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The State: Propaganda or a story to be told?

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In recent days, there have been terrorist attacks in Barcelona, Finland, and Russia. Most attacks to take place since its founding have been claimed by the Islamic State  – and as such, the decision to air the new Channel 4 show ‘The State’ was always going to be met with controversy.

Colonel Richard Kemp, a former leader of British forces in Afghanistan and one of the members of the High-Level Military Group said that the show “supports our enemies’ cause quite well…”, however, even if this is true I don’t believe that there is any justification for delaying the show.

Unsurprisingly, the Daily Mail gave the episode a zero-star review, calling the episode “Pure poison... it's like a Nazi recruiting film from the 1930s”. Their reviewer seems unhappy that a broadcaster which is publicly owned seems to be trying to tell a story from the other side – normally a sentence which would be cause for ridicule, however, the other side of this story is sympathetic to one of the most violent groups in history. 

There are grounds to argue that this series shouldn’t be shown at all, or at least not whilst the group is still extant. It’s hard to argue that we should have a series which attempts to show followers or believers of the ideology which has committed some of the most barbaric and unspeakable acts of recent times as sympathetic protagonists and those who attempt to remove them as antagonists. Difficult as it may be, it is also arguable that this is a necessary step in preventing glorification of such groups. At least waiting until they are no longer in existence would take away from the pain it would cause in the immediate aftermath of the devastation they cause however its impact would not be as keenly felt.

It’s hard to argue that we should have a series which attempts to show followers or believers of the ideology which has committed some of the most barbaric and unspeakable acts of recent times as sympathetic protagonists and those who attempt to remove them as antagonists. Difficult as it may be, it is also arguable that this is a necessary step in preventing glorification of such groups. At least waiting until they are no longer in existence would take away from the pain it would cause in the immediate aftermath of the devastation they cause however its impact would not be as keenly felt.

The writer of the show, Peter Kosminsky, seems to want to at least portray the reasoning behind young people joining the group – which in and of itself is not a bad idea. After all, there have been excellent BBC documentaries about the KKK and why people join that group, which were repeated on iPlayer just this week after the events in Charlottesville. 

To argue for the postponement of this show because the group has committed another attack is purely gesturing. It isn’t possible to delay everything after attacks – we’d never get anywhere. The lists, compiled by Wikipedia among other examples, are too long to count – if we stopped for every act of terror we’d never get started again. Since the attack in Barcelona, that list compiles 21 [at the time of writing] other attacks, including the ones in Finland and Russia. Of those, 18 were committed by followers of IS, or those of analogous beliefs.

To tar all followers of Islam with the same brush is logically flawed, let alone for the pure fallacy of association but also because IS attack Muslims of other sects. 

They aren’t alone in doing so – Islam is fighting itself as well as some parts which are also fighting everyone else.  After major attacks in Western Europe and America, some were right in their criticism of those who merely changed their profile photo to cover it with a filter of the French flag, or who posted Je Suis Charlie, or any other mark of remembrance – because they wouldn’t commemorate every attack, even by the same groups as those who conduct attacks in the West.

And whilst it is true that people don’t look at or even care about the clear majority of terror attacks, it mustn’t be seen as signs of ignorance or lack of empathy for the victims. Terror is so ingrained, so commonplace, that we ignore it unless it affects us.

That is a very human reaction, but as per usual, it ignores the complexity of the situation.

To conclude, the idea of postponing the episode is well intentioned but pointless, and terrorism is much more widespread than we’d like to think. The aforementioned Wikipedia page does make depressing reading but we mustn’t fall into the trap of purely demonising anyone who is against us because, by default, that will make anyone who fights on our side the good guys.

The enemy of my enemy isn’t always my friend. This show, questionable at best and treasonous at worst, tells a story which may or may not need to be told and heard. In my mind, it raises more questions than it does provide answers, but it is merely as complicated as the real life situation on which it is based.




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