First Words: The Dark History of Defending the ‘Homeland’

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Illustration by Javier Jaén. Barbed wire: Penchan Pumila, via Dreamstime

In 2010, the screenwriter and producer Alex Gansa finished the script for a political thriller involving a deeply troubled C.I.A. agent and a soldier who had been turned by the Taliban, and began thinking about a title. He recalls that he wanted a word or phrase to conjure an atmosphere of “creepy subversion” — something sinister, xenophobic, un-American. “Shadowland”? No, not quite. “Homeland”? Perfect.

Ever since President George W. Bush, in the aftermath of Sept. 11, vowed to “strengthen the homeland” and authorized the establishment of a Department of Homeland Security, this peculiar coinage has…

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