Channel 4 last night
A really super-cool club. That’s how a young black British doctor describes Islamic State in tonight’s episode of The State, her eyes shining as she records a YouTube message urging other young women to follow her example and defect to Syria.
‘A really super-cool club.’ There’s no irony in her voice. Dr Shakira Boothe (played by Ony Uhiara) is a single mother from London who claims to be part of the first generation of Muslims building a religious paradise on earth.
This, then, is how Channel 4, a publicly owned British broadcaster, depicts Islamic State five days after a terrorist attack in Barcelona that killed more than a dozen people – during a year that has seen British children killed by a suicide bomber at a Manchester pop concert.
A four-part drama screening on consecutive nights, The State is supposedly based on real events in Syria and Iraq, seen from the viewpoint of several British recruits who fled their homes to join the jihad or Holy War. It showcases graphic footage of torture and dismemberment.
The second episode tonight includes an appallingly callous tableau of dead babies in an incubator ward, after a bomb strike on a hospital.
Sickening: An execution scene from Channel 4 documentary The State
It is sickening. But it isn’t the gore and scattered limbs that leave a tight knot in the stomach: it is the moist-eyed adulation as The State pleads with us not just to sympathise with the British jihadis but to love them.
All the women are elegant but strong – independent heroines making a positive choice to sacrifice their freedom for the sake of their pious religious convictions. Joans of Arc, every one. All the men are sensitive and soft-spoken – driven to fight in God’s army for their love of their families. Everyone is deeply intelligent and multi-lingual, with extensive knowledge of the Koran.
And they are all ridiculously good-looking of course, with the occasional Poldark moment for the boys as they strip off their uniforms to reveal waxed chests with moulded six-packs. The soundtrack is all swelling orchestras and throbbing drums, with moments of sad Spanish guitar when a character dies.
No one will be surprised to discover that the writer and director of the State, Peter Kosminsky, is not a veteran of the civil war in Syria. He did not carry out research missions to Raqqa and Aleppo. In fact, middle-class film-maker Kosminsky is 61 years old and Oxbridge-educated, the epitome of the London media luvvie who is desperate to demonstrate that he is less racist than anyone else at his Hampstead dinner party. He’s been the subject of a South Bank Show profile by Melvyn Bragg. You get the picture.
The dialogue of The State gives him away at every moment. It’s Dad-speak, a middle-aged man’s failed effort to sound ‘down with the kids’, which parrots comical slang last used in the 1970s by the Bay City Rollers – words such as ‘super-cool’.
In tonight’s opening scene, one fighter waves his AK47 and shouts: ‘This is better than flipping burgers!’ It’s meant to be a victory shout – but instead, the line is fake, patronising and, in its assumption that well-educated British Asians like him are