Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 01:20 | SYDNEY
Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 01:20 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Making fun of al Qaeda


Sam Roggeveen


21 November 2008 10:04

Jon writes in, and my comment (with bonus South Park clip!) follows:

First up, the usual courtesies about being a long time reader etc. of the site. Its always a great way to start the morning with a bit of international security and political thinking. It gets the blood pumping, you know?
Anyway. in regards to your post yesterday on the 'newly evinced racism' of al Qaeda, I'd firstly agree with you that suddenly having their racist sensibilities thrown open for all to see isn't really going to hurt their case all that much. But I'm not sure if mocking them is really going to be the most effective route.
Ignore them, sure. It deprives them of a source of rhetorical conflict to draw financial, political and human support from. But mockery? Isn't that just going to play into the AQ worldview of the western world as all-encompassing, patronising, and self-righteous? Surely any hint of mockery or flippancy with regards to AQ could be whipped up into a broader anti-US sentiment across the more moderate lines of Muslims?
Of course, I suppose it has to do with exactly what kind of mockery is used. If used correctly, it could achieve the very positive result of painting AQ as outmoded and foolish. But I'd imagine it would be best to just steer clear of it altogether, lest the slightly nastier possibilities result.

Jon's right that mockery might not be the right strategy, but for different reasons. Political humour tends to be subversive, and when it comes from authority figures (like governments) it loses that edge. To put it in more contemporary terms, governments just don't bring the funny. So they should stick to silence, and leave mockery to the experts.