Friday, February 27, 2015


The IS Head-choppers recently posted a video of their destruction of artifacts in the Mosul Museum.  Here are stills from that video.

It took months and sometimes years to make each of these sculptures using stone tools, grit, and water.  Remarkable how little time it takes to destroy them.

This is hardly the first time in history that fanatics destroyed works of art, but it probably is the first time that they did so for global broadcast on the internet.

These guys go out of their way to say "fuck you!" to all us decadent Western liberals by being such public assholes.  They seem determined to bring back the absolute worst of the premodern past, and parade it proudly before the world:  beheadings, burning people alive, throwing people off of buildings, forced conversions; enslaving children, women, and religious and ethnic minorities; destroying shrines of faiths that are not theirs.   The Head-choppers are the anti-modern cause rejecting everything liberal, feminist, and cosmopolitan carried to its most violent extreme.

I've decided not to dignify IS with the terms "Islamic" or "state."  From now on, I will refer to them as the Head-choppers.

I mostly agree with those journalists who describe the Head-choppers as a kind of death cult.  Perhaps it attracts some alienated young idealists, but it seems to me mostly to attract sociopaths from the West and from Central Asia who relish doing to real people what they do to digital people in games.  The Head-choppers represent an opportunity for unbridled criminality, destruction, and sadism in places where all semblance of law and civil society has completely collapsed.
They do belong to the Muslim tradition, though to a very remote and dark corner of it.  The appeal of the Head-choppers seems to be diminishing among the native residents of Syria and Iraq, even among disenfranchised Sunnis in both countries.

There are those in the West, especially in the USA, who are convinced that the Head-choppers represent Islam.  And yet, the vast majority of the people they've killed are Muslims.  The Jordanian pilot burned to death in such a horrifically spectacular fashion was a Muslim.  The overwhelming majority of people risking their lives to get out of Syria and the Middle East to escape Bashar al Assad and the Head-choppers are Muslim.  I think it is reasonable to conclude that the vast majority of the world's Muslims are horrified by what has arisen in their midst.

To turn this around, there are some very dark and remote corners of Christianity that are every bit as extreme as Al Qaida, The Taliban, and even the Head-choppers.  The most famous would be the Phelps crew whose views and rhetoric are very violent.  There is Christian Dominionism which proclaims its own form of universal theocracy, a kind of Christian caliphate.  And there is Christian Identity that conflates the apocalyptic fundamentalism of the Phelps gang and Christian Dominionism with racist ideology.  All of these groups could easily spin off or turn into violently destructive death cults like the Head-choppers.

The only reason these groups aren't so violent is because they don't get the opportunity.  They live in a relatively secure and stable state that successfully (for the most part) keeps their most violent tendencies in check.  I suspect things would be very different if they had something like the chaotic "failed states" where death cults like the Head-choppers, Al Qaida, Al Shabab, and Boko Haram flourish.


The Iraq Museum in Baghdad that houses over 7000 years worth of antiquities reopens.
The Museum was looted in the aftermath of the American invasion of Iraq with more than 15000 artifacts stolen.  Only about a third of those artifacts have been recovered.


I've decided to take the lead of Secretary of State John Kerry and numerous Arab commentators who now call IS "Daesh."  "Daesh" is Arabic for the acronym ISIL or Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.  However, "Daesh" sounds very close to another Arabic word which means to crush under foot.  The Head-choppers find the term "Daesh" so insulting that they threaten to publicly cut out the tongues of anyone who uses it in the territories that they occupy.  So, Daesh it is.


Kittredge Cherry said...

Their horrific actions serve to reinforce the power of art. Thank God for artists!

JCF said...

"Perhaps it attracts some alienated young idealists, but it seems to me mostly to attract sociopaths from the West and from Central Asia who relish doing to real people what they do to digital people in games."

I posited the same thing over at...I think it was Daily Beast, but was embarrassed to suggest it even as I posted. Surely, millions and millions play violent video games, and wouldn't imagine for a *second* doing such things to real people IRL.

And yet, and yet: there IS a violent tradition in the Quran, of "spreading the faith" (i.e., obeisance) through violence (which is absent from the NT, though of course, was later adopted, horribly, by Christendom).

Perhaps if you overlay (ala circular set graphs) extreme Wahhabistic Islam, with violent video games, w/ social dislocation (economic and/or personal, per early adulthood), you may get Head-choppers???


Some years ago, I read a book about my favorite art, Byzantine. In it, there were many B&W photos of churches (and their icon'd interiors) that were utterly destroyed in Turkey in the 1920s. I didn't dream we'd see this kind of iconoclasm AGAIN (Of course, 10+ years ago, we already had the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban. F#cking nihilistic f#ckers, the lot of 'em)

Counterlight said...

Lots of healthy kids play violent video games and remain healthy kids (as always). But, the small number of the truly socio-pathic and angry can get ideas and go to Syria.

The Quran has its violent passages, but there is no shortage of violence in the Bible. Remember God's commandment to Saul concerning the Amalekites?

JCF said...

Oh, of course, Doug: "'slaughter them utterly' say THE LORD" yada-yada.

But the Early Church, following Jesus in the NT, was pacifistic, before Constantine. For several centuries, Christians were willing to DIE, but not to KILL. How different from Crusading Christendom, which we have (esp in the U.S.!) till today. Kyrie eleison...