It’s interesting to go to international English language newspapers.
With the Internet being borderless, you can learn things from different perspectives. Especially in war and conflict.
I’ve learned some of the enticements ISIS gives to get Taliban fighters to join it in Afghanistan. One is to “join the winning team.” Another is “the West hates Muslims.”
That Syrian media portrays Bashar al-Assad as hugely popular and well-loved.
When Russia was making bombing attacks in Syria, the Russian use of the Iranian airbase was controversial in the Iranian parliament. Iran has a constitutional provision that prohibits it from allowing foreign armies to deploy on Iranian soil.
Brazil is undergoing a political crisis far beyond the impeachment of the president. Due to corruption charges against many of its politicians.
The Palestinians are following proceedings in the International Criminal Court about crimes committed during the Gaza conflict by both sides. Israel rejects the court’s authority.
The local paper glossed over the players in a recent terrorist attack from Gaza. In Israel, a non-Hamas group claimed responsibility, but the paper said “Israel holds Hamas responsible….” so that the U.S. paper didn’t have to explain the messy details of the Gaza conflict where there are multiple actors.
The contrast between the Chinese culture and the U.S. culture was an interesting subtext of the Shanghai Daily. It seemed to me that even though China has over a billion people, the articles have a “small-town” feel to me. The local, small-town paper, The Star in DeKalb County Indiana has plenty of stories of conflict and disunity in the U.S.
It would be easy to find people willing to condemn ISIS as evil. They would also prosecute people who are beginning to be radicalized to prevent them from supporting the terrorist organization.
However, that quick leap to judgement is not helpful in eliminating terrorism. Once you label an organization as evil, you can get lazy.
By focusing on the evil of ISIS, you don’t need to understand them. In addition to defeating them militarily, we need to combat the political themes they promote. Without understanding why ISIS is attractive to some people, we can’t deny them the thought-virus that they spread.
I never see the grievances and concepts that nourish the ISIS movement. The public message is that they’re evil and that’s all we need to know. We want to prevent radicalization, but don’t try to understand the process as it develops.
When the news reports someone as being radicalized, we can get lazy again. We don’t have to understand what they believe or how they arrived there. We don’t have to see the reasons that they embraced violence and hatred–there’s no reason to see that because we’ve already cast them out. But that’s too late in the process to make a difference.
David Talbot in “Fighting ISIS Online” (MIT Technology Review. Nov. 1, 2015. v. 118, no. 6) describes that contacts from friends and peers can help the propaganda create new recruits. But he also describes that friends and peers can be persuasive in pushing back. It can take a small intervention to be beneficial. The article describes how one-on-one contact was able to reverse a transformation that the FBI was watching from a distance, yet impotent to change.
Working with friends to help them see a different perspective doesn’t let you release sexy rhetoric about our war with ISIS. However, it does help combat the organization one person at a time.
A sympathetic ear and supportive encouragement can work where the pronouncements of the powerful are failing miserably.