Satire has been largely overlooked as a powerful weapon in the West’s arsenal against Islamic State. It’s time to start to taking the mickey, argues Emma Barnett.
“You be careful, OK?” urges an anxious father, as he waves goodbye to his daughter from his car. She turns around, leans her head back through the open passenger window and cheerfully says: “Dad, it’s just Isis,” before driving off with a gang of gun-toting bearded men, shouting “Death to America!”
It’s a darkly humorous skit starring Dakota Johnson, produced by American comedy TV show, Saturday Night Live. But an awful lot of Yanks have failed to see the funny side and the video has gone viral this week for all the wrong reasons.
“It’s not effin’ funny! They’re chopping people’s heads off and you’re making it a joke?” bellow sanctimonious tweeters.
“Isis is not a joke,” squeals another. Except it should be.
Much has been written about how Mohammed Emwazi, aka Jihadi John – a comedy name if ever there was one – was radicalised and how to stop other young people following him to Islamic State.
Satire, though, has been largely overlooked as a weapon in our arsenal against Isil – partly because of the current climate of fear following the Charlie Hebdo and Copenhagen murders. Few today would criticise satirists for self-censorship or opting for anonymity when they produce work that parodies this murderous cult.
One such artist has resorted to using a pseudonym for her latest work – a series of eerily funny tableaux made with children’s animal figurines, in which an army of black clad mice and rabbits advance on a bucolic picnic scene. Her mum calls it ‘MICE-IS’. It’s the first time ‘Mimsy’ has used a pseudonym and she’s done so to “avoid any possibility of beheading”, she tells me – without a hint of irony.
But at least she’s still producing art that will make us stop and consider the ludicrousness of Isil.
Ridiculing the enemy has always been able to do something bombs and straight reporting can’t. It chips away at evil and punctures an aggressor’s warped reality. As Mel Brooks put it, when describing The Producers: “Rhetoric does not get you anywhere, because Hitler and Mussolini are just as good at rhetoric. But if you can bring these people down with comedy, they stand no chance.”
however, a major difference between the Thirties and now is the existence of the internet which offers unparalleled possibilities for recruiting a global army and capturing disenfranchised minds. But comedians, cartoonists and artists can also harness that power. And scenes of hilarity have a much better hit rate than terror clips – especially with young people. The internet was practically built on silly videos.
So why not use it to play Isil at its own viral game.
For the web is a key battleground for the jihadists. Isil posts its slickly produced, gruesome beheading videos online regularly and jihadi brides are chief recruiters of Western women on social media. No one can shut them up. Censoring terrorist websites is proving futile, as the material reappears as quickly as it is shut down. Only 72 hours ago, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey received death threats from Isil supportersfor his company’s futile attempts to silence perpetrators on its platform.
So let’s make Jihadi John and his cronies objects of ridicule to shatter their demi-God status. Anyone drawn to Isil needs to know we will laugh at them, rather than fear their senseless barbarism. In this era of political correctness gone mad, it’s time we met the brave satirists half way and showed that we are not afraid to snigger confidently in the face of evil.
Source: The Telegraph