By Rhea Arora
Elm Staff Writer
I want to become a political journalist because I want society to understand the major factors that influence the workings of world politics. When people ask me why I want to be a journalist, I give them an almost cliché answer of wanting to create awareness of dire situations all around the world in the hope that the right people will read my work and decide to help fix things.
I’ve heard it said that you must go where your passion takes you and you must do what you love, but I’m scared. Journalism has become a dangerous profession to choose.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) released a video demanding a ransom of $200 million for Japanese hostages, Kenji Goto Jogo (who was a journalist) and Haruna Yukawa. Failure to comply would mean a death sentence for both of them. Soon another video was released showing Jogo holding a photograph of what is assumed to be the decapitated corpse of Yukawa.
A third video began with a slate that read, “A Message to Japan.” A knife was held to Jogo’s throat, and the image cut to his own decapitated body. ISIS wanted to prove that Japan had bitten off more than it could chew by pledging to fight ISIS and terrorism at large by providing humanitarian aid to Syrians in need. This video, like many others, shows that ISIS possesses digital skills and knowledge about technology.
I watched a video that Jogo filmed himself, stating that he was investigating the workings of ISIS to figure out what the group wants to achieve in Syria. He claimed responsibility for anything that happened to him while in Syria and asked viewers of his videos to be sympathetic to the cause of the Syrians, who are being constantly plagued with extremist groups threatening their lives. Goto said, “Syrian people suffering three years and a half. It’s enough.” It was heartwarming to see that nationalities and borders don’t mean much when fellow human beings suffer fates that we don’t have the stomach to imagine.
So after three heartbreaking videos of their own people being murdered, how did the Japanese public retaliate? With social media. Thousands of Tweets and memes were created along with a hashtag that loosely translates to “ISIS Crappy Photoshop Grand Prix,” and referenced Japanese television culture.
These actions may seem childish and immature, but it accomplished two things. First, it created mass awareness of the growing problem of terrorism and allowed for spread of information through social media. It built up a large anti-terrorist attitude in Japan and across the world. Second, it showed the ridiculousness of ISIS’s intentions and defused the seriousness with which ISIS conducts its affairs. Japan laughed at the idea that ISIS believed it had scared the country and took back control with amusing memes and Tweets, which show that Japan refuses to back down.
The Japanese government has pledged full support in the battle against terrorism and has confirmed that the humanitarian aid to Syria will not be stopped. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe issued a statement of grief following the deaths and said that Japan will “never, never forgive ISIS.” It is important that we, as an international community, learn to fight the ideological battle of extremism and terrorism. We must talk about the issue openly, voice our disagreement with factions, pledge to fight against anything that threatens human life, make amusing memes, create hashtags to put terrorists in their place, and use social media for good.
It’s terrifying to think that a Tweet or meme or Facebook status could make us targets. We must feel the fear and do it anyway.