Hysteria in the ether

A death in Gulshan, and a hysteria in the ether

by Shams Al-Majhi

The problem(s) for a nation with weak state, befuddled civil society, and eviscerated public intellectuals is that anyone and everyone can use your territory for their own project.

You won’t be able to battle the invisible enemy, and in many cases you’ll invite their creation with your hysteria. In Bangla we call this “khal kete kumir ana” (cutting the canal that brings crocodile to your land). Add to this the toxic pill of over-population (as the encyclopedias are fond of saying, Bangladesh is the size of Wisconsin but carries half the US population) and you have a combustible witches’ brew.

One day in 2005, 500 bomb explosions occurred at 300 locations across the country, within a half hour period starting at 11:30 am. The media was agog about the supposedly “Al Qaeda inspired” JMB. One of the few skeptical voices was the late Tareque Masud who said, “Bangladesh’e kono Al Qaeda lage na, amra nijerai nijederke BeQaeda’e feli.” (We don’t need Al Qaeda to cause trouble here, we are experts at putting ourselves in a mess) {he was deploying a pun via beqaeda– trouble, or mess} Sure enough, once the government had been proven incompetent in the war-on-terror (WOT) and replaced by a military government, JMB vanished after the arrest and hanging of six leaders.

Connect the dots slowly, a group that had the infrastructure to pull off 300 coordinated bomb blasts within a thirty minute window suddenly collapsed after six leaders are arrested? Tasneem Khalil, a journalist, did try to connect the dots. He wrote an expose for Daily Star/Forum tracing JMB to the country’s own National Security Agency (i.e., it was a false flag op), and for his troubles was arrested and soon after went into exile. The story died with his departure.

Fast forward a lot of years, and the WOT has a new bogey, IS or Da’esh. For the last few years, pretty much every incident is traced to “IS hand” no matter how far fetched. Murders of individuals low on the visibility spectrum (i.e., they write in Bangla, for small blogs) such that it boggles the imagination to think they would in any way attract the attention of anyone in Syria or elsewhere. This can be traced back even to the tragedy of the BDR mutiny, where the media was quite certain there was an Islamist link (why? how is murder of border security forces an Islamist project? why do we still find it unacceptable to believe that it was a misguided, murderous mutiny from within and that yes such brutality exists in our nation and no “foreign hand” is needed?).

The government and media regularly write about “Islamist link”–it has become the de rigeur plotline. Naturally, if you keep invoking someone’s name, they also start noticing. Where tiny Bangladesh did not rate a pinprick in whatever imaginary global WOT map is being chalked out, now it does thanks to our own media’s hysterical coverage. You keep saying “bagh ashche” (tiger is coming) and eventually some variation of it will come true.

I have no idea why this Italian aid worker was killed, but it stretches credibility that if Da’esh wanted to make an example, the first target they would pick in Dhaka is the Italian project manager for a Dutch NGO that works on food security. I mean seriously, why would this be the “high value” target?

But sure enough, within three hours of the shooting, a website claiming to be IS (well anyone can claim that, can’t they? and how can you prove or disprove?) took “credit” for the killing, and the news was instantly amplified by good old Rita Katz of SITE. Not familiar with Rita Katz? She’s from the Daniel Pipes’ school. Here’s a quote to give you shivers: The New Yorker said in 2006 Katz’s clients were “people in government […] frustrated by how long it takes to get information through official channels” as well as “people in corporate security and in the media”. Sounds like the perfect set of clients from whom could come a false flag planter. Business slow, need new terrains, why not Bangladesh? The willing fields.

Twenty years ago, there was some buzz that there may be oil in the Bay of Bengal. A journalist wrote expressing his fear that if oil was found, Bangladesh would develop a corrupt oil-patronage network in the Nigeria model. The wide-open frontier of Bangladesh was far too eager to please, and open to all. It was our fortune (I think) that oil was never found and the fever broke. Now WOT has given us a new infinite resource to keep pumping, the gift of fear and the solution of panopticon militarized security. In the coming days of hysteria, maintain a skeptical mind.Run from big media. Build your own media. Ask questions, then ask them again, and keep asking until things start to make sense.

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