In an earlier life, I played a fake news man for some years. The character, which shared my name, was a slightly dumber Colbert-type rightwinger, though it pre-dated Colbert. (As I’ve previously noted, the line between fake news man and real one is uncomfortably thin.) At one point during that period, there had been an epidemic of well-publicized shootings. One of them was the Columbine Massacre. I remember using the satiric character, even at the time, to rail against the media for making the killers famous by headlining their names and plastering their faces on front pages and magazine covers, etc. In other words, for giving them exactly the infamy they likely sought in the first place.
You may have noticed we haven’t written much about ISIS here. One of the reasons is because that’s precisely what they’d like us all to do. And, since they emerged as the latest big scary menace on the world stage a few months ago, along with glossy and often horrible PR videos and a fairly sophisticated social media presence, the mainstream media and the political world seem to be all too happy to grant them every last bit of the very publicity they seek.
As of Wednesday night, it looks as though President Obama is similarly happy to take the ISIS bait and grant them the honor of being elevated as the latest Public Enemy #1 of the United States of America. The precise direct threat they pose to the U.S. at this time remains unclear. At least I haven’t been able to figure it out and Obama’s speech on Wednesday night made it no clearer. But the GOP war hawks seemed to be thrilled with it all, and party-line Democrats seem to be offering few, if any, objections either. The military industrial complex is certainly rejoicing over their newest apparent windfall.
To be clear, all available evidence suggests that ISIS or ISIL or the Islamic State is most certainly dangerous (at least to those within their expanding vicinity), extremely ruthless, and extraordinarily barbaric. Still, granting them the fame or infamy they seek — be it in the mainstream media or from the U.S. Government, much less from the bully pulpit of the Presidency — seems to be playing precisely into their hands. I’m not interested in doing so.
It’s also, at least according to this report from Associated Press published just hours before the President’s speech on Wednesday, exactly what their PR masterminds have been working towards. Another very public over-reaction to a most-likely "exaggerated" threat described by the AP as "no unstoppable juggernaut" and "wield[ing] outsize influence" thanks, in no small part, to their mastery of social media…
BEIRUT — The Islamic State group is often described as the most fearsome jihadi outfit of all: a global menace outweighing al-Qaida, with armies trembling before its advance.
But while the group has been successful at seizing parts of Iraq and Syria, it is no unstoppable juggernaut. Lacking the major weaponry of an established military, it wields outsize influence through the fanaticism of a hard core of several thousand, capitalizing on divisions among its rivals, and disseminating terrifying videos on social media.
It is useful to remember, though, that while it is a formidable force that controls roughly a third of Iraq and Syria, there also has been an inclination to exaggerate the group’s capabilities.
According to a senior Iraqi intelligence official, more than 27,600 Islamic State fighters are believed to be operating in Iraq, about 2,600 of whom are foreigners.
Most analysts, however, estimate the number of Islamic State fighters in both Iraq and Syria to be about 20,000.
In any case, the group is dwarfed by its foes in the Syrian and Iraqi armies — both in numbers and firepower.
The Iraqi military and police force are estimated at more than 1 million. The Syrian army is estimated at 300,000 soldiers. There are believed to be more than 100,000 Syrian rebels, including the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and the powerful Islamic Front rebel umbrella group, currently fighting the Islamic State group in Syria. Tens of thousands of Kurdish Peshmerga forces are fighting the group in Iraq.
Publishing the same AP article on Thursday, Talking Points Memo headlined it by asking: "Has The World Been Bamboozled By The ISIS PR Machine?"
The foreign policy expertise needed to determine the precise danger of the ISIS menace, or, more precisely, the threat they pose to the U.S. or its interests, is well above my pay grade. (Though, interestingly enough, it seems to be well within the pay grade of virtually every yutz on Capitol Hill and talking head in the media.) But I do know that this nation has spent the last 48 hours or so — and even weeks before it — breathlessly publicizing gruesome details of the group’s murder of two American journalists and other unspeakable horrors in the region, as if it was all happening just outside the window of every American household. In the bargain, scaring the crap out of virtually every completely unthreatened American and granting these idiots precisely the notoriety they had hoped for.
The only thing that would likely make them happier is a ground war with the U.S. And the way things are going, that should be coming along soon enough as well.
During Wednesday’s BradCast, I asked listeners to call in and talk about what they think should be done about ISIS, if anything. The phone lines lit up from top to bottom. Everyone had a suggestion. None of them good. Or at least without likely even worse consequences in the bargain.
I don’t know what to do either. But I am not inclined, inasmuch as I have control over it in this itty-bitty corner of the world, to give them any more "favorable" publicity than necessary. We won’t be running their videos or scary photos of their atrocities or their triumphant parades with their pirate flags. We will, if we cover them at all with photos, likely be using some variation of the one at the top of this article: a photo still from the bad (though I thought it was great at the time!) early-1970s Saturday morning live-action superhero show called Isis (later, The Secrets of Isis). If this media outlet is to give these idiots any publicity, it will largely be by mocking them with comparison to a scantily-clad female super-heroine based loosely on an ancient Egyptian goddess, from a cheap, nearly-forgotten, short-lived Saturday morning kids’ show.
I might suggest the Obama Administration and this government borrow a similar tactic. Do whatever they feel they need to do to protect Americans, within Constitutional bounds, but do as much of it as they can with as little fanfare as possible. That said, as of Wednesday night’s prime time address from the White House, it seems far too late for that, at this point. Obama has seemingly taken the bait. Too bad. I suspect the bad guys who’ve been begging him to take it, are very happy about that. I know they’re all a helluva lot more famous now.