The Iconography of Terror: How ISIS Taps into Our Fears

For some time, I have been convinced that ISIS is tapping in to Western fears, using an intimate knowledge of our history, art and myth to stir night terrors for an entire civilization.

ISISSquadThis first occurred to me when I saw this picture, which I and many compared to the einsatzgrupen on the Eastern Front. The helpless victims with their backs to death, the collective nature of the method of of executions so all the killer share equally in the act tie the two scenes  together across time.

Gruppen                                                                 Contrast this to Goya’s rendering of a similar scene. The Spaniards in this painting will all surely die, but they face their killers and defy them. They have not been robbed of all agency. They die, but we know others will live. Beyond the horror is hope. It is if Goya could look across more than a century and see liberty arise from a sea of corpses. Whereas, the equally iconic picture of the the German killers presents no hope, only hopelessness, and shame at that helplessness. We have long thought -or hoped – that Goya’s was, in the end, the clearer vision.

"Third of May"  Francisco Goya.  Napoleon's troops shoot civilians. An archetype for countless atrocities over the next century and a half.

“Third of May” Francisco Goya. Napoleon’s troops shoot civilians. An archetype for countless atrocities over the next century and a half.

ISIS has been described as “sophisticated” in their media output, but the latest from Libya, is in my view, brilliant. Lets have a look at this still from the video of the mass murder of 21 Copts on a Libya shore.

LONSHOTBEACCH

21 Copts murdered. New reports of 21 captives held in cages. A reference to a 21 gun salute? I wouldn’t put it past this bunch.

First we see a line of obviously cowed, despairing men in orange jumpsuits, each escorted by a masked figure who towers above his captive. The use of orange jump suits in beheading videos goes back to at least Nick Berg, and is in part a riposte for the humiliations visited to some prisoners in Abu Ghraib. Beyond that, it is a mockery of our Western notions of justice. Unlike western prisoners, like those you sometimes see out clearing verges along highways, these men will have no lawyers, no work release, no parole. Only death. And this is as decreed in a multitude of Islamic sources. Allah’s law prevails, and the statutes of Pharaoh, Caesar and Parliament are as nothing. Note how the line recedes form the foreground into the distance. No matter how many  “Crusaders” there are, there is a limitless supply of executioners. The setting along the shore is no accident. The shore in question is the southern Mediterranean, a Latin term meaning at the center of the earth, the sea that bound the Roman world together, Mare Nostrum, Our Sea. A sea that Islam cleft in twain for more than a millennium. This is to let us know that the sea is ours no longer, and will once again be theirs.

A shore is the limit of the human inhabited earth, a dead end.  There are no waiting ships, and no escape. Only a brooding sky over an iron sea. A storm is coming.

axeman It is the back cloaked figures who tap most deeply in to our subconscious. The axeman is a familiar archetype. For how many centuries did Europeans live under rulers who could at a whim, send their subjects to the block, where a masked man in black would send them to eternity? In fact, beheading was reserved for the nobility, while the common man was more likely to go via the rope. Certainly, the hangman’s noose, remains a symbol of death, while the hangman is remembered in folklore, but who we see in our nightmares, is the axeman, perhaps because he figured in the last moments of so many famous historical figures. ISIS and others use knives, not axes. This is the tool of halal slaughter, a clear message that the victims are as beasts.

grey

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey. Paul de la Roche, 1834

In this painting of the execution of Lady Jane Gray one sees a similar sort of obscene intimacy as that in the lSIS Libyan video, where the executioners each guide their victims with a hand on the shoulder. They proceed in step, both part of the choreography.( Surely this was rehearsed.) While I’m not a cinematography nerd, as a long time consumer of horror movies, the technique in the ISIS short seems familiar. There are a couple of tricks I’m sure I’ve seen in the kind of second tier scare flicks you see on Thirll TV.

Open on an empty beach. Which quickly rushes up to the viewer, then back again, a kind of whiplash view accompanied by  reptilian chattering. Same again, but the line of men is now on the beach. Again, and the beach is empty. Then the men return and the narrative becomes more conventional There is a declaration, the usual tale of victimization and retributive aggression.

See Video: ISIS executes 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya

We are given time to learn their faces, so that we will recognize them in death.

The camera lingers briefly over each face that we will remember them. When the moment comes, the men are shoved on to the sand in a wave action beginning at the far end of the line. Continuity disappears. There is a brief montage of violence, blood, body parts ,screams and exultant shouts. I have seen this before. The violence is such that we comprehend its nature, but so brief that a gag reflex isn’t triggered.  The dialogue may well sound better in Arabic and perhaps a more competent translator might have given it greater power. Nevertheless, it bares examination as some of it has been much in the news.

The beheaded Copts are referred to as Crusaders, which may be read as any Christian in Muslim lands. In this instance,and many others, pundits have referred to the enduring wounds of the Crusades, which is utterly nonsensical. Islam won the Crusades and they were of little import until anti-Catholic historians made much of them and their victimization of idealism Islamic societies, beginning with Edward Gibbon. Another Edward, Edward Said, was notable among many others in the last century who recast the Crusades as the first assault of Western Colonialism upon non-Western peoples.

Equally laughable is the speculation of some that the Jihadi pointing his knife towards Rome is an attempt to enlist Libyan nationalists resentful of Italian domination. The Italians have been gone from Libya since Montgomery kicked them out in 1943. Indeed, the knife wielder makes a point of his geographic proximity to today’s Rome, but Islam has a long history with both the city,and the idea of Rome. Islam arose in th 7th Century decades after the official end of the Western empire, but the City of Constantine, the New Rome, endured until 1453. Beyond, the city, Rum, the polity, and Rumi, the people were for Islam the entire West.

The speaker says that they will take Rome, and Jesus will return to “overthrow the cross.” This demented eschatology is orthodox in Islam. In 1984, Orwell` posited an end to history in which a boot stamped a human face, forever. With Islam, it is a knife to a human neck.

This short film thus uses Western mass communication techniques to at once feed on our ancient terrors and to rally Islam to an interrupted conquest, with the aid of anti-colonial Marxist derived tropes perpetuated by the West itself.

Brilliant.

Koran 3.151

Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority: their abode will be the Fire: And evil is the home of the wrong-doers!seventhSeal

Jabringing? Hope So, Because I’m Not: “White Privilege” in Debate

“College Wins US Debate Championship By Repeating the N-Word Over and Over, Speaking Incomprehensibly”

This particular bit of progressive nonsense was brought to my attention by WeaselZipppers, a right blog that can be counted on to put forth the most egregious outrages of Progressives, Leftists, Democrats, Islam, and the Obama administration
I enjoy agenda sites, but check things out. Here, Zippers links to a site called Pundit  Press, which has further links to an Atlantic story with this headline and sub header:

Hacking Traditional College Debate’s White-Privilege Problem

“Minority participants aren’t just debating resolutions—they’re challenging the terms of the debate itself.”

Speaking truth to power or something.

Debate-Team

The Tyson winners

“On March 24, 2014 at the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) Championships at Indiana University, two Towson University students, Ameena Ruffin and Korey Johnson, became the first African-American women to win a national college debate tournament, for which the resolution asked whether the U.S. president’s war powers should be restricted. Rather than address the resolution straight on, Ruffin and Johnson, along with other teams of African-Americans, attacked its premise. The more pressing issue, they argued, is how the U.S. government is at war with poor black communities.”

  .

It appears that the Atlantic writer has no experience in debate, or training in rhetoric. “Premise” Is defined as “a previous statement or proposition from which another is inferred or follows as a conclusion.”

No conclusions or inferences were made. The Towson students simply changed the subject. The proceedings then went in an unusual direction:

“Over four hours, the two teams engaged in a heated discussion of concepts like “nigga authenticity” and performed hip-hop and spoken-word poetry in the traditional timed format. At one point during Lee’s rebuttal, the clock ran out but he refused to yield the floor. “Fuck the time!””

“Fuck the time!”

I rather like that. Good song title or t-shirt meme.

The Atlantic is somewhat reticent in describing the flavor of the debaters’ language and thrust of their rhetoric. Pundit Press is more forthcoming and offers some transcription. The transcription is accurate as far as it would be possible to transcribe this kind of speech, if such it is.   (A short video link here, and the entire session, here)

“Uh, man’s sole “jabringing” object disfigure religion trauma and nubs, uh, the, inside the trauma of representation that turns into the black child devouring and identifying with the stories and into the white culture brought up, uh, de de de de de, dink, and add subjectively like a white man, the black man!”

I’m stumped by “jabringing” as the only search result leads back to this article.

A “ jabring” is apparently a breed of cat and maybe a word in Swedish.

And this:

“When the n*****, uh, sees these pains and suffering that he can only, uh, envision himself that he, uh, does not see another n***** that he, uh, can feel sympathy for or embrace, but rather, uh, that, a-bluh, that that otherness gets obliterated.”

I thought I could follow this, but came up short.  ”Otherness” is bad,we’re often told, so the speaker should be happy that it is obliterated, but the tone indicates otherwise. Perhaps an undigested bit of Edward Said in an otherwise unidentifiable spew. The passage is not coherent enough to be termed a rant.

As one would expect, comments express outrage at falling, or non-existent standards, ghetto trash talk and the Third Worldization of America,

As for me, I’m not so hard on these kids.

I get what they are doing. I was a high school debater, eventually captain of the team.

And I was crap.

We had intramural debates, and those we called “Oxford Style” full on snark, sarcasm, vilification of opponents, a lot of humorous nastiness, with the audience awarding victory. I did quite well at those. It was basically verbal bullying, elevated above the playground variety by elegant terms of phrase, but just as vicious.

Interscholastic debating, under the aegis of the association to which we belonged, went on throughout the year on a single topic. A thick briefing book was issued and participants were enjoined to learn the basics, and go on to their own research.

debate

Me getting my ass handed to me at a regional debate, University of New Hampshire, 1965

I never did because I was bone idle, and my crew was a similar bunch of no accounts, whom I made no effort to whip into shape. So, while we often got high marks for delivery, we were marked down for everything else.

Now, we had well developed vocabularies and rhetorical technique, and even some degree of oracular artistry, but our basic skill was the same as that deployed by these Towson kids:

Bullshit

The difference was, of course, that we were not rewarded for it. Not only did we bring home no trophies, but the headmaster made sure I was left out of the yearbook picture.

Some comments express concern for the debaters, in that these synthetic accolades set them up for failure in later life. I’m not so sure in their particular cases. The articles give no information on their fields of study, but even if their degrees are insubstantial, their notoriety should help, and I expect places will be found for hem in government, NGOs, or even progressively oriented corporations.

One has to remember that these young people are outstanding in their milieu. Those who are not, but whose education reflects the same kind of standard, will not have much to recommend them. This is one more example of the endless bigotry of low expectations, and the accommodation, and even celebration, of a culture that does not respect learning. Any who aspire to emulate the Towson debaters may have gone to college, but they are in the same trap as are others who eschew schooling to become rappers or athletes.

Not everyone can; most cannot.

The Atlantic quotes academics finding nothing wrong in all this, and who, indeed, celebrate it. These are the real villains of the piece. They have their tenure, but those schooled under their ideas will be lucky to have any kind of job.

In the end, these kids are right. There are white people keeping them down,

The Smartest Guy in the Room Misspeaks Himself – Again

In the President’s weekly address he  outlines   some initiatives he is taking on increasing tourism to the US.  This is critical because:

“Tourism is the number one service we export.”

Yup, really, that’s what he said.  Honest. Check it out at whitehouise.gov – before someone redacts it.

This is right up there with “57 states,”(There are 57 countries in the  OIC, hmm…), “corpseman,” “intercontinental railroad” and Austrian as a language.

In fact, it’s a classic Bushism.

Obama goes on to detail a coming  initiative to expedite entry for frequent travelers.  Surprising, as the program is already in place.  I know, because an ICE inspector gave me a brochure on it the last time I went through SFO.

The President goes on to outline some other travel policies that sound quite sensible.  Apparently it’s Congress’ fault for not having thought of these, so Obama must take executive action – and tell us all about his decisiveness.

Then a diversion to No Child Left Behind, and a weak segue back to tourism.

This guy isn’t eloquent under the best of circumstances.

He is a clown.  Let’s elect a different one in November.  You know, spread the wealth.

Obama’s Honeyed Voice: Beware of People Traps

Tom Friedman on NBCs Meet the Press Sunday December 25 said,

He's so articulate...Oops!

When the story is speaking to you, shut up and listen. And I think Newt’s rise is speaking to us.

And what it says to me is, is that I think there’s a lot of Republicans who are starved for a

candidate for their party who would be able to debate Obama head-to-head, they think is as

smart and mellifluous as the president…

:

Mellifluous?  Must have aced the SAT vocab component.  Let’s have a look at the word itself:

From Merriam Webster on line.

Definition of MELLIFLUOUS

1
: having a smooth rich flow <a mellifluous voice>
2
: filled with something (as honey) that sweetens
mel·lif·lu·ous·ly adverb
mel·lif·lu·ous·ness noun

smart and mellifluous as the president(it = Newt’s ascendancy)

Being on his high school debate team would have helped.

As for the first definition, “corpseman” and other GWB “nucular” style gaffes give the laugh  to that one.  Just search “Obama” and “Uh,”  “Er”  and “Um” for a sample of his teleprompter free incoherence, or if you doubt these amusingly edited videos,  take in his next press conference.

 

 

The second definition reflects the word’s Etymology.

mellifluous
early 15c., “sweet, pleasing” (of an odor, a style of speaking or writing, etc.), from L.L. mellifluous “flowing with (or as if with) honey,” from L. mel (gen. mellis) “honey” (related to Gk. meli “honey;” see Melissa) + -fluus “flowing,” from fluere “to flow” (see fluent).
Honey is nice on bread,  but in literary use it can be a watch word for deception.  A seducer uses honeyed words.

Consider the scene in Shakespeare’s “Richard the Third” in which Lady Anne speaks of her enslavement to the royal traducer, whom she had come to love even though he  killed her husband and father-in-law.

Lo, ere I can repeat this curse again, within so small a time, my woman’s heart grossly grew captive to his honey words and proved

the   subject of mine                                                                   own soul’s curse(IV,i)

 

In 2008, the electorate was willingly seduced.  The President told us what we wanted to hear: We were the ones we had been waiting for; we could have whatever we wanted; we would not have to pay.  Obama is only the foremost of those speaking in the honeyed phrases we so love, the words that we think will protect us from the harshness of life, relieve us of the burdens we shirk, and chase away the darkness.

If we listen once more,and fall into the honey trap again, we may never escape.

Beware of the people traps.
(There are many honeyed words.)
Beware of the people traps,
Beware of the people traps.
(There is so much misinformation.)
Watch out, watch out, watch out, watch out.

– Shonen Knife, “People Traps”

Politicans Search for the Electorate’s G-spot

On Monday,  I was startled when  I did my morning headline glance at MSNBC to see the President’s speech to the CBC headlined “Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin’. Stop cryin’ “with the elided “g”’s clearly signaled.  Remembering criticisms of Bush for forced folksiness, and recalling that the intensity  of Clinton’s Arkansas speech rose and fell, I wondered it this were another sign of Obama‘s slide in the estimation of the MSM.  I didn’t watch the accompanyin’ video as Youtube  was not cooperating.

Now a few days later, I see that it has kicked up an excremental weather front, but not the one I would have predicted,

From the
WSJ  
Sept 27, 2011

“Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin’. Stop cryin’,” President Obama lectured the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation on Saturday, according to the Associated Press. According to the White House transcript, the president said: “Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying.” Dylan Stableford of Yahoo! News reports that the case of the missing g’s is now prompting charges of racism:

On MSNBC, the African-American author Karen Hunter complained the news service transcribed Obama’s speech without cleaning it up as other outlets did–specifically including the “dropped g’s.” . . .

    Hunter called the AP’s version “inherently racist,” sparring with New Republic contributing editor and noted linguistics expert John McWhorter, who argued the g-less version “is actually the correct one,” noting that the president’s victory in the 2008 election was due, in part, to how effortlessly “he can switch into that [black] dialect.”

It does seem, in the eyes of his supporters, that our first post racial president is all about race.  For me, the issue in this instance is in the last sentence.

“…how effortlessly “he can switch into that [black] dialect.”

Are politicians really unaware of the internet and Youtube? Do they still think they can get away with addressing one audience one way, and another quite differently?

Is it worth considering that the racism here might be the president’s, in that he felt Blacks must be addressed in “their “ dialect to get the message, or that they are so self obsessed that they will not consider a message, even from an ally, if not couched in group approved language?

Herman Cain speaks with a heavy black intonation – “g”’s intact, as far as I can see, to wildly appreciative, mostly white audiences.  I’m no linguist, but his speech sounds more ”black” to me than the President’s mildly African American inflection.

Mr. Cain understands that it is best to be one’s self.  This elocutionary metamorphism on the part of the President might lead one to wonder if Obama indeed knows how exactly he is, or  feels the need to present different selves to different electoral segments.

If the latter, he has, and has had plenty of company on both sides of the aisle, but is unwise.  Despite, or perhaps as a result of a media saturated culture, authenticity will prevail over calculated and hastily erected and and just as quickly disassembled multiple persona.

Rick Perry to the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans: no “g’s”
His Presidential run announcement in South Carolina: no “g”s

Presidential debate     Some “g’s” present.  Perry would appear to be genuine “g-dropper,” struggling to maintain standard pronunciation when he thinks it is appropriate. He should be consistent, and himself.

I didn’t bother to check up on Romney.  It’s impossible to imagine him as a “g” dropper.

Those who live in a region, or come from a class or linguistic group that pronounce “ing”  as “in”,  should a politician suddenly start dropping “g’ just to address you, might think about drop kicking him or her out of the race.

We will be listening.

SF Follies – Slap a Bun on that Dog!

…but buns are also a problem for Supervisor Scott Wiener(Stonefree:  Who is the patron saint of headline writers anyway?  I’d offer up a prayer of thanks and write this one: “Wiener Says to Wrap Weenies”), as this  story for SFGate relates:

San Francisco, September 7, 2011 — “San Francisco will once again be the butt (Stonefree: kudos to Gate writer Rachel Gordon)of national ridicule – or a beacon of freedom of expression – depending on your point of view. The latest issue?

Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced legislation Tuesday that would require nudists

Not Club Med

to put something under their bottoms if they take a seat in public and to cover up when they’re in a restaurant…”

When I was a kid if you wanted to see naked women, you went to the Follies on Third Street.  Locker rooms for naked men.

As for tolerance, if I were so foolish as to show my wrinkled bum in public in the City of St. Francis, I would suffer snickers at worst, but a bumper sticker for a Republican candidate would invite near certain vandalism.  I visit SF now and then, and enjoy it, but I don’t miss the city, even after spending more than twenty years there.  Just before I left for good  some ten  years ago, I ran my last Bay to Breakers.  There were some naked guys at the start line, and they were clearly, um, pleased to be naked.  It gets a bit much.

Although not that much in most  cases.  Consider coverage of last June’s naked bike ride in SF, by Zombie, a trenchant observer of Bay Area weirdness.  Without actually counting( but I’m pretty good at estimating and quantitative thinking) the score was: schlongs,1; teenies, around 30.  And as to my personal preference, none at all; but hey, it’s San Francisco.

.
The story’s mention of Supervisor Wiener leads me to digress a bit, but still on the subject of man-wurst, you have to feel a bit sorry for Rep. Anthony Weiner. Early on his was faced with a difficult choice,  The German diphthong “ei” is pronounced “eye,”  Hence, it’s Barbara Streye-sand, not Stree-sand.  Yet some choose the long “e” sound, although rendered “ie” in German, as in people named Stein pronouncing their name “Steen.”

So, as a lad the unfortunate congressman was faced with the choice of being either whiny, or a weenie. Events proved him to be both, but he will be remembered for the latter. As for the Supervisor, I can see his reelection slogan, given his strong stand on this issue: “Wiener’s no Weenie!”  This would no doubt give his opponents the willies.