Tag Archives: Boko Haram

Handing victory to IS

24 Feb

I have been in the US for a few days. When there, I was exposed to quite a few hours of Fox News, CNN and other news channels as I was in airport lounges, hotel lobbies, restaurants and bars. Usually the sound was turned down, but it was very clear what the top story was: IS. The news channels seem obsessed with it and had the same footage on a loop as well as ‘expert’ commentary from people who, I suspect, rarely leave Washington. If an IS strategy is to gain media coverage in the homeland of their enemy then they have won that part of their war – for free.

This is not to say that IS do not deserve attention. They are capable, violent, hold territory and are engaging in despicable acts of cruelty. Although such claims can also be leveled at President Assad or Boko Haram – neither of whom command a fraction of the media attention (from what I can see).

The obsession (and it did seem to be an obsession) with IS seemed to be playing into their hands. There is no doubt that the US, its allies and proxies will use military means to degrade and possibly defeat IS. In the meantime, what is the point of massaging the IS ego? The extent and tenor of the media coverage seemed intent on inflating a regional threat into a global existential one.

So what explains this obsession? Part of it can be put down the IS releasing a new promotional video. Although why US news corporations decided to do IS the favour of running this on a loop is beyond comprehension. Part of it can be put down to timing: IS have kept up a fairly regular tempo of high profile atrocities (but then so have President Assad and Boko Haram). Part of it can be explained by the fact that the US is actually at war with IS in the form of airstrikes and several thousand military advisors. Although coverage of what the US and its allies were actually doing was slight.

But one reason worth considering for the US media obsession is structural: it is an outworking of the construction of a security state. A national security mind-set, and the infrastructure and material power that go along with it in terms of Homeland Security and massive security budgets, means that a security lens is the default setting. IS are merely the latest script fodder, but the plot is long-established. Maybe the state is securitised to such an extent that it needs ‘the other’ in order to justify its current configuration. If that is the case, then IS (and Al Qaeda before them, and the Soviet Union before them) have won.

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