Everyone interested in world affairs has probably been glued to the news over the past twenty hours or so, so there is no need to review the horror of the crimes that have committed, but it’s definitely worth sharing a couple of immediate thoughts about the situation, as they may be worth reflecting on.
1. Extremist groups, it seems, are incapable of learning. We’ve examined before the fact that these extremists are incapable of accepting the inevitability of a modern, free and inclusive world, in which globalization is a given and women are equal to men, but the sheer stupidity of this latest series of attacks surprises even in that context.
In the first place, France has traditionally been a lukewarm supporter of the international war on terror, at best. The French combination of arrogance and an anachronistic view of their own importance has seen the country often holding back nations who would pursue the war more aggressively. In fact, as a staunch opponent of the Al-Assad regime in Syria, France has actually been hindering the war against ISIS.
While it’s true that France is the origin of freedom in the modern sense, and thereby represents a highly symbolic target, an armed insurrection that has been catalogued as a criminal enterprise by all respectable elements on the worldwide stage should be a little more pragmatic when selecting targets. All this attack will do is galvanize the French people against ISIS… an organization that seems not to understand that ANY of the countries they are attacking could wipe them out in a few weeks if they have popular support. And now, the French do – and after listening to Hollande last night, I wouldn’t be surprised if they sent in troops and did just that. It would be the best thing for everyone.
And ISIS can’t say that this is a surprise. In 2001, Osama Bin Laden decided it would be a good idea to attack the US. That ended extremely badly for him, his Afghan allies, his organization, and also for Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with any of it, but was a target of opportunity. A people that had been supporting a fight against terrorism half-heartedly suddenly awoke, rallied behind an otherwise unloved president and kicked some ass.
It’s not just recent examples that show how silly this is, either. After the US Civil War ended, the Ku Klux Klan was born as a terrorist group to attempt to end Reconstruction, which, though a colossal injustice in practice had the might of the Union army behind it. That original incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan was eventually disbanded… because the leaders understood that the terror attacks were only serving to intensify the crackdown, and that claims had to be pursued using other methods. Which shows that even white supremacists, a group not noted for their brilliance, are less moronic than the current generation of Islamic extremists.
2. Has Al-Jazeera replaced the BBC as the go-to news source when something globally important happens? In the 1990s, especially during the first Gulf War, CNN was often the only international option to watch news live, and was the most complete coverage on cable.
But as more and more options became available, most global audiences grew to prefer the BBC’s news channel, as the stories were covered with a much more global and complete set of assumptions. CNN was clearly too US-centric to be useful, while Fox news, of course was ridiculous (last night they referred to Hollande as the President of Paris). Watching feeds from France and Italy last nigh left me impressed with the RAI’s coverage, while I think the French channels were in shock. But both the RAI and the French channels are hampered by the fact that not everyone understands French or Italian (my own French means that I need to concentrate hard on that), while almost everyone interested in world affairs speaks English. The BBC was plodding along, and Euronews, caught with it’s late-night anchors on the air, was a mess.
And then I turned to Al-Jazeera. What a revelation. Impeccable British accents giving the news without stridence or partiality, combined with interviews with security analysts from the US, political analysts from everywhere – including the middle east – and French government officials. A near-perfect balance.
And they had a team on the ground, a hyper-professional impeccably dressed reporter (British accent, of course) and a couple of camera men. And twhat they were saying was better and more informed than anything else going on at the time.
I’d never paid much attention to Al-Jazeera before, but a quick side-by-side with everyone else gives me the feeling that impartial audiences are going to keep increasing for them if they keep up the good work. I know I’ll be looking to them within the first few minutes (as opposed to just out of curiosity) the next time anything big happens.