Movie Review: American Hustle and Abscam of 1982
By Ray Hanania
Abscam symbolized a high point in the rise of anti-Arab discrimination and racism in American in the 1970s and 1980s.
It was an FBI driven undercover sting to arrest politicians and mobsters in New Jersey and Washington D.C. who were lured into accepting bribes in 1982 from a fictitious Arab sheikh, who was played by an undercover FBI agent of Lebanese heritage.
Abscam targeted 31 officials. The name Ascam came from a combination of the worlds “Arab” and “Scam.”
Abscam led to the conviction of one US Senator, six members of Congress, a New Jersey State Senator, a member of the Philadelphia City Council, and a member of the U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS).
None of that racism aspect is addressed in the new movie produced by anti-Arab Hollywood called “American Hustle” which stars Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence.
American Hustle is based mostly on facts but is exaggerated to make it more exciting for the audience. Much of the film, authorities contend, is accurate.
In real life, convicted conman Mel Weinberg worked with the FBI to take the heat off of himself by helping to lure local politicians and eventually some big name national politicians into the scam. Weinberg is portrayed by Bale.
Despite the conflicts the narrative of the film has with reality, the film offers a real insight into how the scam operated. Many of the names of people are changed in the film.
Actor Bradley Cooper plays an FBI agent who is engulfed in an egotistical surge of career success. He thinks the scam will make his career and he leans on Irving Rosenfeld, who is played by Christian Bale (and represents Weinberg) to help him nail at least four other people to reduce any charges that might be filed against Rosenfeld.
Jennifer Lawrence often steals the show as Rosenfeld’s gutsy and ditsy blond wife. She’s hilarious. Bale and Amy Adams, his girlfriend, are phenomenal.
But despite the film’s allure, it portrays an ugly time in America that has never been appreciated. Anti-Arab racism didn’t start after Sept. 11, 2001 when terrorist attacked and destroyed New York City’s Twin Towers, and damaged the Pentagon killing nearly 3,000 Americans.
It began long before in the 1960s and 1970s with the Arab Oil Embargo during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, and the campaign by the FBI to persecute Americans of Arab heritage. Abscam was a natural product of that racist discrimination against Arabs. No one thought twice about using racist Arab stereotypes to catch corrupt politicians. The concept of corruption and Arabs became one and the same.
For more information about the movie and Abscam read these references online.
Wikipedia offers a great background. Click here to read the overview.
The feature by Evan Hughs on Slate offers the best comparison of what is truth and what is reality in Abscam and the movie that was made about it. Click here to read the article.
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Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter (1976-1992) and columnist. Hanania is a stubborn voice against anti-Arab discrimination and a critic of the biased mainstream American news media. Palestinian Arab Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His personal website is www.TheMediaOasis.com. Email him at: RayHanania@theArabDailyNews.com.
Hanania is also the Managing Editor of Illinois News Network and writes a syndicated column on Chicago, Illinois and American politics that appears weekly in American newspapers including the Des Plaines Valley News, the Southwest News-Herald, the Regional News and the Palos Reporter newspapers.
He is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media consulting in Chicago Urban Strategies Group.
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