Archive for Nov, 2015

It has nearly been three weeks after the terrorist attacks in Paris, and I can only assume that this month will be seen by many as one of reflection, shock and sorrow for many across the globe. But, as a former French intelligence officer said on the night of the Paris attacks this month ‘Many French people today talk of surprise but I do not know why they are surprised’. Terrorist attacks have been become an unfortunate but persistent problem for French citizens, in their hearts they will have to relive the same emotions and trauma that they felt during the attacks in January, but in their minds these twisted incidents are something that they will have to expect. Terrorism in it’s truest form has been around since the beginning of time and nearly all attacks show evidence of radical inspirations. I’m going to use today as an attempt to go beyond the feelings of shock that have caused tragedy and to at look how we respond to Terrorists and terrorist attacks in general.

For the purpose of this blog I will use Guy Fawkes as figure to compare with Islamic Terrorism.  Only three weeks ago we were using fireworks and the burning of effigies to remember the failed Gunpowder plot of 1605 to blow up the houses of parliament and all those inside of them. It is also worth noting that the projected death toll would have well exceeded the number of deaths in the Parisian attacks. Yet I can not envisage a year in which it will be deemed appropriate to remember the Parisian attacks in the same manner.

Some will say that these two events are hugely different – one was successful the other failed – but in some respects they were both fulfilled their overall objectives, the shock element was there and the seriousness of the situation would be enough to ignite the sensation of terror.

Another example which (in my opinion) shows the similarity of the two themes. Are the characters of ‘jihadi John’ and Guy Fawkes. I use the term ‘characters’ instead of personalities because the media has simplified, mocked and also CARICATURED their personas. To the point where they no longer become people but are instead comic villains. To explain, we can see from the pictures below how Guy Fawkes is seen as a ‘childs plaything’ or a toy which can be bashed about and destroyed. Children and most members of society forget why Guy Fawkes wanted to blow up Parliament and just use his death as time to set off fireworks. This is dangerous. The effigies that we burn in his image are meant to remind us about the religious divisions in this country and the different ideas about English Patriotism, but instead we have forgotten these points. And now we end up in a situation were children laugh and smile at serious incidents.


Some cheerful Children and a nurse carry an effigy of Guy Fawkes in Essex, 1947


A communal celebration of Bonfire night in 2015 with Guy Fawkes as the effigy

I do not see how the media’s portrayal of ‘Jihadi John’ is any different. For a start we no longer remember him by his real name “Mohammed Emwazi“, and instead we are much more familiar with the stage name ‘Jihadi John’. This name was allegedly  given to him by one of his victims, I say allegedly, because there is no concrete evidence that any of his victims referred to him as ‘Jihadi John’. Is it possible that the media created this name out of thin air to turn Mohammed into a more understandable comic villain? It is difficult to say. But there are elements which contribute to Mohammed’s new comical persona. For example, large parts of the media has shown more “audio clips of his distorted voice ” than his voice before he joined ISIS. Is this meant to be a reminder to us that Mohammed or Jihadi j0hn is is so inhumane in his actions that he is no longer sounds like a human?  It is almost as if we should understand him as just a villainous, evil person and not as a British citizen who was vulnerable to terrorist recruiters.

The remembrance of Jihadi John and Guy Fawkes are in my opinion two sides of the same coin. Our perceptions of these two people are similar in the fact that they have both been treated like grotesque comical characters,, in my opinion this simplification of their personas has been done to make them easier to understand, thus easier to hate. But It is worth remembering these were two English citizens who – although were prepared to commit terrible atrocities – are still humans who at the end the day thought that injustice was being committed against them.

It almost feels as if we need to make caricatures of people and their citations in order to draw emotions and feelings from the events. Francois Hollande has already stated that the most recent Parisian attacks are an act of war against Islamic terrorism, interestingly when the Catholic terrorist Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up Parliament, the English parliament was embroiled in a war that aimed to eradicate Catholicism once and for all. 400 years later it seems like England is following a similar path of religious discrimination with Islamophobic attacks increasing by 300%. This is not the time to be portraying terrorists in a misleading light or to distort the appearances and the intentions of radical fanatics. As we bring to a close this month of remembrance, we need to make sure we  do not forget the complex and simple truths behind ugly situations.