Selection and commentary by PDC members and authoritative experts in the field
Tuesday, January 19th 2016
“Despite the praise heaped on the so-called Islamic State for its cutting-edge propaganda online, one of its most effective products is decidedly low tech. Dabiq, ISIS’s online news magazine, has a small but devoted readership that spans the globe,” wrote Will McCants of the Center for Middle East Policy and Clint Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in an article, “Why the U.S. Can’t Make a Magazine Like ISIS,” posted on The Daily Beast website on January 11, 2016. Dabiq includes “attack reports,” biographies of fighters, and other features.
This alumnus of the U.S. Information Agency cannot help but recall that the agency had a vigorous magazine diplomacy, thrown overboard with no warning in the early 1990s as part of the “peace dividend,” bringing to an end such venerable and respected publications as America Illustrated (in Russian), Al-Majal (in Arabic), Topic (in English and French for Africa), Economic Impact, Dialog, Trends (in Japanese), and others.
Here are some quotes from the article by McCants and Watts. Public Diplomacy practitioners will sigh loudly at the second-to-last bullet below:Read More
Monday, January 18th 2016
“Despite our relentless propaganda campaign against the Islamic State as vicious, predatory and cruel – most of which might be right – there is little recognition of its genuine appeal, and even less of the joy it engenders,” wrote Scott Atran, director of research in anthropology at the CNRS, École Normale Supérieure, and a senior research fellow at Oxford. His essay, “ISIS is a revolution,” was posted to the aeon.co website on December 15, 2015. It will jolt many comfortable assumptions.
In his article, Atran revisited many historical movements that relied on revolutionary violence – the Roman occupation of Judea and the Jewish Zealots, the American and French revolutions, 1848, the anarchist and Bolshevik movements, the Nazi takeover of Germany, and al Qaeda and the Islamic State. He delved into the psychology of revolution, terror, sacred causes, and willingness to sacrifice, citing along the way Terence, Ibn Khaldun, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Robespierre, Edmund Burke, Charles Darwin, Theodore Roosevelt, Charles de Gaulle, Hitler, Martin Heidegger, Raymond Aron, Abu Bakr Naji, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In addition to proposing historical parallels, Atran provided summaries of recent anthropological research among Muslims in Europe, the United States, and refugee camps.
This is another article that deserves reading in full. Here are just a very few excerpts:Read More
Monday, January 18th 2016
“Over the past decade, the prevailing thinking has been that radical Islam is most effectively countered by moderate Islam. The goal was to find religious leaders and scholars and community ‘influencers’—to use the lingo of the counter-radicalization specialists—who could explain to their followers and to any misguided young people that Islam is a religion of peace, that the term jihad refers mainly to the individual’s personal struggle against temptation and for moral betterment, and that tolerance and interfaith cooperation should prevail. The presence of local Muslim luminaries, taking the lectern to announce that what had just happened bore no relation to true Islam, has become part of the ritual following any terrorist incident in a Western country.”
Author and RAND researcher Cheryl Benard challenged this frame of “moderate” vs. “radical” Islam in an important article, “’Moderate Islam’ Isn’t Working,” posted on the website of The National Interest on December 20, 2015. She now favors a policy focused on integration and offers some proposals. The focus of her article is primarily domestic, but it describes the hold of old-country Islamic values (and offshore websites) on immigrants so that they “self-marginalize” or “self-alienate.” Public Diplomacy practitioners will find the article suggestive. Here are some key quotes:Read More
Monday, January 18th 2016
“When we fail to recognize the global Islamic jihadist movement, we lack the ability to understand the history, goals, and objectives of this enemy who consistently articulates its designs, only to be discarded or dismissed by U.S. leadership,” wrote a retired Army lieutenant colonel in the January-February, 2016, issue of Military Review. His article, sure to be controversial, was “The Future of Warfare against Islamic Jihadism: Engaging and Defeating Nonstate, Nonuniformed, Unlawful Enemy Combatants.” The author, Allen B. West, was a member of the House of Representatives, and he is now president and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis. The article discussed both strategy and tactics, and West included comments on “the information war.” Here are a few excerpts:Read More
Saturday, January 16th 2016
“. . . there is much more to Islamic State propaganda than brutality,” wrote Charlie Winter in “Islamic State Propaganda: Our Response to the Competion,” published by the Legatum Institute in November, 2015. This was one of three articles on “Cyber Propaganda: From how to start a revolution to how to beat ISIS” published by the Institute in its indispensable “Beyond Propaganda” series.
This rich and detailed paper runs only eight pages, so it should be read in full, not in summary. For instance, Winter opened with a discussion of five key characteristics that make Islamic State propaganda successful -- quantity, quality (production value), adaptability, narrative variation, and audience differentiation – each with valuable insights, analysis, and examples. ISIS relies on six key narratives -- brutality, mercy, belonging, victimhood, war, and uptopia. It runs simultaneous appeals to many different audiences.
He outlined “the response” by governments, the private sector (social media companies), the third sector (independent organizations), and communities. The main ways have been direct engagement, counter-propaganda campaigns, and sponsorship. He offered words of appreciation for the State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications at a time when words of praise have been few. Also mentioned are the UAE’s Sawab Center; twitter accounts from the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Australian Defence Force; responses by Google, Facebook, and Twitter; the Institute for Strategic Dialog; The Quilliam Foundation; and the Active Change Foundation.
The bottom line: “It is high time that we take a leaf out of Islamic State’s media strategy book and recognise that, at a minimum, all counter-propaganda efforts need to be scaled up and re-strategised.”
Here are just a few key quotes from Winter’s important paper:Read More