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The absurdity of terrorism: shots fired in the Twittersphere

by Sara King-Abadi February 3, 2015
The absurdity of terrorism: shots fired in the Twittersphere

Japan’s “ISIS Crappy Photoshop Grand Prix” is exactly how we should react to terrorism

Why did the ISIS militant cross the road? For $200 million.

Except on the other side was Japanese private security consultant, Haruna Yukawa, and journalist Kenji Goto. And the road? A hostage situation.

Yukawa and Goto were captured by ISIS militants in August and October, respectively. On Jan. 20, ISIS released a video demanding Japan pay $200 million to secure their release on a 72-hour deadline. Japan, understandably, does not negotiate with terrorists. Yukawa is believed to have been decapitated, and Goto is believed to have been killed this past weekend. The ransom has been dropped.

Are you surprised? Probably not. By this time we are, unfortunately, more than used to hearing about radical ISIS behaviour. And maybe it’s that nonchalance that has led the Japanese people to respond to the hostage situation with the first annual (well, hopefully not annual) “ISIS Crappy Photoshop Grand Prix”. The phrase is roughly translated from the hashtag and has been tweeted over 124,000 times.

The festive memes that took over Twitter this past week satirically mock the hostage situation using photoshopped images of Yukawa, Goto and their captor featured in the video that are intentionally ridiculous. Or just silly. Or adorably defiant.

An ISIS/Dr. Evil spoof, with the figure’s pinky photoshopped to the corner of his mouth. The ISIS militant photoshopped holding his knife to a spit of Shawarma meat. The two hostages and the terrorist altered to be holding mugs of beer. The memes openly defy the seriousness of the action. And it is the best thing ever.

The reaction isn’t what most would expect—but isn’t it kind of exactly what’s needed? ISIS is absurd. The whole concept of terrorism is absurd. So isn’t the best reaction to mock the absurdity, and give it no real value?

Call it the Japanese version of a candlelit vigil. The hordes of defiant tweets bond a nation through a general sentiment of “fuck you, terrorism”.

One tweet—with an anime avatar—from @jlist says “The message of [the hashtag] is ‘You can kill some of us, but Japan is a peaceful and happy land, with fast Internet. So go to hell.’”

Not all of the memes make sense, like one where the terrorist is pasted into outer space or has a plant growing out of his head, but who cares? Freedom of expression means that what you tweet doesn’t have to make sense. And what makes the Japan ISIS meme trend exceptionally brilliant is that it comes in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. An entire nation is mocking the terrorists through a medium that, while it may not be as refined as pen and ink cartoon, is a form of free speech.

Terrorism is no laughing matter, but by giving in to demands or letting your nation be shaken, you give power to the terrorist.

It’s sad that Yukawa  and Goto lost their lives. As well as James Foley, Steven Sotloff and thousands of civilians. But taking ISIS seriously can only result in more power for them and more deaths for us.

I think it’s brilliant to mock ISIS, or to mock any bully.

If you stop laughing, stop living, the terrorists win.

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