“I come from a land, from a faraway place, where caravan camels roam,” Aladdin sings. “Where they cut off your ear, if they don’t like your face. It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.”
The racist lyric in one of the most successful animated movies ever made is part of a long tradition in U.S. media to flatten, oversimplify or vilify places teeming with beautiful people, deep history and layer upon layer of complex culture. So it was really no surprise to see news anchors, politicians and observers on social media react in disbelief and reach out for tired stereotypes as the chaos on Capitol Hill unfolded last week.
The analyst Van Jones exclaimed on CNN that “where we’re headed looks more like Syria than the United States of America.” ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz told viewers: “I’m not in Baghdad. I’m not in Kabul. I’m not in a dangerous situation overseas. We are in America.” CNN anchor Jake Tapper brought some diversity to the stereotyping, saying he felt he was speaking to a correspondent in “Bogota.”