IS on the brain

It had to happen eventually.

With all the attention on Islamic State – the attacks in Paris and California, the airstrikes, the recruitment of Westerners – it was just a matter of time before this came out:

“93 secret ISIS cells in US”

Was this an exclusive of the New York Times?  Washington Post?  Wall Street Journal?  Sorry, try the National Enquirer.

Yes, that bastion of truth and accurate journalism splashed that across its front cover this week.  And no, I do not have a subscription – I just glanced at a copy while standing in line at the grocery store (don’t pretend you don’t do exactly as I do!).  So why does this matter?

I think we can look at this event in two ways, one bad and one good.  On the bad front, if the National Enquirer, a rag that divides its time almost equally between made-up photos of Hollywood stars and really bad spoofs on news, is now writing articles on IS, then this just confirms that terrorism is getting way too much attention.  We read about it ever day.  We cannot get away from it.  This is not the fault of the media – they are doing what they are paid to do.

No, it’s our obsession that is not helpful.  We need to stop.  You might find this strange, but even I, who has built a career in terrorism, now find myself skipping articles on IS.  There are just too many to keep up with and, frankly, not enough new information to take in.  If media is the oxygen terrorists crave to feel really important, then we are the doctors placing the masks over their faces.  If terrorism is theatre (pace Brian Jenkins), then we are groupies following their every move.  Khalas!  Basta!

On the positive side, we laugh at the National Enquirer because it is so patently false.  So, let’s laugh at IS.  After all, these self-styled “lions of Islam” are nothing but mujahedin wannabes who complain about the cell service in Raqqa, get off on raping children and fuss about whether the virgins in Paradise “revirginise” after sex (no, I am NOT making this up!).  They are clowns and goofs, albeit dangerous and violent ones.  While making fun of them does not lessen the threat, it makes life a lot more enjoyable.

Instead of “93 secret ISIS cells in US”, we must have more headlines like these (courtesy of The Onion and the Lapine web sites):

  • Amazon quietly pulls ISIS magazine from site
  • Modest ISIS leaders credit promotion entirely to drone strikes
  • ISIS having difficulty finding American recruits physically fit for jihad
  • George Bush declares victory as ISIS defeats Al Qaeda
  • ISIL leader steps down, eyes 2016 run

There, isn’t that better?  Laughter, as Reader’s Digest used to say, is the best medicine.  After all, IS has no sense of humour (they say there is no fun in fundamentalism!).   But we do.  Let’s satirise the hell out of them!

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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