DHAKA, Bangladesh (Christian Examiner) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry believes the world would be better off if the media slowed down its coverage of the wholesale slaughter perpetrated by the Islamic State's global terror network.
Kerry addressed progress against ISIS on the battlefield during a speech from the Edward M. Kennedy Center in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Aug. 29, but said there are things others can do to help in the fight. For the general public, Kerry seemed to ask that they pay less attention to the news. For the media, he said he believes they should cover ISIS less.
"It's easy to terrorize. Government and law enforcement have to be correct 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year," Kerry said. "But if you decide one day you're going to be a terrorist and you're willing to kill yourself, you can go out and kill some people. You can make some noise. Perhaps the media would do us all a service if they didn't cover it quite as much. People wouldn't know what's going on."
Even if the media covered ISIS less, however, it is unlikely the group would change its tactics – a fact Kerry said he recognizes.
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"In Iraq, Daesh [a derogatory term used for ISIS] kills people because of who they are. It kills Yezidis because they are Yezidis. It kills Shia because they are Shia. It kills Christian[s] because they are Christian. It kills people because they aren't who they are and who they want you and will force you to be. They attack culture. They attack history. And that is why I describe the fight against violent extremism as one of the world's most important challenges," Kerry said.
Kerry said the U.S. and its allies are defeating ISIS, al-Shabaab in Kenya and Boko Haram in Nigeria. Both al-Shabaab and Boko Haram started as independent movements loosely affiliated with al-Qaeda. They have since declared loyalty to ISIS.
In a somewhat ironic twist, Kerry employed language similar to "hearts and minds" phrase used during the Vietnam War he both participated in and protested. He said the world has to win on the battlefield, but "it's the minds."
"We have too many young people who can't go to school, or too many young people who are frustrated, or they can't find a job – if we leave those minds out there for extremists to recruit, then it will continue and none of us would be doing our jobs if we allowed that to happen," Kerry said.
He added that there is no single reason why so many young people become terrorists, but he said democracy provides the "most resilient and the most reliable platform" for preventing extremism – this in spite of the fact that four of the most devastating terror attacks in the past year occurred in the U.S. and France.
Kerry said open dialogue and public debate keep young people from being "subverted by lies, by distortions, by a fake presentation of a peaceful religion, Islam."
Although it took some time, Kerry finally designated ISIS as a purveyor of genocide against Christians, Yezidis and other religious minorities. He still insisted, however, that they do not represent Islam.
After the Orlando nightclub shooting, where ISIS said a "lion of the caliphate" had attacked infidels in the name of Islam, Kerry said people should not point their finger at the religion of Islam.
Dhaka was the site of an ISIS-inspired terror attack earlier this year.