There is a new and booming sector of the black-market film economy. The films may be grainy, the camerawork shaky, the faces often obscured, but that hasn’t stopped the explosion in made-for-terrorist videos.
It seems you can’t arrest a single terror suspect these days without finding an “Arabic language” video in glovebox of his Ford Transit. It happened again with Jamal Zougam, one of the Moroccans arrested after the Madrid bombings. According to The Independent: “When police searched his home, they found videos of Islamic fighters…”
Of course, this is perfectly understandable. After a hard day trudging the streets of Madrid, planning terrorist atrocities, muttering twisted prayers of victory, and spitting at posters of whore Jennifer Aniston in Along Came Polly, the one thing Jamal would want to come home to is a fun and frothy video of men cradling automatic weapons and shaking gloved fists at the Stars and Stripes.
The Evening Standard claims investigators discovered “videos of a Moroccan terror suspect known to have entered Spain using a bogus British passport.” Videos of him doing what? Showing off his bogus passport with pride? Dancing to Rock Your Body?
Actually, it’s fair to assume the music of Justin Timberlake doesn’t feature too strongly on the video. Not after the Superbowl boobie incident. The cheeky popster lost a lot of grassroots support among fundamentalist Muslims for pulling Janet’s bra off. Justin is going to have to do a hell of a lot of touring now if he wants to crack the Middle East.
So, if not Timberlake, what was on Jamal’s tape? One has to understand that, as with pornography, there is a wide spectrum in terrorist video. Some terrorists go for a simple, doctrinal video: full of “Allah Akbars” and the heartfelt endorsement of suicide in the cause of righteousness. Others prefer to see troops posing manfully with weapons, or shooting at cut-outs of Donald Rumsfeld, or showing off the latest line in suicide vests. And at the very far end the spectrum, there are videos for the truly hardened freedom fighter. The snuff terror movie.
Two years ago, The Observer discovered gruesome jihad recruitment videos were being circulated at the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London. Videos showing “people having their throats cut and the wholesale slaughter of secular forces”. Exactly the kind of film you’re going to want (and need) to see, over and over and over, if you’re about to drop off a rucksack on a commuter train.
The video provides a reassuring context for the madness of terrorism. The act of documentation gives, in itself, a sort of justification to the horror. “Look at these things,” it says. “This is what we can do if we put our minds to it. You can do it too.” Rather like a Paul McKenna video, but not quite as distasteful.
The video has become a key part of the in-house PR strategy of terror. They are, essentially, sales tools. And, as such, it is only a matter of time before decent money is diverted into their production, and they start getting really glossy and reel in Bruckheimer to produce.
At the moment, the industry is in its infancy. VHS is the preferred format. But it can’t be long before, like pornography, the shift is made into DVDs. Which has a very important implication: bloopers. Fluffed lines, dropped rifles, masks falling off during executions. And just wait until you see the out-take where the captive wriggles free just as they’re about to behead him and the sword cuts his nose off instead and so they shoot him in the stomach and he takes about quarter of an hour to bleed out.
Ah, you’ve got to laugh.