Laughing at fear: words as armor

By: Steven Goodman – Assistant Opinions Editor

The Islamic State, better known as ISIS, has been at the forefront of the news cycle for the last several months. A group whose name I used to know only as the fictional spy organization in “Archer” has grown to be one of the biggest threats to freedom across the globe.

On the opposite end of the spectrum of terror, the name ISIS has been on the rise in another way: through parodies and satire poking fun at the otherwise gruesome and violent group. Each comedic video has been met with controversy, naturally, but that has not stopped the parodies, which, ultimately, combat the terrorist group in a way military force never could.

From portrayals of ISIS members stumbling over words in a speech, such as pronouncing “circumstances” as “circumcision,” to realizing they forgot to press the record button on the camera, many of these parodies are visually the same as the horrifying videos ISIS produces. But, the message is humorous.

While the most well-known parody, at least in the U.S., has come from Saturday Night Live, a surprising number are coming from Muslims themselves in the Middle East. These criticisms of ISIS are not always in the form of video. The Great Departed, a band from Lebanon, produced a song that stands against ISIS. In Iraq, Al Iraqiya broadcast a show called “The Superstitious State,” which makes a strong anti-Islamic State message.

In the U.S., parodies of the Islamic State are a way to remind us that to be afraid is to let ISIS win. Parodying a terrifying group is a passive way of fighting against it: If we are laughing at it, it becomes difficult for them to terrorize us. Yet, while this method does work, an ocean separating us from the conflict makes it easier to satirize.

Those groups and individuals parodying ISIS while located in the Middle East send a significantly more powerful message. To be that close to the horrifying acts of ISIS and still satirize them weakens the group’s ability to incite terror in a way nobody in the U.S ever could.

This phenomenon is not only limited to ISIS. Hamas was also the center of satire when they began the “Ask Hamas” campaign on Twitter. It wasn’t long before silly questions began to filter in: “Do you feel comfortable launching your social media campaign on a site founded by a Jew?” and “How do you feel about your leader hiding out in a fancy hotel in Doha while there was a war in Gaza?” And my personal favorite, posted with a picture of two Hamas militants wearing ghillie suits that resembled Chewbacca, “How did the audition go for the next ‘Star Wars’ movie?”

Setting aside the little controversy that has stemmed from these parodies and satire, each instance sends a powerful message to ISIS: We are not afraid of you. By poking fun at these groups, we take away the effectiveness of their mission, which is to terrify and subdue the public. This goes to show that, sometimes, military force is not the best or only answer. Sometimes it takes just one brave individual to stand up to evil and help take it down.


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