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The humor that defangs the horror

Yes, making jokes about ISIS is cynical, but it's also something else

Given the global reaction to the decapitation of the two Japanese hostages, it would seem that beheadings are so very 2014. The New Year, it appears, is quite blasé about the most recent horror, and if my Facebook feed is anything to go by, weight loss supplements are much more the current rage.

And frankly I am a little disappointed. The one thing that ISIS has managed to do right (aside from the normal terrorizing, raping and pillaging) is their marketing. During the last year they had left Ogilvie and Saatchi in the dust, with their desert campaign and there is not a sane person today who doesn’t shudder involuntarily at the image of a hostage in an orange jumpsuit kneeling on the ground. They have ruined the color for most us and I know I for one have purged my 2014 wardrobe of anything in that particular shade. So successful is their campaign. Well at least, that is, until now.

The announcement earlier last week that they were holding the two hostages was met with not only with horror but also a “here we go again” sigh. We just weren’t up for it. We had hardly had the time to turn our focus away from Paris and Nigeria when they were trying to muscle their way into the picture. It was almost inappropriate in the sense that I would have assumed that every terror organisation is entitled to at least their fifteen minutes. Obama hardly had time to convince us that these were not Radical Islamists when ISIS came screaming from the wings. “Remember us!” they shouted from the Internet, (as though we could have forgotten). And the next thing we knew USD20 Million worth of ransom was being demanded and people were on their knees.

The reaction from Japan might be a clue as to why global reaction has been muted. Of course everyone condemned it in the “strongest terms.” But I don’t get the feeling that they meant it much as they did in 2014. Japanese cynics responded by taking ownership of what has become the symbolic image of the hostage on their knees with Jihad John masked and standing above them. Instead of shying away from it they re branded the photo in various forms. One of them has him holding a banana instead of a dagger while other has all the participants in Mickey Mouse ears. Offensive? Out of line? Unacceptable? Absolutely. But it is smart as it takes the ownership of that image back for all of us. Next time (God forbid) these murders have someone in that pose; I will be looking carefully to see if it’s a chocolate bar or a weapon he is holding.

They are not alone in their approach. BuzzFeed News also takes on the ISIS parody, and along with articles like “The 23 Most Important Hairy Celebrity Chest of All Time” (I have to say I was shocked by who made it onto that list), have feature after feature of videos that quite literally put the Mickey into ISIS. Titles like “Other Reasons to Declare Allahu Akbar” are all the rage and at a time where the world is at a tipping point, I have to say that I find humor a necessary diversion.

There is no doubting the unspeakable horror that ISIS have unleashed upon the world. Words are simply not adequate to express our revulsion and despair. And we know that their power over us is that as a result of their limitless brutality, they control us through fear. Maybe part of that answer is that while trying to stop them in every military and political way we are able, that we divest them of them of their power over us by seeing them for the parody that they are.

Follow me on Twitter @HowardFeldman

About the Author
Howard Feldman is a lawyer, a physical commodity trader by industry and a writer by obsession. He is very active in the Jewish community and passionate about our world.
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