Talk about polarizing. Amaryllis Fox is a former CIA officer. She’s just spoken publicly about her experience working undercover. Her message, which is lighting up the internets, has some people praising her candor, and others questioning her sanity.
[Scroll Down for Video]
Fox’s soundbite has a clear theme. We need to listen to our enemies. She expounds on this a bit and suggests that if we were to listen to the actual grievances, we’d see that our enemies have legitimate concerns and care about their families the same way we all do.
There’s only one problem with that, and that’s the message being delivered from our enemies, by our enemies. ISIS in particular has a trademark brutality that seems to resonate beyond the simple language barriers that separate us.
Fox says her time in counterintelligence taught her that “everybody believes they are the good guy.”
“If you’re walking down the street in Iraq or Syria and ask anybody why America dropped bombs,” she says, “you get: ‘They were waging war on Islam.’”
Americans, she says reductively, believe we were attacked on 9/11 because of a simple hatred: “They hate us because we’re free.”
There is a simplicity here that is clearly part of the problem. It isn’t that her statements aren’t factual at some level, but they are clearly gross generalizations.
She does provide some higher-level specificity when referring to an al-Qaeda fighter she debriefed. He was reasonably fluent in American pop culture and talked about the plots of Independence Day, Star Wars, and The Hunger Games. Each of these positions a small rebel force against a huge imperial powerhouse. The al-Qaeda fighter pointed out the irony: America is the Empire and “we are Luke and Han.”
And yet there’s a glaring distinction present that Fox hasn’t accounted for. When Luke and Han set out to destroy the Empire, they didn’t set groups of enslaved women on fire, simply because they refused to have sex with them. They didn’t seek out soft targets, or shoot up nightclubs.
This is where Fox’s message is generating controversy. This is a platitude. “Listen to your enemy,” isn’t exactly new. We teach it to children in kindergarten. When voiced with such overly simplistic abstractions, as it is in this message, it is nothing more than feel-good fluff.
For many of us–thinking Americans–Fox’s soundbite is just as cliche as the myths she’s attempting to debunk.