When crises occur, the immediate reaction is always to apportion blame, simplify arguments, take sides, get angry, and then do something…anything. The sensationalist press exacerbates this process, and since our politicians are so heavily influenced by media opinion, they often follow suit. Thinking outside the box is a definite no-no (see: Jeremy Corbyn).
The UK government’s reaction to the recent attack in Paris has therefore been just as expected. Events in France have given David Cameron and his Cabinet more ammo for the weapons they were already firing, while excusing them from tackling the more difficult questions. Increasing surveillance, dividing communities, turning teachers into thought police, strengthening anti-immigration sentiment; these are the orders of the day. Here’s a wider look at the causes of war in the Middle East and terrorism in the West. Continue reading
A man dressed all in black had been removing the heads from aid workers and journalists and we wondered who he really was. He’d been the British-accented ‘star’ of a number of Islamic State propaganda videos, so we named him appropriately: Jihadi John was the nickname given, as he was one of four IS members with English accents that were collectively referred to by hostages as The Beatles (the others being George, Ringo and Paul). Last week, we discovered John’s true identity – this was, in reality, Mohammed Emwazi, a 26-year-old Kuwaiti-born Londoner who had flown to Syria to join ISIS two years ago, and his backstory makes for complicated, occasionally uncomfortable reading. The truth, however, isn’t proving as popular as the story we invented for him.
Look how the press continues to refer to Emwazi by his cartoonish nickname Jihadi John, despite now being aware of his true identity. We aren’t choosing to make sense of Emwazi – we’re instead more comfortable with pretending a smiling schoolboy who wanted to be a footballer and who grew up to be both a Westminster University graduate and an IS executioner is still ‘Jihadi John’, the monstrous IS soldier who was probably just born evil. Today’s soundbite generation is too busy for the messy reality; there’s only time for the summarised storybook version of events we hear on the news.
A few weeks ago Natalie Bennett was interviewed by Andrew Neil on Sunday Politics, in which she stated the Green Party’s policy of not criminalising any organisation, including ISIS. “It should NOT be a crime to join ISIS”, screamed the Daily Mail, “In an extraordinary claim, Natalie Bennett said people should not be punished for what they think and stressed it should ‘not be a crime simply to belong to an organisation’.”
Clearly the Daily Mail (just like ISIS itself) does believe you should be punished for what you think. Indeed not wanting to punish you for what you think is ‘extraordinary’. But taking a step back from the reactionary and emotive approach the press has taken, how should we treat organisations associated with terrorism?