This blog has kindly given itself permission to address matters other than BBC bias, although (arguably) much of our grumbles can be traced back to the BBC.
So, unapologetically, this is another post about The State. Yes, it was shown on Channel 4. If you’re looking for BBC-only content, you need to take a right at the crossroads and straight on - you can’t miss it.
There has been quite a lot of coverage of Peter Kosmisnky’s four part series about British would-be jihadis and jihadi brides. Opinion is divided, but one particular complaint was unanimous. Most critics thought that the drama needed a back story. What, they wanted to know, led these particular characters to radicalisation?
If you’re looking for answers, Peter Kosminsky isn’t going to be providing them.
Kosminsky has been telling the media that he and his team spent eighteen months trawling through reams of testimony and guidance from witnesses and experts on Islam.
(Otherwise how could a 61 year old middle-class Bafta-winning film-maker justify making a ground-breaking film about the subject?)
I’m sure he believes he knows enough - at least enough to take a selection of interesting anecdotes and string them together into a gritty award-winning work.
As human beings we’re all capable of holding dozens of contradictory beliefs and opinions at once. Cognitive dissonance, isn’t it?
Here, the script delivered, and we were expected to swallow, leading characters so full of cognitive dissonance that the finished product came across as a string of anecdotes cobbled together - that’ll do - and very heavy reliance on the acting and Kosminsky’s cinematographic expertise to see it through.
One example of what seemed to be an isolated ‘interesting factoid’ thrown in for the sake of it, was protagonist Jalal being advised to speak Arabic, not English, because the particularly volatile knife-wielding psychopath and beheader-in-chief had ‘a thing’ about Brits. I can almost hear Kosminsky’s team saying “That’s interesting, we’ll use that one.”
Another was the pick ’n’ mix assortment of individuals amongst the new recruits, like a box of Milk Tray. One blonde, one German, one ex-squaddie, one long-haired lover from Liverpool and one or two nutty centres that no-one likes.
I did wonder whether the palatial ‘married quarters’ we saw were based on fact. Also, the sudden appearance and departure of Jalal’s father was an odd and implausible vehicle for the introduction of a ‘reasonable’ voice into the mix. In the final episode, the viewer is urged to sympathise with the disillusioned escapee rather than the nasty security services agent who makes her an offer she can’t refuse.
I’m not saying that Peter Kosmisnky is sitting there going “fooled y'all!”. I think his liberal leftie mindset is sincere, visceral and limiting. He can’t conceive of any starting point other than his own, so his characters are inherently empathetic, sensitive and human, with inexplicable tacked-on bouts of inhumanity and stupidity. The story made little or no attempt to explore the psychological trauma of the sexual and imaginative repression inflicted upon followers of ‘conservative’ Islam. One might take that omission as typical liberal leftie denial.
Some good comments on Harry’s Place. For example commenter Sarka relays some observations from Jonathan Spyer on Facebook.
"You may remember Peter Kosminsky as the British dramatist who reimagined Israeli Jews as Norwegian-looking people who all live in mansions with swimming pools in 'The Promise.' He has now topped this feat of the imagination with his new series, 'The State', which reimagines British recruits to ISIS as cheery yet sensitive types looking for dignity and to make a better world. Kosminsky exemplifies the played out west European haute bourgeoisie, fascinated and enchanted by the people who want to rip them apart. An astonishing marker of the times.”
Later in the discussion he like others said that Kosminsky's decision not to go into the question of motivation (characters' back-stories) is a weakness, but also reflects his inability to conceive of people genuinely having religious and ultra-nationalist motivations...the characters are therefore "lightly romanticised" by presentation as basically nice decent lefty-ish types whose (essentially secular) idealism and youth just causes them to make a mistake
"For those with strong stomachs: the drama concluded last night with a portrayal of a Yezidi slave girl who fell in love and offered herself sexually to her kind British jihadi captor (who nobly refused her advances), evidence of ISIS men executed because they refused to fight their fellow 'resistance' members in the YPG (whaaaaat) and a depiction of IS atrocities in the context of atrocities committed against them by their (supposed) great rivals - Assad's army. A peek into the deeply strange world not of Sunni jihadis, who aren’t like this at all, but of British white lefties. Truly repulsive"