The news that gave me a big shock the other day: ‘Jihadi John’, the leader of a terrorist group who call themselves The Beatles and the very man who beheaded James Foley in Syria, is probably a former British rapper who was known in London as L Jinny. The Daily Mail has the story — and yes, the fact that it is The Daily Mail means that the story still needs to be confirmed, and British Intelligence officials didn’t officially release the name of the suspect yet, but still.
So here’s this guy rapping:
And the song is not that bad, actually; well, the sound is pretty generic (the usual post-grime digital stuff with trap percussions), but he’s surely got some flow and some charisma, and it’s not unlikely that, if some label had noticed and signed him a couple of years ago, he would be now playing club shows all over Britain. This Dizzee Rascal comparison the Daily Mail has seems a bit of exaggeration, but still — there are a lot of MCs like L Jinny in British hip-hop, and some of them are somewhat successful.
Instead, this guy is now a terrorist who presumably savagely murdered an American journalist — and I can’t even bear to post that dreadful photo here that you probably saw already.
This story is horrific and terrific at the same time. I mean, of course, there aren’t any two sides to this murder: it’s an unforgivable crime, total evil, pure and simple. But the life story of Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary? How a young man from London aspiring to be a rapper became a Jihadist and an executioner? One must admit that the story has screenplay potential — you just need a talented writer and director to make a great film out of it.
The point I actually wanted to observe here is a media angle. I think this story — as well as many other stories, of course — illustrates, among other things, how open the world we live in is, how much information is out there. Imagine this happened 20 years ago. It would probably take as longer time for the intelligence to establish the identity of the killer. It would surely take much more time for the media to make the connection between the jihadist and the promising rapper, and even more time to get their hands of his videos, and they wouldn’t be able to quote his Facebook to demonstrate his spiritual transformation at all. Now it’s as fast as it gets, and you don’t even have to be a journalist to connect all the dots — even though it’s still mostly journalists who do it.
I often think about future politicians within this context. I mean, all these teenagers who share everything that happens in their lives on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr, — some of them will inevitably at some point become senators, or governors, or even Presidents. And we will probably know a whole lot more about them than we know about the current generation of politicians. Of course, they can clean up their accounts, remove all the swearing, provocative remarks or drunken pictures from college parties, but still: you can’t delete anything from the Internet permanently, and some smart blogger would eventually dig it all up. Would it be for the greater good? I don’t know — but I’m pretty sure it will change the picture somehow. And it is surely better to have a real biography of a man written by himself through countless posts on social networks than your usual ‘autobiographical’ book polished to death by a smart PA.