The corporate media -- that has been studiously ignoring all the reports of Syrian army victories in recent days -- has put out the bunting today, because the Pentagon says it has launched a drone strike against "Jihadi John" and is 99% sure it has been successful.
In the spirit of killing two birds with one stone, this day of media celebration is also being used as another handy opportunity for some Corbyn-mockery (haha, he believes in international law, the old fogey!), but mainly it's about asserting control of the splintering official narrative.
You don't have to be too much of a cynic to notice this is all dreadfully convenient. Just as with the alleged raid a month or so ago that came complete with heroic video footage of "our boys" running about somewhere firing guns, so this "drone strike" is a very easy and economic way to grab back some of that kudos and credibility that has been ebbing away since Russian entered the Syrian fray. The Empire has been standing on the sidelines, feeling foolish, its ISIS story exposed as a scam, forced to watch while Russia makes a mockery of its Grand Middle East Plan that has been the major focus of foreign policy for fifteen years. It needs an ego-boost. A distraction. A reassertion of its discredited storyline.
But at the same time, there's not a whole lot it can do, now that Russia is a player. It can't assert this no-fly zone that was supposed to be the death knell for Assad. It doesn't want to attack ISIS or al Qaeda, because they are its own proxy forces out there. It can't afford to tangle too close with Russia's own campaign, and refuses to openly co-operate. The only thing left is theatre. Which indeed seems to be becoming the preferred option over reality anyway.
All you need is yet another drone strike, aimed at -- something, somewhere.., doesn't really matter what. Then attach the story that this drone was targeting the dread "Jihadi John" -- and bingo, the media will do the rest for you. For the next few days you're all heroes again, which will at least buy you a breathing space.
You don't even need to prove you killed the man/ "media entity" in question. A "high degree of certainty" (whatever that means) is enough to start popping the champagne corks at Empire HQ.
But before we hang out the flags and start cheering even more illegality, it's never a bad idea to remind ourselves of some of the facts and claims that get left behind in the frantic rush to stay on message.
Let's just remind ourselves Jihadi John is a typically liminal scare-figure. His alleged real identity is 27-year old computer programmer, Mohammed Emwazi, though this has never been verified beyond repeat allegation. The media cites intelligence sources and "friends" of Emwazi's for verification, but details generally lacking. There's no evidence that Emwazi himself has admitted to being Jihadi John. There was a story in the Telegraph that alleged Emwazi's father was confirming the claim, but this later turned out to be bogus when his father came forward to say there was no proof of the allegation.
To further muddy the waters the Daily Mail ran a story suggesting there was more than one Jihadi John, and the human rights group CAGE alleged Emwazi was repeatedly courted by MI5 as a possible agent (a good summary of all the anomalies and lacunae surrounding this issue can be found here).
Was/is Emwazi "the real Jihadi John", or one of several "real Jihadi Johns." Was/is he a vicious murderer, a frontman for faux snuff movies, both or neither? Is he dead or alive? Was a drone targeted at him, or someone else, or no one?
Frankly, your guess is as good as mine. All we have here, as in so much of the ISIS narrative, is images we can't verify and stories we can't prove. Alleged friend allegedly claiming things, alleged one-time hostages allegedly being quoted. The information is piled upon us, repeated, asserted, making it easy to confuse volume with quality. In fact we have no hard evidence here of anything. We barely even have a connected narrative that could be said to make coherent sense.
Refraining from conclusion or judgement is the only sane thing to do in these circumstances.
But the real lesson here and ongoing is how incidental reality has become to the media message. Not one outlet is reminding us of everything we don't know about this issue. The uncertainties, the anomalies, the claims that contradict each other or just don't fit.
They are non-issues, non-questions. They deal in a kind of real that no longer exists in popular culture and is firmly despised. No matter how loud they cry out for attention, they receive none.
The dogs bark, but the caravan just rolls by.