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ISIL and the Hypocritical Hostage Soap Opera

© AP Photo / Raad AdaylehJordanian pilot Lt. Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh
Jordanian pilot Lt. Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh - Sputnik International
Moath al-Kasasbeh, the Jordanian pilot who was being held hostage by ISIL, was burned alive by the terrorists after Amman was unable to conclude a prisoner swap deal that was being negotiated with the group. In response, Jordan executed two imprisoned terrorists, including the woman who was to be traded for al-Kasasbeh’s freedom.

Relatives of Islamic State captive Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh place a poster of him in front of their new gathering headquarters in Amman January 30, 2015 - Sputnik International
Jordan to Execute al-Qaeda Prisoners After ISIL Burns Pilot Taken Hostage
Al-Kasasbeh was the last of three recent hostages to be executed by ISIL, as the beheading of two Japanese citizens preceded his grisly death. In all three cases, the Western media highlighted their plight and their family members’ pleas for mercy, creating a type of global drama that was unfolding live before the world’s eyes. This was heightened by talk that a prisoner swap or some kind of other arrangement could save the lives of all three, which only got the public’s hopes up and strengthened the negative emotions that resulted after all three were finally executed. While their demise was certainly tragic, no such global attention was ever given to the plight of countless Syrian civilians and members of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) that were captured and killed by ISIL in similar ways, making one question what objectives the Western media has in making a soap opera out of every time a non-Syrian goes through the same ordeal. 

The Tearjerker

Iraqi Sajida al-Rishawi - Sputnik International
Who is the Female Jihadi ISIL Wanted to Exchange for Jordanian Pilot?
Most mass media were awash over the past week with the latest updates over the prisoner swap negotiations to free the Jordanian pilot and the two Japanese hostages. ISIL had first asked for $200 million from the Japanese government in exchange for their citizens’ freedom, but after Tokyo didn’t budge, they beheaded Haruna Yukawa. The group then proposed swapping the remaining two hostages for Sajida al-Rishawi, a failed would-be suicide bomber imprisoned in Jordan, but the talks fell flat and Kenji Goto was beheaded while Moath al-Kasasbeh was burned alive.

Throughout all of this, the public stood on edge as they followed the minute-by-minute updates surrounding the ‘secret’ negotiations, heard impassioned pleas on behalf of the hostages’ families and friends, and watched large demonstrations in in the streets of Jordan and Japan, where the captured citizens had become ‘national celebrities’ of sorts. All of this had the effect of making the global audience feel emotionally involved in the drama, so when the hostages died, they would clamor for some type of resolute response.

As the public became mixed up in this soap opera, they easily forgot why the hostages were captured in the first place. Yukawa illegally entered Syria in order to cavort with the ‘moderate opposition’ and promote his make-believe ‘private security company’, while his journalist friend, Goto, apparently followed in his footsteps to rescue him. Meanwhile, al-Kasasbeh was captured when the military jet he was flying over Syria crashed under mysterious circumstances.

All three hostages thus had in common that they were in Syria illegally and without the knowledge of the proper authorities who could have provided them with protection and possibly prevented their capture. Alas, such ‘inconvenient’ details distracted from the sob story being spun, and in the race for website clicks and viewership, played second fiddle to the more heart-wrenching storyline that three do-gooders were suddenly seized by terrorists.

The Untold Tragedies

As the global audience became fixated on watching the hostage drama develop, most of them were largely ignorant of the fact that the only unique thing about it was that it involved non-Syrians. Aside from a handful of white Westerners (who also became ’15-minute celebrities’), the absolute vast majority of ISIL’s beheading victims have been actual Syrians, be they civilians or representatives of the SAA, but one wouldn’t be aware of this by watching TV or going on CNN’s website.

ISIL doesn’t make a big deal out of the Syrians they behead and slaughter since it doesn’t attract the Western media exposure they’re looking for, hence why they rarely record such executions. This sad reality belies a major hypocrisy on the side of the Western mainstream media, inferring that some hostages’ lives are worth more publicity than others, which in turn leads to the uncomfortable question of why the Western media is behaving in this contradictory fashion, and what type of agenda they’re pushing by highlighting the plight of non-Syrians at the expense of actual Syrians.

Following The Script

If one questions the suggestion that the Western media had ulterior motives in making the recent non-Syrian hostage ordeals global news, then they may not be aware of the Jordanian military’s latest statement. According to military spokesman Mamdouh Al Amri, who appeared on state television shortly after ISIL’s burning video became public, al-Kasasbeh was actually “assassinated” on January 3, making some people wonder why the supposed negotiations for his freedom would even be commenced in the first place then. It may be that Jordan acquired the information only after the gruesome video was released, but still, suspicions remain as to the intention of the media in blowing the situation out of proportion and having it dominate global headlines.

The answer may lie in something called ‘strategic communications’, which is generally understood as being the specific means that are employed to advance an idea that promotes a certain objective. In other words, it’s the way that something is marketed in order to get people to agree with it, sometimes without tipping the target off to the fact that an attempt is being made to persuade them.

By itself, there’s nothing wrong with strategic communications and many entities actively practice it, but ethical questions arise based on how the ‘marketing plan’ is implemented and what information is disseminated/withheld in promoting the end goal.

So what explains all the hypocritical hype and ‘strategic communications’ over the non-Syrian hostages, and why is it necessary for Western media to manipulate public opinion in this matter? More than anything, the US and its allies are looking for a way to involve Jordan even deeper into the ‘anti-ISIL’/’regime change’ coalition, and bringing Japan on for the ride is an added touch to rankle China.

Jordan is envisioned as having a major strategic role, from being a base for air strikes and drone attacks (which Turkey earlier refused to be), to housing special operations forces and ‘anti-ISIL’ militants for future use against the Syrian government and SAA. Jordan is located so tantalizingly close to Damascus that the US and its allies understand the strategic necessity of expanding its involvement in the war in order to most speedily fulfill their long sought-after goal of regime change. If the barbaric burning of a captured Jordanian pilot and the bloody beheadings of two Japanese prisoners have to be exploited worldwide in order to pressure Amman and build global support for its ramped-up role, then that’s just the method that ‘strategic communications’ have to utilize to achieve this.

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