It is really hard to understand Occupy Wall Street if you never heard of the French Revolution. It is equally unlikely to appreciate Jackson Pollock if you are not familiar with Kandinsky and the other expressionists. You may even occur in the same mistake of the critic Robert Coates, who once mocked a number of Pollock’s works as “mere unorganized explosions of random energy, and therefore meaningless”.
All in all, however, you don’t need to be a historian or an art critic in order to decrypt the reality around you. There is a more general rule you can always apply: the world can be divided in two big categories – people who have a certain sense of humour, and those who take themselves too seriously.
You can understand the relationship between the Islamic State and Pegida, via Nigel Farage, if you bear in mind this distinction.
The organisation formerly known as JTJ, ISI, AQI, ISIL, ISIS, and now called Islamic State (IS), wants to create a Caliphate.
They claim that their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, descends directly from Muhammed. The methods they employ are characterized by a splatter attitude toward a spectacularization of violence, blood, and fear. They bring on stage every kind of unconscious human fear, they want everybody to feel again like a small child terrorized by the boogeyman under the bed.
But there is something else beyond the hostages beheaded, the genocide of the Yazidis, and the ethnic cleansing denounced by Amnesty International in 2014. There is a marketing strategy based on homeopathic inoculation of terror. This is the evolution of the first generation of terrorists typical of the after – 9/11 attacks, characterized by low-quality video-messages recorded in some remote cave of the mountains in Afghanistan with guns in plain sight.
Here we reach a whole new level of professionalism in selling to the world a glamorous image of modern terrorists, endearing from a graphical point of view and devoted to merchandising. Do you think this is an exaggeration?
It is not. The Islamic State is an al-Qaeda 2.0. They know very well how to use Twitter engaging in hashtag campaigns, and they even created an application – which is possible to download from Google Play Store – sending to the subscribers all news and updates on IS fighting in Syria and Iraq. They publish an online magazine, called “The Islamic State Report”, which explains “how life within its envisioned Islamic state would look like”.
They translate speeches by IS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani al-Shami into English, Turkish, Dutch, French, German, Indonesian and Russian.
They attacked the Twitter account of the US magazine Newsweek, leaving a message signed as CyberCaliphate clearly alluding to the massacre in Paris (Je SuIS IS).
They sell t-shirts on-line branded with the IS emblem for only $7, with slogans such as “Muslim Brotherhood,” “F**k Israel,” “Pray for Gaza” and “Mujahedeen Around The World United We Stand.”
They have a glossy, coloured annual report. It shows all the murders, attacks, missions, bombings and so on in a catchy infographic model.
What is exactly the Islamic State? Is it a startup, an application for mobile phones, or a terrorist group? Probably all of this elements combined in a bloody organisation. But as showed by the attacks to Charlie Hebdo and then in Copenhagen, they clearly lack sense of humour.
Pegida and IS as mirror movements
In conclusion, if you want to understand Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West), the anti-muslim movement created in Dresden (Germany), and now with ramifications all over Europe, you have to take a look to the Islamic State.
Pegida is a reaction to this Musilm threat, and in a first phase it seemed to enjoy an irresistible growth. In several German cities they were able to organize successful demonstrations, with the support of over 15000 people on a weekly basis in Dresden. “Wir sind das Volk” they say, “we are the people“, but the point is: are the Muslim some kind of “non-people”?
In Malmö (Sweden), however, Pegida recently counted only on eight supporters in the occasion of the first Swedish rally. The eight persons waving some Swedish flags were surrounded by thirty cops, and in turn the cops were surrounded by 5000 people arrived to manifest their position against fascism and racism. The leader of the local branch of Pegida wanted “thousands” against the islamization of Sweden. If you look at the linked video, you will probably understand why he failed. The IS is clearly more developed in terms of online propaganda. But as well as Pegida, it has been compared to Nazism. For example Lutz Bachmann, the former head of the German anti-Islamisation movement, had to resign because he posted on his facebook profile a picture where he was dressed like Adolf Hitler.
Pegida is the other face of the madness of the Islamic State, the two movements justify their pointless existence feeding their mutual hatred. And none of them seem to be able to show the slightest sense of humour.
A quality you need in large quantities if you try to understand why The Times, glorious British newspaper now owned by Rupert Murdoch, chose Nigel Farage as the Briton of the year 2014.
The Times noted that “the established political parties have not been able to ignore Ukip (…) whatever they may think of its more toxic members. (…) No one did more to shape British politics in 2014. For good and ill [Mr Farage] is therefore The Times Briton of the Year”.
You definitely need a developed sense of humour to accept such a statement from a mainstream newspaper in a country based on liberal democracy. But, on the other hand, this proves that we are still free to criticize, laugh, and feel outraged, which means that we are alive and vigilant.
“It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it”