ISIS Hated Beauty, History, Freedom, Music and Art

 

Two BBC documentaries which are available to watch right now show just how much Islamic State hated beauty, history, freedom, music and art.

In the The Road to Palmyra, architectural historian Dan Cruickshank and photographer Don McCullin journey to Palmyra to observe the destruction IS wrought after they invaded the ancient Syrian city in 2015.  Cruickshank is visibly overcome at times as he discovers just how much precious human history IS tried to obliterate.

Manchester: Bomb Our Story interviews the young victims of the 2016 bombing of Manchester Arena, all of whom are deeply traumatised by the wicked events of that night. They were supposed to enjoy an evening of innocence, dancing, laughter and fun. But a crazed, murderous terrorist had other plans.

I highly recommend you watch these two deeply moving and insightful films.


Have you enjoyed reading this article? Get more exclusive content straight to your inbox when you sign up to the Imagine Athena newsletter. Sign up here.

Night Will Fall

Night Will Fallis a powerful documentary about the footage captured by Allied forces of newly liberated concentration camps, in the closing days of WW2, that was later made into a film titled German Concentration Camps Factual Survey(1945).

The scenes the soldiers were confronted with were so shocking that they feared no one would believe that they were real. Indeed the first accounts that Soviet soldiers had given of Auschwitz and Majdanek in eastern Europe were written off by Britain and America as atrocity propaganda. They soon realised how wrong they were. In fact, the Soviet footage of Auschwitz contains some of the most infamous images of the monstrous extermination camps. An elderly Soviet soldier interviewed in Night Will Fallis overcome with emotion as he remembers the terrible things he saw.

The army cameramen carefully documented the gruesome reality of the camps and the appalling cruelty that had taken place there. It was decided that the reels would be made into a film about humanity and civilisation and what happens when human beings descend into utter barbarism. The legendary media mogul Sidney Bernstein was contracted to make the film along with acclaimed director Alfred Hitchcock and writer Richard Crossman. They worked with a team of editors and technicians to organise the footage into a well scripted and coherent narrative. It was a harrowing task which surviving editors interviewed in Night Will Fallrecall with horror.

In the end, however, the film was never finished. It was stored away in the National Archives, along with Bernstein and Hitchcock’s notes and Crossman’s script. Night Will Fallexplores the political reasons for why this happened. The film also contains interviews with historians from the Imperial War Museum in London who began to restore and complete the documentary in 2008 and released it as a film in 2014.

The footage was used during the Nuremberg trials as evidence to convict Nazi war criminals.

It still stands today as an incomparable testament of man’s inhumanity to man.

 

British Ideologues Should Not Be Meddling With Schools In Africa

I was dismayed to read in The Spectator that British activists are trying to shut down Bridge schools in African countries .

Aidan Hartley writes that:

“… several British charities, in cahoots with some British unions, are making a concerted effort to close down hundreds of schools in Africa. They are doing this because they dislike private education, seeming not to care that this will destroy the life chances of thousands of desperate children, forcing them, at best, into state schools where the teachers are often absent, drunk or incapable.

The campaign involves not only an alphabet soup of left-leaning charities from Action Aid to Amnesty International but also Unison and the National Union of Teachers (NUT). Their attacks are directed at Bridge International Academies, a private company backed by, among others, Bill Gates and the British government.” Read More…

The New Putin Worship Is Idiotic and Morally Bankrupt

Every now and then, social media conspires to produce a perfect storm of idiocy and moral bankruptcy so backward as to make one speculate about the possibility of living in some kind of surreal simulation populated by half-wits. Of course, I should know by now not to be surprised by the depths to which political discourse has sunk on social media. For the politically-minded, Facebook and Twitter can become an addictive form of torture, a sort of digital self-harming ritual. Last week, however, I saw something that makes a pretty conclusive case for the corrosive effect of social media echo chambers on both intelligence and decency. Read More…

Free Speech Is The Only Way To Shift Consciousness

Last week, the writer Sam Harris posted an incredible conversation recorded between himself and Christian Picciolini, a former neo-Nazi who now tries to counter extreme political beliefs with what he describes as “listening” and “compassion”.  Picciolini has a lot of insight into what drives ideological fanaticism and he knows that much of it fuelled by emotional undercurrents of insecurity, self-loathing and basic ignorance.

He and Harris make the point that rather than shaming or silencing people with extreme opinions that we disapprove of, we should engage with them instead. That is how the battle for hearts and minds are won. This is very similar to what Megan Phelps, a former member of the religious cult the Westboro Baptist Church said in her now famous TED talk, which I have written about before:

Her decision to leave the WBC was not a Damascene conversion. It was part of a long process of engaging with people who opposed her on social media. Often they did so with anger or bemused disdain, but, occasionally, she would encounter individuals who would argue with her civilly. It was these discussions that began to slowly chip away at her harsh worldview, eventually causing it to collapse.

Harris also makes the important point that people will never build up “intellectual antibodies” to manipulative and hateful ideas if they are not exposed to them. Sunlight and air is the best disinfectant for odious speech.

Listen to to the full conversation here.

Violence Against Women Shouldn’t Be Scrubbed From Television For Politically Correct Reasons

For several years now, the BBC Radio 4 review programme Front Row has been more or less explicitly campaigning against crime drama involving depictions of violence against women. When the BBC first broadcast the first season of Happy Valley, John Wilson interviewed writer Sally Wainwright, and he supplemented high praise for Wainwright’s work with challenging questions about the dramatic treatment of violence against women. At the time of the third season of The Fall, Samira Ahmed took Gillian Andersen to task over the violence towards women portrayed in earlier seasons. And around the time the third season of Broadchurch was being shown on ITV, John Wilson, interviewing David Tennant, held the actor’s feet to the fire in connection with the representation of rape in the drama. Read More…