If you must see it, here’s the ISIS execution-by-immolation video of Jordanian Air Force pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh.
The execution video — murder, really — will shock you. The production quality of the video — and I’m not being at all facetious — will impress you.
A month or so ago another one of these snuff films surfaced, that one of a young ISIS boy executing two prisoners by shooting them in the backs of the head. I didn’t bother writing anything about it, because I dismissed it as a fake. It was impossible to say who actually put the thing together (I thought maybe the Russians), but it featured the same Hollywood production values as today’s video.
Both videos use dramatic music, slo-mo, quick cuts, and depth-of-field changes to heighten the tension and tell a story, rather than just a GoPro clip of somebody getting killed. It’s enough to make me think that ISIL’s many Western recruits include at least a few talented and trained filmmakers. Another possibility, even more conspiracy-minded, is that Putin’s propagandists have a hand in ISIL’s work. Compare today’s clip to al Qaeda agitprop from just a few years ago, and it’s like comparing old family Super 8 home movies with Gone with the Wind. If you can’t bear to watch, and I wouldn’t blame you, then you’ll just have to take my word for it.
But the production quality really is everything I’ve described.
I didn’t just watch a friendly Air Force fighter pilot die in one of the most horrible ways imaginable, I watched a terrorist organization of 7th Century cultists use al-Kaseasbeh’s murder to tell the story of ISIL’s command of 21st Century propaganda techniques.
After I pick up my kids from school this afternoon, I’m going to pour myself a very large brandy and try very hard to forget how I saw al-Kaseasbeh die today. But I won’t allow myself to forget that ISIL’s real power isn’t terror or death, but their effective and affecting ability to dictate a narrative.
And I’m clear-eyed and sober with the realization that we, or somebody, is going to have to kill every single last one of these murderous sons of bitches.
UPDATE: It’s a sure thing that President Obama will try to talk Jordan out of doing the right thing and executing every single last one of their ISIS prisoners, but I hope King Abdullah II tells him to get stuffed.