Calculated Brutality

Cunning Hired Knaves

Yesterday’s Irish Times editorial refers to the ‘barbarous’ execution of journalist Steven Sotloff and the ‘calculated brutality’ of his death at the hands of Isis, calling it ‘almost medieval’. It might be worth thinking about how something can be at once ‘almost medieval’ and ‘in public on social media’, as if satellite and fibre optic technology and smartphones were part of everyday life in the Middle Ages.

It sure is convenient to cast the designated enemy as emanating from a different time, like some kind of Ozymandias. Doing so casts oneself –and usually, by association, the US military- on the side of progress and modernity, as part of the forces of enlightenment amassed to drive back the barbarian hordes. I suppose it would have been too much to hope that the disaster unleashed by the US and its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan would have put paid to such imperialist…

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