Beheadings propaganda

The beheadings in Syria, primarily the beheading of a handful Western prisoners, appear to get a media echo in German and anglophone media which focuses on one and but one interpretation: 'IS/ISIS/ISIL is evil!'

I'm underwhelmed by this - in my opinion primitive - interpretation.

One reason is this:

"19 Beheaded in 17 Days; 8 for Nonviolent Offenses"
Human Rights Watch


FYI, Saudi-Arabia is now bombing along against IS/ISIS/ISIL. It's not getting bombed or in any substantial trouble for beheading people - including foreigners - basically all the time. To the U.S., Saudi Arabia is "their" "bad guy", and thus a "good guy" - and frankly, we've seen this hypocritical BS happen too much already.

- - - - -

I have a different, more interesting, interpretation for why they behead the Westerners and make such a fuzz about it:

There's a widespread feeling of powerlessness against the West and Israel in the Arab world. Too many humiliations occurred, too much hypocrisy, too corrupt own governments even cooperating with the foreigners against the interests of the people, conspiracy theories (including our own 9/11 truther idiots).
Now there's IS-something, and they dare something. They even behead Westerners simply for being Westerners. This not only asserts power, it also has the attraction and promise of something new. 
Add to this the "caliphate" dream of re-unification and you end up with a potent recruitment mixture.

These beheadings are in part an unofficial backlash to what was done (after all, Israel and the US doesn't exactly get slapped by an UN embargo for bombing Arab countries at will) and in part it's highly effective recruitment propaganda.

It's not one important thing, though; it's not an indication that a civil war party a couple thousand kilometres away is a national security concern to my country, or to countries even farther away from the scene.

- - - - -

The exasperations about IS-something's actions furthermore do a great disservice to our societies: The depiction of IS-something as an extraordinary evil warps our understanding of the evils of war.
A handful dead guys - the exact cause of dead was surely of secondary concern shortly before they died - does normally not even warrant a footnote in a book about a war. Thousands are dying there, and the utterly normal horrors of war are worse by orders of magnitude than a more or less clean cut through the neck of some people.

Some more months of anti-IS-something propaganda in the news and millions in the Western world will likely associate the regular horrors of war with extraordinary evilness, and become unable to correctly associate said horrors to war itself. The usual suspects L-O-V-E this.



  1. This issue regarding IS, their motivations and what they are doing seems a bit more complicated than just saying "Its payback for the West bombing Iraq etc". For one, IS is not a monolithic and especially not an all-Arab (or local Arab) organisation. There are now numerous reports from ex-members etc, that a large number of atrocities both in Iraq and Syria is being committed not by Syrian or Iraqi IS-members, but foreigners, who cannot possibly claim to have suffered from any Western actions in the past. Most notable examples are the Chechen IS troops considered their "most aggressive" units, and ironically young Muslims who have arrived from Western countries (Spain, France etc). Case in point also the English accent of the IS individual in those execution videos. Furthermore, it seems the local IS guys - unsurprisingly - seem to be more interested in reorganising their local turf (not the elusive transnational caliphate), which also includes minimising atrocities against the local populace (though I am sure there are plenty of exceptions, when sectarian lines and such come into play).

    Which points even more to the fact, that this whole thing shouldnt concern us too much. As far as the executions are concerned, comparing them to Saudi Arabia omits the glaring fact, that SA uses it as a form of death penalty within a functional judicial system. We may not like it very much, but thats hardly the same as if they would randomly grab some Westerners and execute them, simply because it suits purposes completely unrelated to the individual they are executing. Which is why most voices in the West, while ie critical of non-buddy states such as Iran or China in regard to death penalties, certainly still grasp the fact, that those cases are still very different from engaging in random executions as a form of terrorism. Of course politicians and press focus on the "barbaric" methods in order to simplify their reaction, which certainly has the potential to mislead, but the difference between those two situations nevertheless matters.

    1. They made up a way to claim that even European fighters of IS have the same or similar motivation. It's through religious ideology treating Muslims as a group, across borders. Being Muslim, they feel themselves as previously powerless victims striking back.