Fisher analyzes the satirical Banksy video above:
If the video feels a bit awkward, it may be in part because the international leftist movement that Banksy so often speaks for has grappled with how to think about Syria. The idea of any Western intervention in the Middle East can carry, for them, echoes of imperialism – opposition to which is major tenet of the international left. Skepticism of religion also makes the Syrian rebels, a number of whom are Islamist, less than attractive. And the Bashar al-Assad regime has long claimed to represent a kind of anti-imperialist bulwark against the West and against Israel.
So there’s been a real hesitancy among leftists like Banksy to embrace the Syrian opposition, which is reflected a bit in his choice to skewer the rebels, portraying them as murdering beloved children’s cartoon characters. But no one – or virtually no one – can bring themselves to back the Assad regime, which has done and continues to do terrible things to its citizens. That’s led a lot of people in international leftist movements to talk around the conflict, to decry specific aspects of the West’s approach to the conflict without fully engaging in the conflict itself.
I have learned from my own crude generalizations in the past to avoid using terms like “leftists” the way Max does here. I don’t think you need to be a leftist to regard yelling “God is Great!” while trying to murder people as an obscene joke. It is an obscene joke. And the fact that the most potent opposition to the foul regime of Assad is a bunch of Jihadist fanatics says a lot about the Middle East, the whole ridiculous idea of a “nation”-state called Syria, and the total futility of getting engaged there. I can’t say I thought the video was even interesting. But as an expression of the absurdity of religious war, it wasn’t not cringe-inducing, which is what you usually get from artists making political statements.