Islamic State did not destroy things attached to people, it killed people attached to things

You can read either story. The relevant sections of the texts are both from the Associated Press. But the titles? In one newspaper, “Islamic State ‘blows up three captives tied to Roman columns’ in Palmyra”. In another, “ISIS blows up more Palmyra antiquities, with civilians attached“.

This isn’t about particular newspapers. The one that chose the right title this time, when reporting the capture of al-Qa’ida suspects in a bombing of a bazaar in Pakistan, which killed more than a hundred people, headlined the suspects’ cancelled attack on a religious building, “Italy terror cell that plotted to bomb Vatican smashed, prosecutors say”, about which the target of the plot was ‘unmoved’.

These are not the only examples and the instances are not limited to journalism. These concerns are visible in policy, too, and reflect what the public views as well as what the political class shows. In the end, they have an impact on how communities and movements react, so it is not just a matter of empty words.

(This kind of fetishisation of cultural heritage will be part of my discussion with Ali Cherri, from the Invention of Ruins to the End of the National Museum, at Ashkal Alwan’s Home Works 7 in Beirut, Lebanon, on the 15th of November.)

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