ISIS, ourselves: In Tuesday’s New York Times, Roger Cohen authored a column comparing the rise of ISIS to the reign of the Nazi death camps.
After quoting Primo Levi on Auschwitz, he made the leap. In the process, he made us think about life as it’s lived over here:
COHEN (9/30/14): “There is no why here.” The phrase has been reverberating in me since I watched a henchman of the organization that calls itself Islamic State behead two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and a British aid worker, David Haines. The men had been broken by their imprisonment. They had been hollowed out, a terrible thing to behold. How many times they must have asked themselves the why of their captivity, humiliation and torture right up to the moment when a small knife was applied, with a sawing motion, to their throats. Each of the three men died alone, unlike the Yazidis murdered in droves, the Shiite soldiers massacred, the women and children slaughtered during the advance of black-clad ISIS forces across northern Iraq. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, has created a cult of violence that makes the elimination of all nonbelievers the cornerstone of a movement whose avowed objective is a restored Islamic caliphate but whose raison d’être is the slaughter itself.The leader of ISIS “has created a cult of violence that makes the elimination of all nonbelievers the cornerstone of a movement?”
We’ll have to admit it! That description made us think of life as it’s now being lived over here.
Let’s draw a few distinctions. In our current tribalized culture, very few people are seeking the literal elimination of all who don’t believe. For the most part, our culture doesn’t permit that.
That said, the phrase made us think of attitudes which prevail all over the Net. To wit:
If someone doesn’t approach a problem or situation exactly as our tribe does; if someone's formulation isn’t exactly like ours; if someone dares to make a statement which isn’t the statement we would have made; then we will seek to snark, name-call or misparaphrase those miscreants down.
We’ll paraphrase them in ludicrous ways. Immediately, we’ll attack their motives. We’ll create a cult of aggression that seeks the elimination of all nonbelievers from our discussion or comment thread.
Needless to say, killing people is much worse than shouting or snarking them down. That said, shouting and snarking people down is all we’re currently allowed in our culture. Many of us pursue that means of elimination with unmistakable glee.
Have you seen the kinds of comment threads and articles we have in mind? “Elimination of all nonbelievers” can take an array of forms!