The current intervention in northern Iraq is about as overdetermined a political-media event as you could get. A radical and ruthless insurgent group, heavy on the branding, with a highly efficient video distribution system, has made it impossible for the West not to intervene. In the United States the possibility of an intervention is being minimised, since it is deeply embarrassing to President Barack Obama, and the UK remains resolutely opposed to any sort of military adventures.
In Australia, of course, it has come as a godsend to Tony Abbott, who has played up the ruthlessness of the Islamic State (also called ISIS) in a manner that IS would find deeply gratifying — why else would they release their videos? The group is no more than common-or-garden ruthless, executing some hostages, killing captured soldiers, massacring whole villages of “apostate” civilians. Yet the group’s theatricality and slick video skills have made it possible to turn it into a force of “radical evil”. Abbott has already described IS as “worse than Nazism”. That’s Mr Motormouth again, getting all excited and telling people what they want to hear, as in the Liberal party room last week. He should have kept something back, just in case RAAF personnel are captured or killed.