Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Do the Jordanian strikes on Daesh (ISIS) prove that Daesh are "Bad" Muslims?
Mr Obama says so but that is pretty good evidence that the truth lies elsewhere. And the truth is in fact the exact opposite. The Middle East is very tribal and Muslims are always fighting with one another: Nation against nation (Iran/Iraq); Sect against sect (Sunni/Shia) and tribe against tribe (Libya). And the big Jordanian attacks on Daesh are very tribal -- motivated by revenge, nothing else. Jordanian Major General Mansour al-Jabour has said as much.
Muslims are like Catholics. Most Catholics don't do what the Pope tells them (contraception, divorce). They are "bad" Catholics. Likewise most Muslims don't do what the Koran tells them (Jihad). They are "bad" Muslims. It is Daesh who are the "good" Muslims. They are in fact engaged in Jihad, as the Koran commends.
The Muslim religion is a great problem wherever there are Muslims. Most Muslims find their religion's commandments at least as difficult as Catholics find the commandments of their religion so they are no problem to anyone much. But some Muslims DO follow their commandments and they are a BIG problem. It is because of that minority that we need to send ALL Muslims back to their ancestral hellholes. Any Muslim could become "good" and we have no way of telling which.
The Western press is now the PR wing of the Islamic State
In poring over its murder-stunt videos, we give IS exactly what it wants -- says Brendan O’Neill below. He has a point but I am not sure that it could be otherwise
Here’s a question for the Western media: if you really think the Islamic State is morally bankrupt, monstrous, one of the worst movements of recent times, then why are you doing its PR work for it? Why are you spreading its propaganda, and by extension its brand, and effectively acting as its unofficial press officer? For make no mistake — when Western media outlets splash the Islamic State’s sordid snuff movies across their front pages, complete with tantalising screengrabs of the seconds just before the really bad thing happens, that is what they are doing: conniving, almost, with the terrorists; certainly helping to complete their acts of terrorism through dutifully advertising them to jaw-dropped Western publics.
It takes two to tango — it also takes two to terrorise: the terrorist himself and the interpreter of his act, the media, which can spread far and wide the fear that the terrorist longs to strike into our hearts but is incapable of disseminating on his own.
Yesterday, IS released yet another capital-punishment video, its worst yet. No details of its contents are necessary here, not least because you can turn to any newspaper in Britain, and elsewhere, and see on the front pages gruesome, gory info about what IS did, and even photos of the dead man walking. Some papers show the milliseconds before the true horror occurs, and the effect is like a Victorian freakshow: you find yourself wondering what happened next, how bad it was; did he scream, did he writhe?
The coverage acts as an invitation to Google, to hunt down the reality horror movie online, where of course it’s available. It’s a modern version of the old haunting cry of ‘Roll up, roll up’: ‘See what happens to the man in the cage!’
Some media outlets will defend their eye-watering descriptions of what happens in the video, and their use of copious shots from it, as newsworthy and possibly even a blow for press freedom. Now, spiked is as absolutist about free speech as it’s possible to get, but I just don’t buy this justification.
Of course it is in the public interest to tell us that a Jordanian citizen was executed by IS and that Jordan has promised that its retribution will be ‘swift’ — these are important global matters. But the creative writing-style descriptions of every wound on the prisoner’s face? The Wes Craven-style poring-over of the moment the thing happens? The depressing detail about what the man does as he’s dying? Is that stuff necessary?
It seems to me that the aim of much of the press coverage of IS’s warped snuffism is less to inform than to titillate, to provoke, to provide people with outrage porn they can morally get off on. Many newspapers now feel a bit like those cheap Victorian news-sheets that claimed to be raising awareness about the scourge of child prostitution but conveniently came with loads of lurid detail about what was done to such children: now, as then, dubious claims of newsiness act as a cover for the publication of moral pornography.
The worst thing is that this is exactly what IS wants — for its self-consciously pre-modern, super-violent brand to be broadcast as far and as frequently as possible. It especially wants this PR boost now, after the harsh reality of its defeat in Kobane at the hands of the Kurds and its suffocation in Mosul by the various Iraqi and external forces that have reportedly surrounded and isolated that city. A rattled IS wants to remind the West of its menace, and what better way to do that than by videoing something truly shocking, in the knowledge that a Western media hungry for gorno will lap it up.
Some have asked why IS makes such abhorrent videos. Partly it’s because this group seems to float free of the moral and political universe inhabited by most other political groupings, even violent ones; but it’s also because it knows its videos will get a good response, ‘hits’, be dutifully obsessed over by the Western media. For very little outlay — a couple of cameras, some walk-on jihadists in menacing masks, a few hours in the editing suite — IS knows it can grab the world’s attention and hold our minds hostage courtesy of the media’s response to its murder-stunts. In this sense, it’s possible the Western media provides IS with an incentive to keep executing people on film: maybe it makes these videos because, at some level, some in the West want them.
There’s a real danger that today’s fearful Western societies amplify acts of terrorism by overreacting to them. We saw this over the past 10 years, when Western politicos and media outlets responded to acts of Islamist terrorism in Western cities by doing the things that the usually small groups of terrorists could never achieve on their own: rewriting laws, limiting liberty, overhauling the justice system, and instituting a culture of fear.
The impact of terrorism is very often determined, not by what the isolated, unrepresentative terrorist does, but by how we respond to what he does. The moral resourcefulness, or otherwise, of a target society is ultimately the deciding factor in whether terrorism will just have a temporary bloody impact or a longer-lasting political, legal and moral impact. And too often we have enabled the latter impact to occur. And so it is with the Islamic State today: if Jihadi John and the rest haunt our dreams, it’s because of what the media has made them into, because of how our own societies have made monsters of these pathetic killers.
There are two possible consequences of the Western media’s lapping-up of IS snuff movies. The first is that they will help IS recruit more nihilistic Westerners. As George Packer of the New Yorker said of last week’s execution of the Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, there is ‘an undeniable attraction in this horror for a number of young people around… Europe and America, who want to leave behind the comfort and safety of normal life for the exaltation of the caliphate’.
It’s a sad fact that, for complicated reasons, we live in societies in which fairly significant numbers of young people feel estranged from mainstream politics and morality and drawn towards nihilistic ways of thinking, and these media-spread videos act as an invitation to some of these youngsters to pursue their nihilistic urges with the one global group devoted to such despicable behaviour.
The second consequence of the media’s publicity for IS horrors is that IS will feel encouraged, incited in fact, to up the ante. Its horrendous new video suggests it is learning the lesson of diminishing returns — that the media had tired somewhat of its beheading videos and so IS needed to do something new and spectacular to get back on the front pages. So it did, and it worked. What will it do next? Who knows. But it will have to be extra atrocious if IS wants the Western media to carry on doing it a favour by making a global spectacle of its squalid murders.
Turning Ukraine into a stage for Western preening
Western interventionists are do-gooders who think they have the moral high ground in waging cold war on Russia, but where is the high ground in obstructing the independence struggle of Eastern Ukraine? Mr Putin is assisting cautiously something that everyone should be supporting
Since a ceasefire was agreed in early September between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, little has actually ceased. The rebels continued to push for independence, even staging de facto national elections in November; the government continued to try to quash the rebellion, declaring the rebels’ political moves illegitimate; and the firing and fighting have continued unabated. According to recent United Nations figures, since April the death toll has reached 5,300, with 12,000 more wounded, and 1.2million having fled their homes.
And now it appears the conflict is entering a far more dangerous phase. In recent weeks, the rebels have made significant territorial gains - 500sq kilometres, according to NATO estimates - and the talk now is of them pushing on towards Mariupol so as to connect the rebel-held regions to Crimea, annexed by Russia in March last year. There is talk also of raising mass armies. Rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko has spoken of rallying together 100,000 troops, while Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has promised to draft an army of 200,000.
Much of the Western media focus, though, has not been on the conflict itself, exactly; it has been on Russia’s role in proceedings. Russia has been presented as the shady protagonist in the conflict, the military power behind the scenes, taking advantage of the massive political instability in Ukraine to advance its own territorial and political interests. And no doubt, Russia’s role is significant. Russian weaponry and Russian soldiers do seem to be involved in the conflict, with anecdotes, satellite imagery and corpses dragged out by the Ukrainian government and its allies as evidence.
Russian president Vladimir Putin denies military involvement, claiming that the Russian soldiers killed or captured in eastern Ukraine were there voluntarily, unofficially. But this seems unlikely, not least because Putin seems to be actively profiting from the escalating conflict on Russia’s borders. Fighting back the West’s supplicants in Ukraine plays well to a domestic audience: it bolsters Putin’s authority. Russia’s willingness to back the rebels in eastern Ukraine is not just a territorial exercise, then; it’s a reputation-building one, too. And it is making the situation in Ukraine worse, deepening antagonisms, unsettling a region, and rendering a federal solution to the split even more unlikely.
But, as spiked has argued from the beginning of Ukraine’s descent into civil war, while Russia’s actions are making things worse, the West’s role has been more destructive. At every stage of the recent conflict, from the Maidan Square protests towards the end of 2013, which eventually brought down the democratically elected government of President Yanukovych, to the constant cosying up to his pro-Western successors, too many in Europe and the US have recklessly, cluelessly upped the ante.
In fact, even before the recent conflagration, before the Maidan protests, the West, be it through NATO’s two-decades-long flirtation with Russia’s neighbours or the European Union’s entreaties to Ukraine through its Eastern Partnership scheme, has constantly threatened to pull Russia’s old allies into its orbit, all in the name of promoting ‘democratic’ or ‘Western’ values. Indeed, Western provocation, raising the stakes in Russia’s old Eastern Bloc backyard, has a history that extends back to the end of the Cold War.
So, Western leaders, cheered on by a braying, Russia-stereotyping commentariat, have not only helped to create the situation in Ukraine - they have also ceaselessly used it to haul themselves on to the moral high ground, issuing condemnations of Russia, and pushing through new rafts of economic sanctions with one hand, while beckoning Ukraine’s government to come ever closer to the European Union with the other.
And now, as Russia responds ever more dangerously, ever more unpredictably, to what it perceives to be a threat on its border, how are Western leaders and an increasingly excited media responding? By upping the ante yet further. Elite opinion, such as it is, is now becoming increasingly, myopically martial. The talk is now of backing the Ukrainian government, not just with Russia-baiting, Putin-demonising rhetoric, and yet another new regime of sanctions, but with actual military assistance.
One Financial Times columnist urges the West to arm the Ukrainians; the Washington Post says the ‘clear answer is direct military support’; a collection of US think tanks and politicians has just released a report urging similar. Western politicians, with the exception of the likes of Republican senator John McCain, may not have been quite so forthright so far; but the prospect of military intervention is now firmly circulating in the policymaking air.
And the most incredible aspect to this slow-motion slippage into something approaching international warfare in Ukraine is that those calling for the West to get stuck in are doing so for the most abstract, most self-aggrandising, and therefore most dangerous reasons. Theirs is not a geopolitical calculation. It is not a matter of realpolitik balancing of power blocs. No, theirs is a vain comic-book calculation. It is a matter of fighting the bad guy, of doing battle with the forces of Russian irrationality and reaction.
Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton likened Russia’s actions to those of Hitler in the 1930s. Others, incredibly, have displayed even less subtlety. One US commentator blamed everything on, variously, ‘Putin the Thug’ and ‘Czar Putin’; one UK commentator said that the West was dealing with ‘classic psychopathic behaviour’; and in the Guardian, columnist, policy adviser and laptop bombardier Timothy Garton Ash decided to invoke his own Kosovo-era version of Hitler: ‘Vladimir Putin is the Slobodan Milošević of the former Soviet Union: as bad, but bigger.’
This is what the conflict in Ukraine has been rendered up as: a battle between the West and Putin the Bad Man. It is a chance, once more, for Western commentators and politicians to act out their liberal interventionist fantasies, to do battle with a psychopath, a thug, a man intent on doing wrong. Those venting their anti-Putin diatribes no doubt feel terribly good about themselves. Those calling for the West to do more no doubt remain convinced that, abstractly, as a moral decision, it is the Right Thing To Do.
And that is the problem. This same unthinking, politically dumb impulse has already wreaked immeasurable damage across the globe, pulling down social arrangements and civic structures from Iraq to Libya, and leaving behind little but massive instability. And yet, because it always looks like the right thing to do, especially when the antagonist is conjured up as a psychopathic wrongdoer, the clueless interventionists continue to call cluelessly for intervention. They up the ante, selfishly, vainly and, ultimately, barbarically.
Russia’s destabilising involvement in Ukraine cannot be ignored. But just as significant is the equally deleterious role of the bumbling, purpose-seeking West and its international institutions. Their culpability in Ukraine’s disintegration has been ignored for far too long.
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Posted by JR at 1:33 AM