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How The ISIS-Dildo Flag Mixup Proves We Don't Get Terrorism At All

Friday was a momentous day for the United States and especially for gay rights, as the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in a landmark 5-4 ruling.

At long last, marriage equality is a reality in the United States. Love wins.

The historic decision couldn't have come at a more opportune moment, arriving on the brink of Pride Weekend.

On Saturday and Sunday, gay pride parades occurred in major cities across the world, taking a particularly celebratory character in America. It was an understandably joyous weekend for the LGBTQ community.

But one of the more memorable occurrences of Pride Weekend is actually completely unrelated to America's news surrounding marriage equality. Instead, it involves CNN, ISIS, dildos, butt plugs and a gay pride parade in London.

Yes, you read that correctly: ISIS, dildos and butt plugs. This is real life.

As CNN offered live-coverage of the event in London, it broadcasted a very disconcerting message: “ISIS FLAG SPOTTED AT GAY PRIDE PARADE.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rLKguRJzHM

The reporter who spotted the flag, Lucy Pawle, wondered why no one else was drawing attention to it or “raising any questions.”

Well, as John Oliver put it on Sunday night:

I'll tell you why they weren't raising any questions. That's not the ISIS flag. That's a flag with dildos and butt plugs all over it.

Indeed, it wasn't an ISIS flag at all, but a parody in which Arabic script had been replaced with an assortment of dildos and butt plugs.

Simply put, CNN believed it was breaking a story on a potential terrorist in the midst of a gay pride parade, when it was really broadcasting images of a flag covered in sex toys.

This is an exceptionally embarrassing mixup for CNN, as it spent around seven minutes deliberating over what the flag was doing there and even called in a terrorism expert to discuss it.

ISIS is notoriously and violently anti-homosexual, and it would be ludicrous to believe anyone associated with it would be peacefully participating in a gay pride parade.

This isn't exactly what CNN suggested, but it definitely could've taken more care before declaring outright that an ISIS flag had turned up at a Pride Weekend event.

Following this flub, CNN has unsurprisingly become the butt of many jokes — no pun intended.

As Max Fisher of Vox highlights, there are broader implications beyond the more amusing aspects of all of this:

CNN does not normally confuse ISIS flags with satirical dildo flags. This was clearly their JV team making a flub. But that flub was totally consistent with the network's approach to terrorism, which for years has over-hyped threats, blasting viewers with hysterical warnings of imminent and omnipresent danger.

It is a network whose terrorism coverage has been not just clumsy and irresponsible but cynical, exploiting people's earnest fears and the bloodshed of real victims in order to create a more titillating TV viewing experience.

But CNN is not alone in this trend: Other mainstream media outlets, the government and the general public habitually exhibit warped perceptions of terrorism.

The recent tragedy in Charleston is particularly pertinent in this regard.

There's an ongoing debate as to whether or not the shooting constitutes an act of terror. It clearly does when one views the FBI's definition of terrorism:

The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives.

Dylann Storm Roof, who confessed to the shooting, has reportedly stated he wanted to start a “race war” and deliberately killed nine people because of it.

Those are clear political and social objectives, carried out with unlawful lethal force. The Charleston shooting was, without question, both a hate crime and an act of terror.

Even still, Roof has not been charged as a terrorist. Although it hasn't be totally ruled out, this doesn't seem likely.

FBI Director James Comey recently stated:

Terrorism is [an] act of violence … to try to influence a public body or citizenry, so it's more of a political act. And again, based on what I know so far, I don't see it as a political act.

Thus, it seems the label “terrorist” really only applies under a certain set of parameters, and there's an evident double standard when it comes to how we view and respond to terrorism in the US.

In the post-9/11 era, we have come to see terrorism as something intrinsically linked with radical Islam, ignoring palpable evidence homegrown white terrorists are deadlier and more dangerous to Americans.

Since 9/11, non-Muslim extremists have been responsible for nearly twice as many American deaths as Muslim extremists, the New York Times reports.

In spite of all this, a vast majority of Americans (84 percent) still view ISIS and international terrorists as the most critical threats to the United States.

This has far-reaching consequences, both in terms of our responses to tragedies like Charleston as well as our foreign policy.

When emotions dictate policy, it can have disastrous results, as we've learned through the War on Terror.

Indeed, when it comes to terrorism, we are guided by fear instead of rationalism, and CNN displayed this brilliantly with its coverage of the ISIS-dildo flag.

A majority of Americans supported the failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at their respective onsets, and a majority of Americans currently support President Obama's dubious drone program.

Meanwhile, a 21-year-old white supremacist kills nine black people in cold blood and we can't reach consensus.

Friday was an incredibly historic day for this country and an undeniable marker of progress. Without taking away from that, it's obvious we still have a long way to go.

Citations: Supreme Court rules gay couples nationwide have a right to marry (Washington Post ), CNNs most embarrassing flub ever The ISIS dildo gay pride flag explained (Vox), The Saudi Marathon Man (The New Yorker ), Terrorism in Charleston (The New Yorker ), The Charleston shooter is a terrorist The federal government should charge him as one (The Washington Post ), Will Dylann Roof Face Terrorism or Hate Crime Charges (Daily Intelligencer ), Homegrown Extremists Tied to Deadlier Toll Than Jihadists in US Since 9 11 (NYT), ISIS Terrorism Seen as Graver Threats Than Russia Ukraine (Gallup ), Seventy Two Percent of Americans Support War Against Iraq (Gallup ), More Americans Now View Afghanistan War as a Mistake (Gallup ), Poll finds strong support for drone strikes among Americans (Al Jazeera )

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John Haltiwanger

Editor

John Haltiwanger is the Senior Politics Writer at Elite Daily. He was born and raised in DC. John earned an MSc in International Relations from the Univ. Of Glasgow and a BA in History from St. Mary's College of MD. He loves life, and burritos.
John Haltiwanger is the Senior Politics Writer at Elite Daily. He was born and raised in DC. John earned an MSc in International Relations from the Univ. Of Glasgow and a BA in History from St. Mary's College of MD. He loves life, and burritos.

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