By EBRAHIM MOOSA
Several bombs go off in Turkish cities in a series of deadly acts perpetrated by Daesh, also known as the Islamic State. There are regular news reports in the Western media about these events. But there is no saturation coverage of families and loved ones of deceased and survivors by name as it happened after the Paris killings in November and the Brussels bombings in March. The injured and dead in London, Madrid, Paris and Brussels are humanized. Those who die in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Israel/Palestine are just statistics. The fight against terrorism ought to be a noble one, to retrieve human dignity and a respect for life. In life, as in death we live in apartheid, with two kinds of humanity Us vs Them. We are now accustomed to electronic and print media that believe that thinking is a crime, common sense and humane judgment are values that will undermine their market share. This is a double standard of two humanities normalized by the media: one standard for the West versus another for the Rest is the banality of the media.
An essay written by Hannah Arendt titled “Thinking and Moral Considerations” informs these reflections. Its ringing message haunts me as I write this. I wish the cliff-notes version of her essay was on the must-read list every journalist. Arendt talks about the lessons she learned after covering the trial of the Nazi, Eichmann in Jerusalem. Arendt described Eichmann’s conduct in the horrendous violence he supervised during the Holocaust, in her now famous expression, as the “banality of evil.” Eichmann’s conduct was not some elaborate theory, according Arendt, but “something quite factual, the phenomenon of evil deeds…which could not be traced to any particularity of wickedness, pathology of ideological conviction in the doer, whose only personal distinction was a perhaps extraordinary shallowness.” Despite Eichmann’s monstrous deeds, writes Arendt perhaps controversially, “the doer was neither monstrous nor demonic” and the only characteristic she could identify in him was “not stupidity but a curious, quite authentic inability to think” (Arendt 417).
Our media today–corporations and journalists–should wonder whether they might too be called to give account for this “total absence of thinking” which Arendt identified as being the essence of what she called the “banality of evil.” Not to think is to commit a sin, says Arendt in short. An example of this absence of thinking has appeared in op-eds by perhaps well-meaning writers like Jochen Bittner, the political editor of the German weekly Die Zeit. Bittner wrote in the New York Times article “Europe, After Brussels” that: “For the sake of social peace, after the Madrid and London bombings, we told ourselves that Islam and Islamism had nothing to do with each other. But sadly they do.” Bittner’s unthinking judgment is this: “The peaceful religion can sometimes serve as a slope into militant anti-Western ideology, especially when this ideology offers a strong sense of belonging amid the mental discomfort of our postmodern societies.” Bittner does identify the poverty bubble in Brussels where immigrants live. But this social anomie is curable, while the purported slope from Islam to militant anti-Western ideology is incurable.