Did I ever think I’d laugh at something to do with the Taliban? Nope. But Asif Aktar’s stories on the Taliban have had me giggling in our normally very serious and very busy open plan office.
But that’s not a bad thing - I think that laughter sometimes is the best way of dealing with the news. For one thing, it makes it stand out in the media chatter. And at the very least, it humanizes something that is all too often barren of any human context.
And don’t you find that many news stories are actually lacking in the exact information most of us want to know?
Take this story of the capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
When the news first broke yesterday, the arrest was billed in the mainstream western media as a huge victory because he’s so high up the Taliban food chain that only Mullah Omar ranks as a bigger fish. The Taliban, just to re-inforce their trustworthiness as a news source, denied the capture, saying it was all a western lie, and the good Mullah was still happily going about his daily work of ordering random bombings back home.
Our own correspondent said, ok they got him but was that necessarily a good thing? The point being that he’s from the same tribe as Prime Minister Karzai, and so he could have been a useful ally if our people, aka the Good Guys, had weaned him away from their people, aka the Bad Guys. Or, as Hilary Clinton would have put it - the Really Bad Guys.
And really, all through this, the general public is thinking:
a) who is this guy?
b) what Really Bad things did he do that made him Bad Guy No 2? And give us some examples of those Really Bad Things.
c) how did they catch him? cue in a story to match the script line of those Hollywood spy thrillers that we all love to hate.
d) what are they going to do with him now that they’ve got him?
It seems that “they” hope that he may reveal the whereabouts of the mysterious One Eyed Omar who was last seen after 9/11, escaping over the border, his robes flying over the back seat of his motorcycle – a modern day version of the iconic image of Omar Sharif’s flapping robes in Lawrence of Arabia.
This other Omar – Mullah Omar – is still Taliban Boss Man, but now that they got Bad Guy No 2, there is hope that further violence in Afghanistan will cease and desist.
And as usual, the media continues to not say what everyone knows. That the Taliban is the 21st century’s answer to the Gorgon. Cut off one head, and another grows immediately in its place.
In the face of that thought, I’m happy that there’s someone out there who can elicit laughter from a name that is anything but funny.