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Thursday, June 26, 2008 

Beheading videos and sillily overreacting.

Sometimes you just have to simply despair at the overreaction where anything slightly related to terrorism comes to public notice:

Video clips of al-Qaida-inspired terrorists beheading people have been found on the mobile phone of a 12-year-old boy, a senior police officer revealed yesterday.

The footage was found by teachers who reported the child, who is white, to police after he sent clips to his classmates.

The discovery was revealed yesterday to show how children of all religions could be attracted to al-Qaida. West Yorkshire's chief constable, Sir Norman Bettison, said terrorist propaganda was spreading like a virus, and warned that every Muslim child in Britain could be at risk.

This ludicrous interpretation is based on the premise that jihadist propaganda is so dangerous that anyone so much as watching it is likely to be attracted to the ideology behind it. I'd argue that the absolute opposite is the case, at least when it comes to the snuff films that were for a while all the rage in Iraq; why else would al-Zawahiri himself have apparently ordered that al-Qaida in Iraq stop releasing them, other than because of the revulsion they were causing and continue to cause except in the most bloodthirsty of the gorehounds? ISI as a result switched to the slightly more humane execution method, at least when they were filming them, of a point blank shot to the head. A recent raid in Iraq itself that turned up a treasure trove of media releases, if you could call them that, revealed that AQI/ISI had continued to record most of the beheadings which were carried out, but hadn't released them, which as the account noted was close to the level of documentation which the Khmer Rouge gave to those that they murdered. Similarly, Mullah Omar, the erstwhile head of the Taliban recently made gave more or less the same edict, calling for an end to the beheadings of "spies" and other unfortunates caught up in the anarchy of Afghanistan/the lawless regions of Pakistan, presumably because of the outcry over the release of a video showing a child beheading a man.

Rather, the beheading videos just show the barbarity of the likes of AQ/ISI, especially when so many of those executed, rather than being Westerners, were Iraqis that had committed the crime of "spying" for the occupiers or working for either the police or Iraqi army. Two of the most horrific executions were in fact not carried about by al-Qaida in Iraq/MSC/ISI but by Ansar al-Sunnah, which has now reverted to its original moniker of Ansar al-Islam, a group with an almost indistinguishable Salafi takfirist ideology from ISI, but which has never joined the ISI for reasons unknown. The first, and one of the most notorious was of 12 Nepalese cooks. Only one was beheaded, but the deliberately appalling way in which he was killed has stuck in the memory of many due to the killer only initally severing the man's trachea, leaving him unable to breathe, his windpipe making a chilling, blood-curdling noise as he struggles for breath, before he finally succumbs, some 25 seconds later. The other 11 were lackadaisically shot, almost as an afterthought, with hardly any of them being killed instantly, or even approaching quickly. The reaction in Nepal could have been predicted; Kathmandu saw its two mosques attacked, and riots across the city. Seif Adnan Kanaan was the second, who in the video says he works at Mosul airport, where he also supplied Americans with beverages. He is later seen being beheaded slowly, before the masked man cuts deep enough to sever the jugular, leading the killer to pull his head back, with the blood gushing from his neck in a torrent. Like in many of the other recorded murders, his head is then placed on his back. If anyone is seriously attracted to such groups and their mindset after viewing either, then their psychiatrists are going to be incredibly happy.

Instead, what has obviously happened in this case is that the boy has been browsing the numerous video websites with a slightly more challenging selection of delights than YouTube, or visited one of the similarly vast selection of gore websites that also exists. He and his friends have already doubtless browsed the porn sites, and he's just gone the next inquisitive step up. His mistake appears to have been in getting caught and someone in the chain of command completely overreacting; this has nothing whatsoever to do with any attraction to a terrorist group.

He [Bettison] raised the example of the 12-year-old during a speech at the Association of Chief Police Officers annual conference in Liverpool. The boy has been referred to a project to divert people from extremism before they turn violent. His parents are not Muslim.

Sigh. This boy didn't need referring to any spurious project; he needed to be treated like anyone else at that age examining death and life's extremes which the internet provides in spades. Yes, he shouldn't be viewing such things at all at that age, but that's no reason for him to be treated as a potential terrorist simply because he's seen such videos. The whole thing comes across as some grotesque charade, to be seen to be doing something, especially in its apparent view that Muslims are more susceptible simply because they share the religion, as if they too aren't disgusted and turned off by some of the brutality recorded by insurgents in Iraq and elsewhere.

Jihadist propaganda is potentially a worry, but that it is only really likely to be sought out by individuals already inquisitive about the current conflicts where mujahideen groups are fighting shows the limited reach it is always likely to have. Influencing those in the West is only one of the aims of such releases, whether they be potential jihadists or the public at large, in order to give the impression that such wars can never be won against such hostile enemies, but the main aim by them has always been an insular one, to keep the jihadi community itself salving at the bit, while showing off the group's own achievements. At the same time it also provides those monitoring such groups with an invaluable insight into them, one which almost balances out the negative effects of their release in the first place. This is why legislation against them, something which has been threatened, needs to be opposed. A change in attitude from complete horror and the "something must be done" attitude whenever someone also gives into temptation and inquisitiveness also wouldn't go amiss either.

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