To tackle ISIS the West must learn from the Nazis


Flickr/Alisdare Hickson

In a few hours, parliament will have decided how large of a hole they want to turn Syria into. The vote will decide whether the UK will join the four other nations currently cooperating on this rather ambitious renovation of the parts of the Syrian nation – which are now under the control of a bunch of mad men with a rampant drug problem and obsession with death, otherwise known as ISIS.

There’s no denying that ISIS are the most unbelievably evil organisation of real human beings since the Nazis, just like there is no denying that bombing the Nazis actually worked pretty damn well at solving that problem, at least if you take a short sighted and simplistic view.

Although I hate to fulfill Godwin’s Law, I’m going to run with the Nazi comparison due to them being probably the most cartoonishly evil attempt at an empire in history – they did have skulls on their uniforms.

The growth of ISIS

The Nazi party gained power in the wake of the destruction that befell Germany in The First World War,  and upon taking control of their area they expanded and took over half of Europe, before they eventually hit a wall of nations they couldn’t invade and were gradually pushed back to their centre of Berlin. ISIL gained power in the wake of the destruction that befell Iraq in the wake of The Second Gulf War, which much like The First World War was a complete disaster that achieved nothing – but a high body count and lots of property damage. After establishing themselves and gaining some grass root support they moved into a warzone known as Syria, using the chaos to gain some power and expand into their own modern caliphate.

We all know that initially pretending that Nazi Germany invading other countries was not a problem, and that everything would be fine if we just ignored them, was in fact a bad move that allowed them get the upper hand. And that going full tilt with bombs and boats and everything else that makes war could arguably have saved a lot of time and lives, so the argument could logically be made that the same thing should be true of ISIS.

Honestly, it is not the bombing of Syria I disagree with, it has been invaded by a strong organised military force and the first thing we need to do is get rid of that invading force. However, I doubt that just bombing it continuously will actually help and I seriously doubt that we need six different nations bombing it – particularly when some of those six nations aren’t really on the best of terms, but that’s a whole other matter.

My real problem, and why I really hope against hope that Parliament will vote to not contribute to the Syrian bombing campaign is because it’s short sighted and ignores the immediate problem. In the exact same way that every Western army fighting a war on another continent has over the last 50 years, that problem being that destroying Syria is not victory.

Bombing will not restore normality

The ultimate aim of Western intervention in the current ISIS territories, as I understand it, is to liberate the controlled areas and restore freedom from the oppression of the Islamist regime. Thus, all those faced with persecution and tyranny in those areas, who have either fled or been trapped within what I can only imagine as a nightmare fuelled hellscape, can return to some kind of peaceful normality.

I believe it’s quite hard for these people to return to normal lives when their homes, hospitals, food stores and schools are all craters, and two thirds of their neighbours have been killed because they didn’t make it into their shelters quick enough. I wish I could believe that this apparently very organised multi-national bombing campaign will be backed up by all the involved nations with the necessary monetary aide to rebuild Syria and Iraq – once ISIS inevitably crumble under the weight of their own ridiculousness. But the fact that this has not been the case in Iraq after the second Gulf War, or Afghanistan after the Soviet Invasion, or Afghanistan after the Coalition Invasion makes it kind of hard for me to believe that that will be the case.

You know how the allies really won the Second World War? They didn’t repeat the mistakes of the First World War. They didn’t leave the nation that started it in the state of disrepair that allowed opportunists to turn that nation into their own personal murder factory, they invested in it, they nurtured it, and they built it into one of the most powerful economies in the world.

That is how you win the war against ISIS, not with bombs, not with constant airstrikes, you win by ensuring that the same situation can never occur again in the lifetimes of the people that had to suffer it the first time. Fighting fire with fire only creates a bigger fire, if you want to put out fire, you fight it with water. War does not end war, it only makes more, the only way to end war is with love, and a shit load of capital investment.


Why are so few women directing blockbusters?

Hollywood Hills – Flickr/Shinya Suzuki

How many female directors can you name?

Don’t feel self conscious about the answer, when I asked myself the question I was lost after three. Google helped me to realise that I had seen films and television shows from a few more than that, but very few of them have ever been given the two-hundred million dollar budget of the modern blockbuster.

The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism recently carried out a study to explore the lack of female directors of big budget cinema in Hollywood, and last month The Guardian compiled stories from nine women working across the film industry regarding their experiences with sexism.

A number of interesting things were revealed by these two pieces, first, women directors predominantly find success in low budget cinema, such as short fiction and documentaries. But very few are able to get bigger budget projects off the ground, the reason seeming to be that executives do not trust women with big budgets.

There are a number of possible reasons for this, but the most interesting is the fear by executives that if they vouch for a female director on a project and then they mess up, it will reflect badly on the executive.

This rationale is used to explain how women executives, who are invariably outnumbered by men in their job, can also cave to a peer pressure that breeds this institutional inequality.

One female Director and former karate master, Lexi Alexander, has a rather telling story about a driver who refused to believe that she was a director and so refused to drive her.

Sexism in the industry seems to show itself in subtle ways, though sometimes it’s outright obvious. One unnamed action movie star apparently threw out the possibility of a female director on an unnamed project because he “refuses to be directed by a woman.”

An Endemic Issue in the Industry

These problems are of course faced by more than just directors, The Guardian article speaks to women with experience in every area of production – from screenwriters and costume designers, to cinematographers and editors.

The one area it does not focus on however, is the actors, who by no means have it easier. There seem to be just as many accounts of sexual advances from movie bosses today, under the guises of an audition, as there ever have been. And as female actors get older their casting opportunities become less and less varied.

Liv Tyler, who you’ll know from Armageddon and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, has said that at 38 she’s only being offered parts as either The Wife or The Girlfriend, which is understandably frustrating after playing a badass like Arwen.

An even bigger issue for female actors however is the disparity in their pay when compared to their male co-stars. Last years Sony hack revealed that Jennifer Lawrence’s pay for the film American Hustle was less than her male co-stars’, despite her arguably being the films biggest box office draw.

On the subject of disparities in her own pay compared to her co-stars in the Iron Man movies, Gwyneth Paltrow had this to say: “It can be painful. Your salary is a way to quantify what you’re worth. If men are being paid a lot more for doing the same thing, it feels shitty.”

Again, the issue seems to be the same as with women directors; executives do not seem to be comfortable giving the women they employ large amounts of money, be it in budgets or pay.

Finding Success Elsewhere

To escape the problems of budgetary issues, many female writers and directors in recent years have been finding work and recognition in television.

Arguably the best example of this being Michelle Maclaren who has directed episodes for The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad – the latter of which she has won two Prime Time Emmy’s for as an executive producer.

In writing (and this may come as a surprise to some) Mad Men’s writing staff at one point was composed nearly entirely of women, seven of the nine writers, and throughout its run had a significant number of its departments composed of and run by women.

So we come to the question again, why is it so difficult for aspiring Directors like these to make it into cinema?

Ultimately, it comes down to just plain old boring prejudice, there is no real justification for it, it’s just a status quo that’s been perpetuated for too long that nobody is quite certain how to fix. Some suggest introducing diversity quotas, others believe that the solution will only come as more women reach positions of control in studios and the system becomes less dominated by men.

The landscape seems to be changing little by little, we are at least talking about it in mainstream publications and studying it openly. The upcoming movie adaptation of Wonder Woman is being directed by the aforementioned Michelle Maclaren, I wish I could believe that other female directors will land big budget projects as a consequence – but only time will tell.