The immediate shock of the videotaped beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff having receded, a horror that was already slightly diluted by the videotaped murder of American journalist James Foley last month, there's valuable space to fill.
As Alex Pareene explains, a space for "takes." With the day's new data about Sotloff already pumped out and the journalistic navel-gazing over the coverage of the video complete, we're onto the part of the cycle where there are theories to be entertained. That's how we get to a story like the Daily Mail's study on the similarities between ISIL's execution and the Showtime hit show Homeland. Here's the slick video:
It's not entirely poorly argued either.
In the Homeland excerpt President Obama is reported as saying 'we must and will' remain vigilant at home and abroad. In the ISIS version he says we "will continue to do what we must do to protect our people, we will be vigilant and we will be relentless".'
Mixed in with other stylistic overlaps (both use Arabic subtitles!) is this bit of hard-hitting observation: "ISIS has also put a crackle on the audio of President Obama's speech to make it sound more 'edgy.'"
An expert is trotted in to explain how ISIL is emulating Homeland to deliver to Western Muslim recruits "'the illusion to escape the rigid world of boredom.'"
We could wrap a bow on all this by pointing out that execution videos like the one ISIL disseminated yesterday existed long before Homeland (or its Israeli antecedent) ever aired, but we'd be shouting at the wind.
I'd rather cede the floor to Dexter Filkins, who concludes that while propaganda could be one aspect of the video's intention, we're still talking about a group that kidnapped and beheaded an unarmed civilian whose hands were tied behind his back:
...the ostensible objective of securing an Islamic state is nowhere near as important as killing people. For the guys who signed up for ISIS—including, especially, the masked man with the English accent who wielded the knife—killing is the real point of being there. Last month, when ISIS forces overran a Syrian Army base in the city of Raqqa, they beheaded dozens of soldiers and displayed their trophies on bloody spikes. “Here are heads that have ripened, that were ready for the plucking,” an ISIS fighter said in narration. Two soldiers were crucified. This sounds less like a battle than like some kind of macabre party."
I guess that's just another take.