an all-time high for the month of January.
“The last time we saw such a sharp increase was in 2010, around the Ground Zero mosque,” he said.
The ADC sent letters on Thursday to Cooper and Clint Eastwood, the director, imploring them to condemn the threats being made against Arab and Muslim Americans.
“We want Mr Eastwood or Mr Cooper to say, ‘Don’t use our film to promulgate hatred or bigotry. Don’t use our film to push hate and bigotry, and use it as a platform for these racist views,’” Ayoub said.
“If they want to go further, they can say Arabs in America are just as American as the next person,” he added.
Representatives for Cooper and Eastwood did not respond to requests for comment.
The tweets, especially the picture made by Khalek, garnered a backlash of their own. One response read: “That’s not what you should’ve gotten out of the film. Idiots.”
Actor Seth Rogen tweeted that the film reminded him of the Nazi sniper propaganda film showing in the third act of Inglourious Basterds. In Los Angeles, the word “Murder!” was spray-painted onto a billboard advertising the film.