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Double standard in media coverage of ISIL/ISIS recruits?

Double standard in media coverage of ISIL/ISIS recruits?

Emma Barnett writes that we need to stop pitying the young women joining the Islamic State.

From the Telegraphy:

And yet people insist upon dismissing these girls as victims – bestowing them with pity instead of the anger and scorn that is lavished upon the young Western men joining Isil.

Last month, Barnett wrote another piece in which she characterized the women as marginalized people seeking acceptance in the face of an oppressive Western system. It seems at odds with her latest piece, which suggests that the women of ISIS/ISIL deserve anger and scorn.

Barnett re-tweeted a critic, Tom Chivers of Buzzfeed, who says that all young people joining ISIS are victims.

What do you think? Is a smart 16 year old being rational when they flee their family to join a terrorist group? How can we make a society where these young people feel acceptance and inclusion? Can you empathize with these young people without seeing them as lacking agency?


Posted by David Streever


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Olivia Jones

Just to say that these photos have been all over the British media for days. The police released them early on (initially with one of the girl’s faces blanked out, but then they released her identity too after talking to her family). The release seems to have been done with the consent or active encouragement of the girls’ families, since the families are desperate to stop the girls travelling on from Turkey into Syria or other ISIS-controlled areas. The hope was that if the photos gained the widest possible coverage, including in Turkey, somebody might be able to stop the girls travelling any further.
Frankie, I assume you have no objection to the police releasing the photos of missing children who may have been abducted? This is no different in intent.

Terry Francis

I am absolutely livid at the comments of Frankie Andreu and Philip Spivey. To put the thousands of young people who join the armed forces in the same category as people who run away to join a terrorist organization that engages in the deliberate wholesale slaughter of thousands of innocent people is not only an insult to them and to veterans like myself, it is quite simply an incredibly absurd observation. These soldiers, sailors and marines serve, many in harm’s way, to ensure that we all continue to live in a free society and this is how you thank them? By comparing them to terrorists? Geeez!

Philip B. Spivey

Terry: I understand your consternation at my generalized comments about war. My comment was not a damnation of soldiers who picked up arms and went to war. My damnation is directed to societies (nations) that make war necessary.

Some will disagree, but I do think there is such a thing as a “just war”. The problem is, I haven’t seen evidence of one since the Allies defeated the Fascists in Europe three generations ago. A just war is a war that’s unavoidable.

Re: Terrorism. I think there are two kinds: State sponsored and grass roots terrorism. ISIS represents the kind (although, I don’t doubt there are state sponsored hidden hands) that evolves on the ground. The “shock and awe” of the U.S. invasion of Iraq is an instance of state sponsored terrorism There were no aggressors here except the United States and as a consequence, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians perished. Do I grieve for these citizens and for the tens of thousands of our soldiers who were killed and wounded? Yes. I wish I could have prevented this senseless carnage; I wish the young men and women who served didn’t have their lives turned upside down forever; I would have voted “No!” to this war. I’m not for expending lives; I’m for nurturing lives. Do I grieve for the lives lost to the aggression by grass roots extremists? Yes. But, I also know that they are not alone as entities of aggression.

When grass roots organizations like ISIS call for Holy War and proffer its own “shock and awe”, I say to myself: I’ve seen this before—different time, different place; different actors. When will it end?

Frankie Andreu

To the “monitors”: For years I have worked on promoting and defending the rights of children, at home and abroad. These are 15 and 16 year old teenagers of minority groups in England whose images are being broadly slandered in the media. They have been found guilty of no crime; not even charged with a crime. I cannot sit silently by and agree that this site participates in labeling these children as terrorists for the rest of their lives, when all of this is based purely on suspicion and one government’s misuse of the images of minority children.
The fact that my comment referencing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was not allowed is baffling. Is it the position of the those editorializing here that this nearly universally accepted Convention (outside the US and Somalia) is not appropriate to this site or the TEC?

Bro David

There is a lot of evidence that these girls have crossed the border from Turkey to Syria to join ISIS. I’m not sure what the laws are in the UK, but the US just arrested three young men trying to leave the US for ISIS. They are being charged with attempting to render aid to a terrorist organization. The same thing these girls are doing. They’ve pretty much written their own future of being being viewed as terrorists for the rest of their lives.

Anand Gnanadesikan

It is far from clear to me that these kids run to join ISIS because they want “acceptance”. More likely what they want is heroic agency- to be part of something bigger than spending another night running the cash register at the local family store, or sitting through algebra class or picking out a new outfit at the mall. An additional attraction is that these groups are not lukewarm- which if you remember how powerful teenage emotions are is actually attractive.

So are they victims? Well, not entirely. But in a society where

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity”

it behooves us to examine whether a “let’s all make nice” together approach to life is part of what makes them vulnerable.

Philip B. Spivey

Thank you, Anand, for your thoughtful comment. It has baffled me forever as to why folks take life-threatening risks when they don’t have too. It clicked for me when you addressed how powerful emotions attract adolescents and —by inference— how feeling “dead” at home, they can be seduced into living on the edge –off to foreign adventures in the the East to destroy the infidels in the Holy Land; the French Foreign Legion to colonize North Africa; or the Ukraine that was stolen from Russia.

I’m reminded of a television image of NBC correspondent David Bloom, on the back of a Army vehicle in the desert, racing towards Baghdad, during the American invasion of Iraq. He was absolutely and totally exhilarated as he peered into the camera reporting and I said to myself: “This guy must be high. I would be frightened to death.”

He wasn’t high on chemicals; he was high on hormones; i.e., adrenaline. If I connect the dots, it’s not difficult to see how eons and, in modern times, how generations of youth (before such a thing as the draft) gladly marched off to war for the greater glory of…something or someone, only to become cannon fodder.

I believe that if a society can’t offer it’s members healthy, and constructive, and moral outlets through which to express themselves, they will find surrogate (and often destructive) outlets in which to “be of the world”. I also believe that as we glorify war, everywhere, every society devises its own rationales for waging it.

I don’t find it especially challenging now, to connect the dots between East and West in their varieties of “Holy War”. Problem now with ISIS is that— we are the targets.

JC Fisher

We had a group of people confirmed at my parish yesterday, and when one teenage girl among them had electric blue hair, gotta confess I thought, “Well, it’s not as bad as joining ISIS!”

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