The week in TV: Escape from Isis and Inside the KKK

(Published here at Celebmix)

Apparently, The KKK is desperately trying to change its image, Inside the Ku Klux Klan (Channel 4), which, to be fair to them, is going to be pretty tough. It doesn’t have a particularly good reputation, does it? What with the lynch mobs, burning crucifixes and brutal murders. Let’s face it: It’s going to need a PR campaign so massive and wide reaching, that the odd leaflet or door to door visit, isn’t going to cut it.

To help them, the KKK have allowed Channel 4 reporter Dan Vernon to spend seven months interviewing its members, filming its rituals and secret locations. He chats to Imperial Wizard, Frank Acona – leader of Traditional America Knights – who’s keen to shake off the image of the cult being a racist sect, “When we say we are not a hate group,” he says, “it’s true, we don’t hate people of other races, we don’t hear our members preaching hatred towards other members. Most of us are in it for the fraternal brotherhood aspect of it, for the most part.”

Fine, but that leads to the question of why join the KKK, why not for example a nice book group, bar crawl or maybe even a hiking club, “Well somebody has to carry this honour,” is Frank’s response.

Frank himself seems normal enough (apart from being in the Klan and dressing up like a wizard), playing with his dogs and guitar; he doesn’t like rap music, he tells us, prefers heavy metal. So do the rest of his crew – going by the way they look – and even without all the supremacist stuff and Dark Age attire, this lot would freak you out. Two new recruits, a married couple, said it even brought them closer together – they’d been having marital problems.

But, race riots in Ferguson, Missouri, spurred the Klan into spreading its message via distributing leaflets in the early hours, to a not very favourable response from the black community. So hostile was everyone in fact, that international group Anonymous decided to hack the Facebook pages of its members and publish the details online. Now the Klan is more paranoid than ever.

Just like the ‘so-called’ Islamic State, the ‘so-called’ Ku Klux Klan, are adept at using the Internet for promotion (Frank has built up a quite sophisticated site, and he’s getting more online ‘hits’ now than ever before, oh dear). But Isis makes the Ku Klux Klan look like picnic, doesn’t it?

Understandably, we in the west, find the religious fanaticism of the Islamic State difficult to grasp, it is a fair estimation to say we are at complete odds with each other – there’s no connection, not even on a human scale; and like the Holocaust, we cannot comprehend such unfathomable monstrosity – words fail us. And as the Prime Minister messes around with the BBC deciding what to call them, the horror continues.

We all have some inkling about what’s going on in ISIS held territory, but the new Channel 4 documentary Escape from Isis reveals to us, in unflinching detail, the full extent.

The incredible secret footage – filmed by brave people who would almost certainly have been murdered had they been caught – is a real eye opener, and probably one of the most uncompromising television documentaries Channel 4 have ever produced. As one Internet activist says ‘I was beginning to think there was no colour in the city (Raqqa), only black and darkness’.

Last year, Isis fighters captured the Sinjar mountain region northern Iraq on the frontier of Islamic State, home to the Yazidis – an Iraqi ethnic minority – who have been targeted by Isis in order to ‘purify’ the region of non-Islamic influence; many have been killed and 3000 women and young girls have been kidnapped, abused, gang raped and sold into slavery like cattle. Four million women are now under their rule.

One woman describes how her kidnappers raped her: “He put his toe in honey and forced it in my mouth. Once, all six guards came into the room. Then the driver gave me to 12 men … I’m still in pain. I can’t sleep, I wake at 3am still smelling them.” She brushes her teeth more than 10 times a day to get rid of their stench.

Under ISIS rule, women are forbidden to leave the house unaccompanied; they must wear three veils, so even the eyes cannot be seen; they can’t even be heard. All women, young or old, are fair game, as one fighter says ‘my religion permits me to take a 9-old-year.’ In secret footage, we see a group of savages, hanging out in an internet cafe, having a laugh about how they’re going to treat the Yazidi women and children they capture; and if that wasn’t enough, we also witness an ‘adulterer’ being stoned to death – even her father joined in.

But there’s a glimmer of hope – for some, at least. A network of activists, are risking their lives, performing undercover rescue missions. In one poignant rescue a group of 34 Yazidis who spent 2 days fleeing the Islamic State, emerge like phantoms from the hills into a field of flowers, ready to greet their rescuers and be returned to their families. These people are not paying traffickers thousands of Euros to cross the Mediterranean in a dingy to work in London or wherever, they are in true desperation; as usual the wrong people are getting asylum – this is television at its best.

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One thought on “The week in TV: Escape from Isis and Inside the KKK

  1. I watched the Escape From ISIS show as well (not the KKK one, which I’m grateful not to have seen.) The individuals working to free the women from ISIS are simply amazing. If only we still had as much bravery in our own culture!

    Liked by 1 person

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