This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Winning the Propaganda War

"Twitter has become pretty ruthless at shutting down accounts, but they pop back up. And now the suspensions themselves give these users increased legitimacy. If Western organizations are pissed off at you, you must be spreading the truth and you become important."
Amarnath Amarasingam, post-doctoral research, Dalhousie University, Halifax

"After months of looking at jihadi propaganda with my Twitter feed becoming an illustrated encyclopedia of war crimes, I believe we can't let totally illegal content circulate without reacting."
Marc Hecker, jihadism expert, Sciences Po, Paris
This screen grab from an Islamic State group affiliated Twitter account, taken Sunday, Sept. 20, 2014, purports to show senior military commander Abu Wahib handing a flower to a child while visiting southern Iraq, as part of the group's broad social media campaign. (AP Photo, via Twitter)
With a Twitter or Facebook account, both with their algorithm that suggests similar sites and 'friends'  with like interests it takes no time at all to make contact and have your fill of ISIL propaganda. For anyone who basks in the entertainment quotient inherent in images of children with guns or holding up severed heads, of women exhorting their cohorts to come along and join, of gruesome videos of beheadings, crucifixions, suicide bombings or immolations social networking is the way to go.

ISIL has even produced a 'how-to' guide for travelling to their territory. Another guide will instruct how to achieve success as a jihadi focusing interest in the West; no need to travel, jihad is portable but it is also stable and can be practised in situ. There are instructions on making pressure-cooker bombs, and incitements to succeed in other ways, like stealing from infidels who deserve to be deprived because they are only, after all, despised infidels.

Both major jihadi groups, ISIL and al-Qaeda, rivals for the affections of wannabe jihadists everywhere, produce slick English-language, readily accessible magazines. A daily radio news program, Al Bayan radio, is shared through social media links and is so pervasive and casually chic it has been compared to American National Public Radio. Reports feature 'good news' that come out of ISIL activities.

The Islamic State of Cats Twitter account to 'normalize' life as a jihadi - Screen grab
Anyone who enjoys Islamic chants, video tricks like slow motion, and admires heroic appearances in young mujahideen can get their fix easily enough. And if revenge in tit-for-tat is the ticket, prisoners wearing orange jumpsuits are also featured. If that's good enough for Guantanamo prisoners, it's equally fitting for ISIL prisoners.

If spectacles of brutality beyond anything anyone has ever imaged is their cup of tea, then ISIL propaganda videos fit the bill. The latest records the fate of 15 purported spies executed imaginatively. Some locked in a car blown to smithereens with a rocket-propelled grenade, others with explosives wrapped around their necks, then detonated. How about prisoners locked in a steel cage, slowly lowered into water? A refreshing retake on the steel cage set on fire.

If it's a public relations war between the jihadists and the West  to capture the hearts and minds of susceptible young Muslim men and women, the jihadis are scoring fairly well with an estimated 4,000 young people from Europe and North America drawn to the Middle East. And the question seems to be, how to counter it effectively and with results to prove it.

An American State Department internal memo featured in a New York Times article suggested that governments in the West need to make better use of social media themselves because they're being "trumped" by the online ISIL narrative, slick and obviously compelling to a targeted demographic.
The "big proposal" was the creation of a coalition communications enterprise with 20 individuals from various countries formulating and distributing daily and weekly messages.

Alternately the Centre for Strategic Counter Terrorism Communications could be recommended to dedicate two full-time agents to focus on coalition messaging. Yet others like Marc Hecker, a French professor who has recently published a paper on jihadism and the Internet, feels that efforts to censor extremist content on the Internet must be stepped up.

A French anthropologist who interviewed 160 families or 'affected' youth concluded that 90 percent were radicalized online.

France responded to the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the fact that it is the largest source of Western-induced jihadists with new laws to increase prison terms for the support of jihad, and for the government to block specific websites. Canada and Quebec both have passed similar legislation, with Bill C-51, now passed the Senate and become law, giving Canadian courts authority to order removal of terrorist propaganda online.

U.S. military clears Twitter account of Islamic State propaganda

This screen grab shows the front page of the U.S. Central Command Twitter account after is was hacked. The site was taken over by hackers claiming to be working on behalf of the Islamic State militants. Other postings appeared to list names and phone numbers of military personnel as well as PowerPoint slides and maps.

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