Saturday, February 07, 2015

The Terrorists Win

When someone says, "We don't negotiate with terrorists," they are lying. Why? Because this statement is at its core a negotiation. Carrying on any kind of conversation, even if it is simply to dismiss the person or group that is knocking at your door, is giving that noise reason to go on. By covering our collective ears and shouting "Na na na na, I can't hear you, na na na," doesn't make them magically disappear. It only makes that knocking noise all the louder. Until something explodes.
Or catches on fire. The most recent horrific event, the immolation of a Jordanian fighter pilot by the Islamic State, has raised the bar in barbarism. Like the beheadings that preceded it, these acts are pointed directly at our rawest nerves. So much so, in fact, that al Qaeda leaders have spoken out against the practice. You read that right: The IS is so extreme that even al Qaeda finds them objectionable. Coming from a group that pioneered the use of passenger jets as weapons of terror, that's saying something.
What is it saying? Well, for one it is saying that we as a planet have become so accustomed to the casualness of the casualties of war that it really does take something pretty terrible to turn our heads. Or our stomachs. It also suggests that we have finally reached a point where show business and terrorism have become one. Spectacle is produced and it takes producers to generate spectacle. The first few discussions I heard and read about the Jordanian pilot were simply about the horror of it all. By the following day, there was a line of thought that had news anchors and pundits talking about the production values of the video of the event. "Obviously edited," and "lots of different camera angles," these were the kind of comments being made about footage of a man being set on fire while trapped in a cage. "I watched the whole thing," asserted one local anchor, "and I was amazed by the time it must have taken to put something like that together."
Really? Not sickened by the act itself? Really. Maybe it's because we're in awards season, and everyone becomes a critic. "I'd give that last video four stars. It really showed the graphic detail I've come to expect, but at the same time it had that grainy video texture that gives it immediacy." Or maybe this is the way we deal with fanatics who burn fellow human beings alive and then put the results, painstakingly, on video. We have become blase. It only took a few months. Congratulations, terrorists. You win.

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