I have always been very politically aware. Lately it has been pretty depressing. I was reading the news this morning before I left the house. In the car there was a program on NPR that was also about the same topics and it got me thinking.
America is a place where more people will condemn a movie than the president’s recent request to send ground troops back to Iraq. We’re a nation where a racist Tweet will send hundreds of thousands into righteous indignation, without ever wondering why 27.4% of African-Americans and 45.8% of black children (under the age of 6) in America still live in poverty. American outrage is why Brian Williams has been demonized, but Bill O’Reilly’s lies have increased his ratings. We don’t like liars, except when the people we agree with are doing the lying.
We don’t like war, but 40% of Americans still favor sending OTHER Americans off to fight; even after over a decade of two wars where American soldiers have been in combat longer than at any point in U.S. history. In a truly Orwellian state of being, we’re more concerned with the notion of a movie being a propaganda ploy (to make us more warlike), without ever questioning why we’ve sent U.S. Special Forces to fight in 133 countries in 2014.
We’ll also condemn the loss of innocent lives in terrorist attacks, but shrug our shoulders at the over 1,000 innocent lives who’ve died in our drone strikes. If it feels good, we’ll take action (write a short Tweet or post something on Facebook), but if it requires asking why “terror” hasn’t been defeated after 6,845 American deaths, close to 1 million Americans injured, and close to $6 trillion, we for some reason just can’t muster up the energy.
Why ask questions when you too could be the next person beheaded by ISIS? After all, of the 17,891 deaths from terrorism in 2013 according to the State Department, 19 (including the Boston bombing) were American. The murders of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and Kayla Mueller were horrendous, but ISIS doesn’t represent an existential threat to the U.S. Far more Americans have died in mass shootings than ISIS terrorism, but Fox News never confuses mass shootings with being a greater threat than “terror.”(Random Statistics- 347 Americans were killed in mass shootings in 2014)
There’s also a reason why two deranged terrorists who didn’t belong to ISIS managed to kill three Americans and injure hundreds of others in Boston, but again, let’s not question whether fighting them “over there” will keep us safer at home. ISIS might invade our shores with their navy tomorrow and behead all of us, and only another war will stop this threat. Just watch Fox News to see why we should send even more American soldiers to the Middle East, even though recent wars have failed to end the scourge of extremism.
The truth is that the war on terrorism has always been a war on an ideology; nobody in the world can bomb an ideology out of a group of people. We’ve already tried wars and al-Qaeda simply morphed into ISIS. In addition to military force, there needs to be a way to undermine the ideology used to foster terrorist recruitment. Otherwise, endless wars will be fought by an endless supply of people willing to die for an absurd cause.
We’ve already waged two costly wars in the Middle East without destroying the “greater purpose” sought after by followers of extremist ideologies. In fact, we’ve created a recruitment bonanza for terrorist groups since we’ve given them a reason for their existence. They know very well that we’ll overreact to every beheading video and picture of “unfathomable brutality.”
ISIS and other groups are on social media primarily because we haven’t found a way to destroy the allure of a “stack of decapitated heads.”
Rather than waging another futile conflict and risking a new and improved terrorist threat a decade from now (ISIS is an offshoot of al-Qaeda), we should analyze how Mel Brooks uses satire to mock Hitler and antisemitism. From History of the World to Springtime for Hitler, one of the greatest mass murderers in history is reduced to a figure skater and the Spanish Inquisition is turned into an irreverent musical. Satire and comedy take the luster off savagery. This is why Hitler rapping or screaming “Heil myself!” is so funny. It’s also why people getting tortured in History of the World’s Spanish Inquisition scene is so amusing.
This strategy will also work against ISIS. Satire can destroy the foundations of terrorist recruitment methods since it unmasks the insanity of zealotry. Laughter doesn’t work well when convincing anther human being to strap a bomb and commit suicide. The more people laughing at ISIS, the less it will be able to market itself as the defender of a warped interpretation of Islam. This brand of humor is why Lebanon’s ISIS-mocking Ktir Salbe Show and other examples of extremist defeating satire have sprung up in the Middle East.
People “lacking a sense of identity” simply won’t want to join an organization that is being mocked by the entire world and especially by its own people. Comedy and satire also allow us to see ISIS for what it really is; dangerous but not the nuclear weapons pointed at us during the Cold War.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t arm the Kurds and Iraqi forces, or that satire will replace military force as one way to destroy ISIS. It only means that terrorist ideology can’t be “killed” like a person. It must be diluted and weakened through means other than physical force. Before an ISIS terrorist kills innocent human beings, he’s brainwashed into doing so by extremist propaganda. “SNL’s” recent skit mocks this propaganda.
“SNL” did something profound with its latest segment and if some people can’t understand the utility in this brand of comedy, then they should go back to watching Bill O’Reilly claim he was in a “war zone.” When people in the Middle East and around the world laugh at the absurdity that fuels ISIS, this terrorist group’s raison deter will be reduced to a punch line. Ideas can’t be destroyed by weapons and if the ideas that bolster ISIS are mocked with enough satire, “terror” will finally lose its ability to gain followers.