Cornell archaeologist says sabotage ISIS media campaign

Lori Khatchadourian, Cornell assistant professor of Near Eastern Studies and co-director of the Project for the Archaeology and Geography of Ancient Transcaucasian Societies, says that Islamic State forces destruction of the ancient Temple of Baalshamin at Palmyra is motivated by the desire for media attention – and the best offense is to deny such media.

Khatchadourian says: “ISIS’s perverse campaign of carnage is a carefully staged performance designed precisely to draw media attention, shock our sensibilities, and attract adherents. To shine a spotlight on this stage is thus to cater directly to the Islamic State’s interests. And yet, to ignore the rapid extirpation of heritage would seem like a monumental betrayal of the human condition.  How are we to cut this Gordian knot?

“It is time for a strong offense, a representational counter-assault centered on the success of heritage preservation the world over. Archaeologists around the world are working daily to research, preserve and teach the human past. Let us highlight discoveries in the Middle East and beyond that defy, undercut and sabotage the Islamic State’s media war. Let us leave the essential task of documenting the destruction to organizations in the business of heritage.

“As things now stand, the media is covering the wrong success stories."

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