A little voice inside me very almost agreed with Matthew Parris in the Times today, in his column entitled, “We’ve become the Isis propaganda machine”. This feeling recently began to rise up inside me too, especially after I witnessed the tears of the husbands of three Muslim women believed to have travelled to Syria, endlessly repeated on Britain’s news channels.
Whatever the reality behind that case, the presentation of some women and children travelling to Syria as a major security threat is arguably a major propaganda coup for ISIS. Parris writes:
‘Tell me, Akbar,” says Islamic State’s divisional commander (European Region) to his director of PR this morning, “what kind of a week have we had in Britain?”
“Amazing, sir,” Akbar smirks. “Three idiot women in Bradford took their small daughters to Mecca then to the Syrian border.”
“Only three? Women? Kids? Ridiculous. What use are these no-hopers to us?”
“Precisely, sir. No story at all. We’re scraping the barrel. But, sir, you won’t believe this — the whole thing’s gone ballistic.
The establishment has got the narrative wrong on this case, I’m sure of it. It’s not about the security threat. It’s not about ISIS. It’s about how so many of Britain’s Muslims scarcely feel British, which is a failure of our government and our culture to demand integration, and indeed the direct consequence of the political left’s decades-long attempts to undermine the nation state.
But Parris should have stopped after his ninth paragraph, instead of continuing on for fourteen more.
His comparison between the “adventurers” of the Spanish Civil War is bloody stupid and dangerous. It is in itself a propaganda coup for ISIS, and further romanticises the idea of fighting for a barbaric death cult.
If I was “Akbar”, Mr Parris’s fictional, afforementioned, PR-director for ISIS, I’d screen grab his commentary and paste it all over the shady web forums and university campuses that are critical recruiting grounds for extremists.
“Some young people, especially men, seek adventure. Many are attracted to the very idea of violence — or how else do you explain Hollywood? If you can harness that taste for violence behind a claimed idealistic cause — be it patriotism or religion — then you offer a moral excuse for adventure.”
Stick that on an ISIS contiki poster.
“Why have comparisons with British volunteering for the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s not been more discussed? In little more than half the time the Syrian conflict has raged, nearly six times as many of our citizens travelled illegally to fight in Spain. The British government, officially neutral, had no wish to see the left (the republicans) win; but the law proved unenforceable and some 4,000 went, overwhelmingly in support of the side that our government feared might turn Spain communist.”
I suppose we should forget, for the sake of argument, that these comparisons have already been discussed, by the Guardian well over a year ago, in the Independent before that. Also here, here, and here. Oh and here. They were even rebutted by an anti-extremist imam.
But the real issue, since Mr Parris wants to discuss it again, is that despite the barbarousness of the Spanish Civil War, he has just romanticised the whole damn thing, comparing it to a “war against fascism” that is still spun, lauded, and aggrandised by Britain’s hard left which use the same, disjointed, pro big-government but somehow “anti-establishment” arguments online and in universities, to recruit for their causes.
Maybe all the coverage about British Muslims fleeing to ISIS-territory isn’t all about threats and security concerns either. Though it should be, knowing what we know about some of Britain’s mosques and radical preachers. And knowing what we know about homegrown terrorism, the 7/7 bombings, the murder of Lee Rigby and the dozens of terror plots that our security services foil unbeknownst to us.
Maybe it’s the first time the British media has realised that it has marched to the leftists tune for too long – failing to shine a light on the cultural wars that keep the Islamist and the hard left attractive to many.
Maybe, deep down, BBC and Sky News producers know they’ve been complicit in the problem, equivocating for those who would see the downfall of Western civilisation, failing to call terror by its name, and that the recent stress on ISIS and homegrown UK terror could go some way to making up for this deficiency.
Human interest stories like that of three sisters and their children fleeing to Syria, or Jihadi John, are far less celebratory of ISIS than Mr Parris’s comparison to the 1930’s “adventurers”. And if it leads to more pressure towards integration, and the rejection of extremist or radical sympathies – which I believe it can – then keep the coverage coming I say. We can’t keep waiting for a Muslim George Orwell.