Facebook On Incitement Against Muslims And Jews – A Tale Of Two Responses

224Islamist Watch, by Johanna Markind
originally published at Daily Caller
January 28, 2016

Although Facebook’s ground rules officially prohibit bullying, harassment, and threatening language, last year it received numerous complaints about online incitement. On January 18, Facebook launched an initiative to prevent anti-Muslim hate speech on its German platform. But, according to a lawsuit filed in New York state court and a highly-publicized “experiment,”Facebook has no problem with anti-Jewish incitement.

Last October 20, the German daily Bild printed a double-page newspaper spread documenting racist vitriol posted on Facebook against migrants. On November 10 – days before the Paris attacks – Hamburg prosecutors launched an investigation into Facebook for allegedly failing to remove racist postings. The investigation was reportedly motivated by concern over “how the country’s long-dormant far-right was using Facebook to mobilize” against the influx of refugees. In other words, it was motivated by concern over anti-Muslim and anti-Arab posts.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg vowed to create a "safe environment" for Muslim users.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg vowed to create a “safe environment” for Muslim users.

Perhaps stung by that criticism, mere days after two Muslims murdered fourteen people in San Bernardino, California, CEO Mark Zuckerberg vowed that Facebook would “create a peaceful and safe environment” for Muslim users.

On January 18, Facebook launched a Europe-wide campaign to “thwart extremist postings.” This was part of an agreement it reached with Germany. Steps Facebook has taken include hiring the German company Bertelsmann to monitor and delete racist posts to its German platform and funding non-governmental organizations devoted to countering online extremism.

There was another Facebook-related headline on January 18. NBC News reported that Shurat HaDin (an Israeli NGO modeled on the Southern Poverty Law Center) was crowdsourcing to raise funds for an ad campaign. Entitled “Zuckerberg don’t kill us,” the campaign is part of an effort to pressure Facebook not to continue tolerating posts inciting Palestinians to kill Jews. The recent wave of Palestinian attacks had killed 29 Israelis and injured 289 as of January 18.

According to Shurat HaDin, Facebook actively assists people inciting murderous attacks against Jews to find others who are interested in acting on the hateful messages by offering friend, group, and event suggestions and targeting advertising based on people’s online “likes” and internet browsing history. What is more, Facebook often refuses to take down the inciting pages, claiming that they do not violate its “community standards.” Last October, Shurat HaDin filed a lawsuitagainst Facebook in New York state court, seeking to enjoin Facebook from allowing the incitement to continue.

Shurat HaDin demonstrated Facebook’s bias by conducting an online experiment. On December 28, it set up two Facebook pages, one filled with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel postings, the other with anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian postings. The NGO then ratcheted up the incitement level with parallel posts to both pages, ultimately calling for death to Jews and Arabs.

Then, Shurat HaDin simultaneously reported both pages to Facebook. The same day, Facebook closed the anti-Palestinian page, stating that it violated Facebook’s community standards.

And the page inciting violence against Jews? Initially, Facebook refused to shut it down. Instead, it sent a message reporting that the page did not violate Facebook’s rules. Only after Shurat HaDin reported what it had done and media picked up the story did Facebook change its tune and closethe page, claiming the page did indeed violate Facebook standards, and that the earlier message to the contrary had been a “mistake.”

Now Israel is working to build an international coalition to pressure social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to take greater responsibility for content posted on them. Ideas under discussion include developing legislation to prosecute social media platforms for failing to keep calls for violence and hateful materials off their platforms. The idea has reportedly gained traction in some European countries.

Where is Facebook’s initiative to prevent anti-Jewish incitement on its Israel platform? Why is Facebook responding so differently to complaints about incitement against Muslims and Jews? Is it too protective of Muslims, or too callous toward Jews? And how many times will its hypocrisy have to be exposed before it begins applying its “community standards” evenhandedly?

Johanna Markind is associate counselor at the Middle East Forum

Kent State Professor Under Investigation for Link to ISIS

Julio Pino in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Julio Pino in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, Jan. 20, 2016:

Julio Pino, an associate history professor at the Ohio-based Kent State University is under investigation for possible links to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). Pino, who has a documented history of extremism, reportedly posted ISIS propaganda pictures on social media and may have been recruiting students for the terrorist group.

Shockingly, Pino is still teaching two classes this semester despite the investigation and his known extremism. Over 20 students have been interviewed and the investigation has been going on for about a year and a half. He has taught there since 1992 and converted to Islam in 2000.

In an interview after the news broke, Pino said he has not broken the law or encouraged anyone else to break the law. He said his freedom of speech should be respected and denied being under investigation or suspicion. When asked if he would say he’s a supporter of the Islamic State, he replied, “No, I would not say that.”

But his apparent Facebook page tells a different story.

A review of his Facebook page shows a history of troubling postings. His page says he studied “overthrowing the government” at UCLA, a description that could be brushed off as a joke if it weren’t for the reams of extremism he expressed.

Pino-Overthrow-Gov

In a May 2015 thread, he praised “Sheikh Osama” for “kicking off thisjihad” but said Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaeda’s Syrian wing, Jabhat al-Nusra should now join ISIS. He even portrayed ISIS as merciful towards its prisoners by offering them the chance to repent.

Pino-May--2015-Sheikh-Osama-Supports-ISIS

On at least two occasions in 2014, he posted ISIS propaganda photos. He sarcastically wrote underneath one, “Keep it a secret: That’s me on the left!”

Pino-2014-Joke-1

Pino-2014

He also posted propaganda photos of Hamas and young boys armed for jihad:

Pino-2013-Jihad-kids

Pino-2012-Hamas

On February 16, 2014, he commented underneath a picture of him in front of the U.S. Capitol building, “I come to bury D.C., not to praise it.”

Pino-Bury-DC

In a November 2013 thread, he recalled his time in the Arabian Peninsula and how “all I kept thinking about was Palestine and al-Shams and all the other jihad lands.” He said a Saudi in Mecca pushed him to leave, saying, “Go, get outta Mecca and just go, cause you look just like a jihadi and you just might be an AQ [Al-Qaeda] member, baby, go! You gotta go go go go go go!”

Pino-Kept-Thinking

Kent State and the media have known about Pino’s extremism since at least 2002 when he wrote a letter praising a female suicide bomber in Israel as a “shining star.” He also asked Allah to “protect the soldiers of Islam fighting in Palestine” and argued that such terrorists should be called “martyrdom bombers.”

This isn’t even the first time he’s come up in a federal investigation. In 2009, the Secret Service confirmed it interviewed him. Two years prior, the school confirmed that he had written for a pro-Al-Qaeda website named Global War.

The website had pictures of a 9/11 hijacker and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, former leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (the predecessor to ISIS). It described itself with the statement, “We are a jihadist news service, and provide battle dispatches, training manuals and jihad videos for our brothers worldwide. All we want is to get Allah’s pleasure. We will write ‘jihad’ across our foreheads and the stars.”

At another point, its homepage had the heading, “The worldwide web of jihad: Provocation, inspiration, and preparation for jihad. Manuals, videos, battle reports, building the Islamic resistance starts here!”

Pino-Jihadi-Website-1

Pino-Jihadi-Website-2A columnist published what he says is an email from Pino praising the 9/11 hijackers as “martyrs.” The school took no action. He continued teaching and the extremism continued.

In 2011, he was again noticed after he shouted “Death to Israel” at a former Israeli diplomat speaking on campus.

On August 2, 2014, the History News Network published a rage-filled letter condemning supporters of Israel in academia as being complicit in the deaths of innocents. It ended with, “Jihad until victory!” The school condemned it as “reprehensible” because “we value collegiality and mutual respect. Assailing the public with broad statements of culpability violates these principles.” The statement did not address his call to jihad.

On August 8, 2014, KentWired.com published a threatening letter to the editor addressed to “a child, burnt by fire, in Gaza” that lamented that he’s been accusing of supporting terrorism and promising to “avenge” the child’s death:

“Forgive me, sister, if words are all I have to offer you today. At home I am accused of stirring hatred, promoting terrorism and maliciously accusing those who seek to harm you. My anger is only for the Evil Minded, and my sole purpose is to enrage the Good Ones of these United States to assemble in order to save you. We are the majority on this planet, not the earth-scorchers. We will protect you. We will avenge you, and our revenge will be your smile on the first day of freedom for Palestine.”

Since 2002, Pino has been blatantly expressing support for terrorism while representing Kent State University as a professor. He was presented to class after class as a trusted academic authority they should learn from.

All along the way, Pino has shielded himself by saying it’s free speech and that he is merely “explaining why” terrorism happens.

Universities with extremist professors need to ask themselves two serious questions: Is all free speech exempt from disciplinary action, even if it includes incitement to terrorism? And, do your students deserve better?

Gaffney: Shariah-Compliant Twitter

Arabic-Twitter-Getty-640x480Breitbart, by Frank  Gaffney, Jan. 3, 2016:

Twitter seems to think 2016 is 1984. It has welcomed in the New Year with a change in the rules governing all of its accounts that is reminiscent of Orwellian thought-control. Or at least that practiced by another, non-fictional totalitarian system: the Islamic supremacist program known as shariah.

Shariah’s adherents demand that no offense be given to them, their religion, deity or prophet. Now, all other things being equal, they are close to ensuring that none will be forthcoming in 140 characters.

If successful, contemporary Islamists will have achieved a major step towards a goal they have been pursuing through other means for nearly two decades: the worldwide prohibition of “defamation of religions” – read, Islam. In particular, since 2005, their proto-Caliphate – the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – has been working through the United Nations on a ten-year plan to impose this restraint concerning freedom of expression on the rest of us.

In 2011, with the active support of the Obama administration, this gambit produced UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18. It basically gives the imprimatur of international law to Shariah’s demand that speech, books, videos and now Tweets that “defame” Muslims or their faith be prohibited.

In July of that year, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton implicated herself personally in this affront to our First Amendment guarantee of free expression. She launched with the OIC and the European Union the so-called “Istanbul Process,” a tripartite effort to accommodate the Islamic supremacists’ demands that Western nations conform to Resolution 16/18 by adopting domestic strictures against offense-giving to Muslims. 

On that occasion, Mrs. Clinton famously declared her willingness “to use some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming, so that people don’t feel that they have the support to do what we abhor.” The message could not have been more clear to jihadists around the world: The United States was submitting to shariah blasphemy norms.

According to shariah, the proper response is to redouble the effort to make the infidel “feel subdued.” That means, worse behavior from the Islamists, not better.

Now, it seems that one of the greatest enablers of the global jihad, Saudi billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal, is seeing his substantial stake in Twitter stock translate into another breakthrough for Islamic supremacy: The suppression of Tweets that, according to the company’s new rule, involve “hate speech or advocacy against an individual, organization or protected group based on race, ethnicity, national origin, color, religion, disability, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status or other protected status.”

To be sure Twitter is a private sector enterprise. It is, therefore, free to deny its services to those whose content it finds objectionable. At least, as long as it doesn’t try to deny service to approved “haters” like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). This organization has deviated wildly from its early history as an effective advocate for civil liberties. Today, its invective-laced advocacy against individuals or organization who are supposed to enjoy “protected status” under our Constitution, namely that of citizens free to express themselves, can only be described as hate speech. Yet, the SPLC is embraced and even cited by the Obama administration and others among the leftists and Islamists who make up the “Red-Green axis” now feverishly working to silence any who they, as Hillary Clinton put it, “abhor.” (For more on this unlikely alliance, see Jim Simpson’s The Red-Green Axis: Refugees, Immigration and the Agenda to Erase America.)

What is particularly concerning is that the new Twitter rule sounds a lot like what is coming out of the Obama administration these days. See, for example, the Justice Department’s “Guidance for Federal Law Enforcement Agencies Regarding the Use Of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, National Origin, Religion, Sexual Orientation, Or Gender Identity.”

Speaking of the Justice Department, Americans who are inclined not to worry about losing the ability to Tweet their concerns about jihadism, shariah and anything else that might offend Muslims should bear in mind that Attorney General Loretta Lynch has put us all on notice that considerably worse may be in store for our First Amendment rights. Last month she told a Muslim Brotherhood-tied organization, Muslim Advocates: “Now, obviously this is a country that is based on free speech, but when it edges towards violence, when we see the potential for someone…lifting that mantle of anti-Muslim rhetoric…When we see that, we will take action.”

With Hillary Clinton’s prominent role in promoting restriction of free expression, and what appears to be accelerating momentum in the direction of ensuring conformity with shariah blasphemy restrictions, this would seem to be a good time for Republican presidential candidates – and the rest of us – to be expressing our adamant objections. If Twitter gets away with keeping us from doing it in 140 characters, we better make sure we do it otherwise, while we still can.

THE CHALLENGE OF JIHADI COOL

An ISIS fighter in Kobani, Syria

An ISIS fighter in Kobani, Syria

The Atlantic, by Simon Cottee, Dec.24, 2015: (h/t Cherson and Molschsky)

If you want to get a sense of what attracts westernized Muslims to ISIS, you could do worse than listen to one of its sympathizers, as opposed to its legion of opponents, who are liable to pathologize the group’s appeal as an ideological contagion that infects the weak, instead of taking it seriously as a revolutionary movement that speaks to the young and the strong-minded.

Check out, as just one of many examples, the Twitter user “Bint Emergent”: an apparent ISIS fangirl and keen observer of the jihadist scene. (Bint Emergent has not disclosed her identity, or gender, but bint is an honorific Arabic word for girl or daughter; like umm—mother in Arabic—bint features prominently in theTwitter display names of female ISIS sympathizers.)

“Jihadis,” she explains on her blog BintChaos, “look cool—like ninjas or video game warriors—gangstah and thuggish even—the opposition doesnt.” She concedes that “There aren’t a lot of jihadist ‘poster-girls’ displayed—they all wear niqab [face veil], but sometimes its tastefully accessorized with an AK47 or a bomb belt.” By contrast, “Team CVE [a reference to Countering Violent Extremism, or Anglo-American counterterrorism entrepreneurs whose role, state- or self-appointed, is to challenge “extremist” narratives],” consists “mostly [of] middleaged white guys with a smidgin of scared straight ex-mujahids [ex-jihadists] and a couple middleaged women.”

“Jihadis have cool weapons. And cool nasheeds [a cappella hymns],” she continues. They also have “young fiery imams that fight on the battlefield,” whereas Team CVE “has ancient creaky dollar scholars…” Most importantly:

[S]alafi-jihadism made being pious cool. It became cool to quote aya [verse] and study Quran. And CVE has absolutely no defense against this. … I love jihadi cant—dem, bait, preeing, binty, akhi [brother]… its like Belter dialect in the Expanse. And it borrows from all languages—because jihad draws from all races and ethnicities. The voice of youth counterculture and revolution for an underclass. Like ghetto culture in the US—the inexorable evolution of cool.

Bint Emergent reveals little to nothing about who she is, and without that critical context it’s difficult to assess her credibility. A lot of what she says in her blog posts is arcane and rambling, and she insists at the top of her prolific Twitter feed that “im not necessarily proforma pro- #IS”—a statement seemingly contradicted by the sympathetic tone she often adopts towards the group.

And yet Bint Emergent’s words, and especially her reflections on ISIS’s countercultural appeal to young people, are worth considering. “The bottom line,” she asserts in one blog entry, “is that the Islamic State is the classic scifi underdog battling a seemingly all powerful Evil Empire America against impossible odds—and in the very best scifi tradition—they are winning.”“Besides,” she observes in another entry, “IS [Islamic State] has a bottomless youth recruitment pool for the next 35 years, and like IS says, the fighting has just begun. You Are Not Prepared.”
She is scathing about U.S. counterterrorism efforts against ISIS, and dismisses the State Department’s “Think Again Turn Away” campaign as “the most utterly clumsy and doomed propaganda effort since sexual abstinence campaigns.”

In a blog post titled “Embracing Apocalypse I: the Islamic State and the Prophetic Methodology,” she expresses particular admiration for a black-and-white photo of an ISIS fighter on the streets of Kobani, Syria. He is nonchalantly holding a machine gun, with an arm raised triumphantly in the air. Behind him is a scene of utter devastation, in which orange flames—the only color in the photo—and thick smoke cascade from a truck and building. The fighter depicted is reportedly Abu Ahmad al-Tunisi. “This iconic photo,” she writes, “distills the whole conflict into one image for me. To glory in apocalypse, to embrace it…” It also distills a possible contradiction or discrepancy: Abu Ahmad al-Tunisi is wearing, in addition to a thick, righteous beard, what appear to be a pair of Nike trainers. Nike is a large American corporation, and the distinctive Nike swoosh is a symbol of American urban cool—or, at least, it used to be. Apocalypse, Bint Emergent goes on to say, unconvincingly, is “a wholly alien concept for the west.” But the idea of the righteous, brand-wearing badass certainly isn’t.

In a chapter on “Warrior Values” in John Archer’s edited collectionMale Violence, the psychologist Barry McCarthy cites the Japanese samurai as the most obvious exemplar of this idea: He is “unflinching in the face of danger, strong and energetic, cunning in tactics though honorable, proficient with his weapons as well as in the arts of unarmed combat, self-controlled, self-confident and sexually virile.”

 The cross-cultural appeal of this figure is hard to deny, as Richard E. Nisbett and Dov Cohen make clear in their study Culture of Honor: “The world over, men are sent out to sacrifice and to die, not for such purely instrumental purposes as deterrence; rather they are motivated by what they and the community expect good, honorable men to do.” “There is,” indeed, Nisbett and Cohen remark, “a romance and an allure to the Masai warrior, the Druze tribesman, the Sioux Indian, the Scottish chieftain…”
For those who are bewitched by it, there is also a romance and an allure to the jihadist warrior. In a recent article, “The Soft Power of Militant Jihad,” the terrorism expert Thomas Hegghammer touches on this and the wider “jihadi culture” of fashion, music, poetry, anddream interpretation. “Jihadis,” he writes, “can’t seem to get enough anashid [nasheeds]. They listen to them in their dorms and in their cars, sing them in training camps and in the trenches, and discuss them on Twitter and Facebook.” “Jihadi culture,” he elaborates, “also comes with its own sartorial styles. In Europe, radicals sometimes wear a combination of sneakers, a Middle Eastern or Pakistani gown and a combat jacket on top. It’s a style that perhaps reflects their urban roots, Muslim identity and militant sympathies.” Hegghammer concludes that, “As the West comes to terms with a new and growing threat … we are not only confronting organizations and doctrines, but also a highly seductive subculture.”The genius of ISIS propaganda is how skillfully it imbues the idea of jihad not only with traditional notions of honor and virility, but also a strong undercurrent of oppositional, postmodern cool.

CVE practitioners can’t possibly hope to challenge the glamor, energy, and sheer badassery of violent jihad as an ideal, still less the wider emotional resonance of the warrior ethos on which it draws. But they can reasonably hope to subvert ISIS’s claim to embody that ideal. What isn’t yet clear is at precisely whom CVE programs should be targeted, how their counter-messaging should be framed and delivered, and, crucially, by whom. Vague references to those “at risk of” or “vulnerable to” radicalization, and to “credible voices” who can offer alternatives, do little to help in this regard. Challenging ISIS’s bona fides as the true inheritor of jihad is also fraught with peril, in that it may play into the hands of other jihadist groups who profess that mantle. The bigger challenge—as Alberto Fernandez, the former coordinator of the U.S. State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, noted when I interviewed him earlier this year—is how to create a counter-narrative that is not merely negative but boldly affirmative, offering a vision that is just as exhilarating and seductive as that of jihadists. “The positive narrative,” he said, “is always more powerful, especially if it involves dressing in black like a ninja, having a cool flag, being on television, and fighting for your people.”

The problem for CVE is that in an ironic age in which few “grand narratives” remain, no one—except perhaps for the jihadists and their supporters—really knows what that narrative is anymore.

SIMON COTTEE is a contributing writer for The Atlantic and a senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Kent. He is the author of The Apostates: When Muslims Leave Islam.

Groundbreaking Report Tracks ISIS Support in America

ISIS-in-America-640-320Clarion Project, Dec. 2, 2015:

There are 300 Islamic State sympathizers based in the United States who are active on social media, according to a new report by the Program on Extremism, at George Washington University.

The groundbreaking report, by Lorenzo Vidino and Seamus Hughes, identifies 250 Americans who have attempted to join the Islamic State and 900 open FBI investigations relating to ISIS.

It analyzes the Islamic State’s presence in the United States, monitoring both online and offline activity and details case studies of individuals who have joined the Islamic State.

It’s broken down into two parts. The first exhaustively pulls together available information on all U.S. citizens who have been arrested for Islamic-State-related activity. The second examines motivations, including the role of social media.

“While jihadist causes have lured American recruits for several decades, the surge spurred by the rise of ISIS and its sophisticated marketing of its counter-culture to impressionable Americans is unprecedented” the report concludes.

“The data and vignettes provided in this report illuminate the complexity of the threat and caution against simple solutions. In their response to this challenge, American political and civic leaders will need to be bold, experimental, and receptive to novel policies and initiatives in order to defeat ISIS and protect some of our fellow citizens from falling into its clutches.”

Read the full report: ISIS in America – From Retweets to Raqqa

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ISIS Releases “Greatest” Piece Of Terrorist Video Propaganda In History, Tells US, Russia To “Bring It On”

ISIS15_0Zero Hedge, by Tyler Durden, Nov. 25, 2015:

By now, it’s probably safe to say that pretty much anyone who follows current events has seen at least one ISIS propaganda video. What began with clips of “Jihadi John” beheading Western journalists quickly escalated to footage of obscenely graphic executions.

The world recoiled in horror when the group’s Al Hayat Media Center released a slick, high-def production depicting a Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a cage earlier this year and from that point on, the group essentially tried to one-up themselves with each new video murder montage. Notable highlights include: putting a handful of “confessed spies” in a cage and drowning them, cramming four people into a maroon Toyota Corolla and blowing it up with an RPG, dousing three people with gasoline before hanging them upside down from a swing set and lighting them on fire, enlisting the help of some 30 pre-teenage jihadists to execute several dozen enemy soldiers in an amphitheatre in Palmyra, lining up eight people atop landmines on a fog-covered mountain side and making them watch as their executioners come riding in on horses out of the woods to light the fuse, and who can forget running over an SAA soldier with a tank.

Less violent clips have recently included a series of videos celebrating the massacre in Paris, two of which contained threats against targets in the US including the White House (which ISIS will “turn black”) and Times Square.

Of course the peculiar (and very surreal) thing about the videos is the production quality. Islamic State’s Hollywood specials are always filmed in crisp 1080p and more often than not, feature multiple camera angles, slick graphics, slow motion replays, and even artificial wind to give the whole thing a more dramatic feel.

Well, just when we thought we’d seen the best Al Hayat had to offer, ISIS released a video on Tuesday that very well might qualify as the most spectacularly absurd piece of terrorist propaganda ever created.

Over the course of four minutes and fourteen seconds, ISIS literally threatens every country on the face of the earth, shows pictures of its fighters grinning and horsing around like something out of a Gap ad, calls Bill Clinton a “fornicator”, runs down the statistics on verteran suicide rates in America, brands Russia and France a “coalition of devils”, says the US is too weak to put boots on the ground, speaks out against racism, and tells the US, Russia, France, and “all of you” to “bring it on.”

We present it below with no further comment other than to say, once again, that this seems quite sophisticated for a group whose headquarters is supposedly located in a bombed out city in eastern Syria.

 

Still shots (in case the hosting goes down in the internet’s neverending game of ISIS video “whack-a-mole” (view here)

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ISIS coming for the Kremlin, new video warns

isisvidpic1Fox News, by Malia Zimmerman, November 12, 2015:

The latest video from ISIS combines the terrorist group’s trademark barbarity with an ambitious pledge: a vow that it is coming after the Kremlin.

“We will take through battle the lands of yours we wish,” a voice says in Russian, as English subtitles float over scenes of slaughter and a map of the world. “Hellfire awaits you. Europe is shaking, Russia is dying.”

Vowing that the “Kremlin will be ours” and promising attacks on Europe, the 5-minute video’s producers pledge to “make blood spill like an ocean.”

“Hellfire awaits you. Europe is shaking, Russia is dying.”

– Threat in new ISIS video

Terrorism and intelligence experts said the video is a clear shot across the bow of Russia, and follows the suspected ISIS bombing of a Russian airliner on Oct. 31which killed more than 200.

“The video is a clear threat to Russia, and to a certain extent to other Western countries,” said Veryan Khan, editorial director for the U.S.-based Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium. “The Islamic State claims they will reach the Kremlin and bring it down.”

The video is noteworthy, analysts say, because it was released just after an Islamic State affiliate took credit for the Russian airliner plane crash in the Sinai Peninsula, and in the same week there was a reported attack on the Russian Embassy in Serbia.

“Many threats are being issued against Russia because of their intervention in Syria since September, and this video is clearly just one more threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Khan said.

ISIS has called for attacks against Russia since it began airstrikes in Syria Sept. 30 in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

Khan believes the video should be carefully analyzed to reveal clues about the group’s intention for future attacks and expansion plans. The Islamic State shows a map of their planned takeover, while pledging: “We will take through battle the lands of yours we wish. So much of your lands… We will make your wives concubines and make your children our slaves.”

The Islamic State also promises to kill every person and destroy every religious artifact that does not belong to their ideology and maintains only the “fool or the blind” will ignore this “undeniable truth.”

Ryan Mauro, national security analyst and adjunct professor of homeland security for the Clarion Project, agreed that the propaganda video was put together as a response to Russian intervention in Syria. Russia should expect the terror group to follow through, he said.

“ISIS is making it very clear that it will attack Russia, specifically Moscow, and a failure to do so will be a big blow to their prestige,” Mauro said. “We should assume they’ll succeed because bombing a Russian airliner over Egypt is more difficult than attacking a random target inside Russia because ISIS only needs a small group of supporters among the 15 percent of the Russian population that is Muslim.”

This also is a threat to the U.S. because one of the lines spoken by the narrator specifically pledges to attack “the cross,” referring to Christians and the West, Mauro said.

“The pledge to ‘make your wives concubines and make your children our slaves’ is referring to Americans, too,” Mauro said. “It’s a sentence that should remind us of the price that the Islamic State intends to make women and even children pay.”

Besides closeups of hostage beheadings, mass firing lines, and other grisly savage acts, the video shows the Islamic State’s destruction of historical Christian monuments and relics and features its armed forces using heavy weaponry it has acquired.

The first images document the shocking decapitation of 21 Coptic Christians by black-hooded jihadists who force their prisoners to kneel on the beach in the now infamous orange prisoner jumpsuits just before they are killed. The video also shows the Jordanian pilot who was burned alive in a cage in February 2015 as well as several images of corpses, severed heads, fatal wounds and blood spilling around their victims.

To send a message they are organized, Islamic State fighters are shown undergoing training in khaki uniforms, holding standardized weapons and marching in aligned ranks.

“By showing that they have state-like powers, that their fighters are a real army and not mere disorganized combatants, and that they operate as such, the Islamic State is attempting to impress and instill fear in the populations it targets as its enemies,” Khan said. “They are showing that they are a force to be reckoned with.”

This video is another example of how ISIS has successfully repackaged its outdated ideology with 21st century technology, Mauro said, and is using technology to recruit.

“ISIS is bridging the gap between modernity and its outdated theocratic vision, making its ideology easier for young recruits to accept and embrace,” Mauro said. “It’s hard to imagine Usama Bin Laden making a music video like this and that’s another reason that the Islamic State is shaping the future of jihad, not Al Qaeda.”

Russian, American and coalition forces have been battling the Islamic State, and the blood-thirsty terrorists have been losing ground in Syria, Sinjar, AlHawl and Aleppo, said Jasmine Opperman, an analyst for the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium’s headquarters in Africa.

“This video is part of a propaganda campaign diverting attention from their losses,” said Opperman, predicting, “ISIS will become more aggressive in their presence and activities in Wilayahs such as Afghanistan, Libya and Nigeria, culminating in more attacks, more than likely suicide bombings on public places.”

ISIS in the Caribbean: Islamic State in alarming call to arms to jihadis on paradise isle

ISLAMIC STATE’S feared terror network has infiltrated idyllic holiday destinations in the Caribbean popular with Britons, in the latest worrying sign that the jihadi group’s self-styled Caliphate is expanding.

EXPRESS, By TOM BATCHELOR, Nov. 10, 2015:

Abu Zayd al-Muhajir and his three sons

Abu Zayd al-Muhajir and his three sons

Propaganda footage to emerge from the barbaric organisation shows a man sitting beside his three children issuing a call for Muslims on the idyllic islands of Trinidad and Tobago to rise up.

In the video, a man, identified as Abu Zayd al-Muhajir, claimed he had fled his homeland because Muslims in Trinidad and Tobago were restricted in what they could do.

He said people were free to wear the hijab or other Islamic clothing but that in reality Muslims were only allowed to practice what they were told.

He said: “The only practice that you can practice is what they tell you is halal [permissible] to practice.

“The other aspects of Islam are haram [forbidden] for you.

“You cannot practice your deen [Islamic way of life] 100 per cent.

“It was yearning for me that I knew I had to leave, I had to leave this land.

“I cannot sit and watch my children grow up in this land in which they cannot practice their Islam 100 per cent.”

The three boys at an ISIS-run schools

The three boys at an ISIS-run schools

Muhajir said his three young sons were now studying Maths, English and Islam at an ISIS-run school.

The video, entitled, “Those who Believe and Made the Hijra,” was posted on social media.

Militants filmed in the video at a shooting range

Militants filmed in the video at a shooting range

Abu Khalid converted from Christianity to Islam

Abu Khalid converted from Christianity to Islam

Another fighter interviewed in the 11 minute film, Abu Khalid, said he had converted to Islam because of “the way the Muslims care about themselves, how they care about themselves, their family structure”.

He said he felt that he did not belong in Trinidad and that after reading sections of the Koran, he “started to understand that fighting is something that has been prescribed upon Muslims”

Abu Mansour al-Muhajir, another fighter from the twin island Caribbean country, said he had travelled to Syria to fight allies of the devil.

He said: “Allah is inciting us to fight the friends of Satan for they are weak.

“This is a time when the Prophet, Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, mentioned that there will come a time when all the nations of the world will gather around to wipe you out?

“Who? The Muslim. As we speak today, over 60 nations of this world sign on to wipe out us, but Allah, Glorified and Exalted be He, is with us.

“I hope and pray that Allah, Glorified and Exalted be He, will guide us and protect us and bring us to this land so that we will make jihad for this cause and to gain the reward of Allah, Glorified and Exalted be He.”

Reports of Trinidadians making the trip to Syria to fight for ISIS first emerged last year when the island republic’s former national security minister, Gary Griffith, claimed around 30 citizens were now terrorist fighters.

The United Nations has also warned the country is being used as a recruiting ground for the terror group.

It is not the first threat to the relatively peaceful Caribbean states from Islamic extremism.

Cyber hackers linked to the Islamist group twice attacked the government computers of Jamaica and St. Vincent and Grenadines over the summer.

A top American general also warned earlier this year that 100 militants have already left Caribbean countries to fight with ISIS in Syria.

Marine Gen. John F Kelly, chief of the US Southern Command, said extremists could potentially get across the US border when they return home.

He added that small nations such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname were concerned about fighters returning because they didn’t have the resources to deal with the threat.

Radicalization: Social Media And The Rise of Terrorism

online-radicalizationMEMRI, by Alberto M. Fernandez, Oct. 28, 2015:

On October 28, 2015, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee subcommittee on National Security held a hearing titled “Radicalization: Social Media and the Rise of Terrorism.” The background given by the subcommittee for the hearing, which it said aimed to “address the scope of radicalization, and assess what steps can be taken in order to mitigate the rise of terror via social media,” read: “In recent years, terrorist organizations have attempted to control their image, attract new recruits, and inspire ‘lone wolf’ attacks through the use of social media, including disseminating images of graphic violence. Terrorists’ use of social media is resonating with vulnerable populations. Media platforms like Twitter are used to spread their message and enable supporters to find one another. Recent estimates indicate that 30,000 foreign fighters, including at least 250 Americans, have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria or Iraq to fight with extremist groups, including ISIS. Federal and state governments, as well as communities have begun to take action to mitigate the threat of terrorist propaganda on social media. However, they have experienced multiple challenges in combating such a wide and pervasive threat.”

The following is the written testimony given by MEMRI Vice President Alberto M. Fernandez at the hearing:

“Written Testimony By The Honorable Alberto M. Fernandez

“It is an honor to have been asked to address this Committee. For most of my 32 year career as a Public Diplomacy Officer in the U.S. Foreign Service, serving mostly in the Middle East and the Muslim world, the great and continuing challenges presented by the juxtaposition of the power of media, radicalization, and political violence have been most salient in much of my work.

“As Vice President of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), I am fortunate to have joined an independent institution which has for almost 20 years been in the forefront of documenting and analyzing political, social and intellectual currents in the Middle East, including the rise of terrorist groups like ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hizbullah and their use of media, and especially social media, for propaganda purposes. MEMRI continues to meticulously document the latest twists and turns of the extremist narrative, bridging the language gap for Western audiences with translated primary material in Arabic, Turkish, Farsi and other languages.

“Radicalization and terrorism is nothing new in the world. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, influential individuals such as the anarchist leader Mikhail Bakunin popularized the concept of the ‘propaganda of the deed,’ that the best way to demonstrate the importance and power of a political idea was to show it by concrete action, preferably by violent action. ‘We must spread our principles, not with words but with deeds, for this is the most popular, the most potent, and the most irresistible form of propaganda,’ Bakunin wrote in 1870.

“As scholarly studies such as the 2013 Rand Europe report on radicalization in the West have shown, social media alone is not the creator or reason for radicalization but merely a very powerful and effective accelerant. Social media takes concepts and actions already present in the real world and rapidly disseminates it to a willing and receptive audience. It is a powerful idea which seemingly has real effect in the actual world and which can then be dynamite in the virtual world.

“It is the narrative that gives power. This has certainly been the case throughout history when people have been motivated by great causes, many of them political or religious, some of them truly evil, to give all they had in the fulfillment of goals that to us clearly seem odious. When we think of something like Leni Reifenstahl’s repulsive yet compelling 1935 documentary ‘The Triumph of the Will, ‘ we are conscious of the technical quality, of the power of images, AND of an ideological worldview that for millions of Germans at a particular time and place seemed particularly potent and seductive. Reifenstahl’s skill added to the power of the message but it was the message itself that was the wellspring of that evil. So it is with social media today, which makes certain messages in certain spaces appealing to specific audiences easy to see and seemingly difficult to remove.

“While the narrative of some terrorist groups are tied to a specific political narrative such as Hamas or Hizbullah, both albeit with a strong Islamist component, there are few narratives as ambitious and as aggressive as that of the Islamic State. This is a complete package which includes a strong ideological component deeply rooted in a specific Salafi Jihadist reading of the period of formative Islam, a political project which is seemingly a going concern, and a 21st century appeal to substantive and consequential participation aimed at youth searching for purpose and identity in a seemingly aimless, empty and hedonistic world.

“Indeed, one can marvel at the fact that so few have been motivated to join up with the mesmerizing siren call of this revolutionary vanguard offering purpose, violence, sex, the end of the world, and fulfillment in the path of God rather than so many. Despite the relatively small numerical appeal of ISIS within the context of the number of Muslims worldwide, its impact has been tremendous when coupled with that toxic accelerant which is social media.

“So we have a message that is difficult for governments, both in the East and the West, to counter directly. And you have an on the ground political reality, in Libya, in Nigeria, and especially in the ISIS heartland in Eastern Syria and Western Iraq, that gives the propaganda the necessary mooring it needs in the real world. What are the logical steps to be taken in confronting this uniquely potent propaganda challenge?

“Obviously, changing the political reality on the ground is one sure way of rapidly reducing the impact of the propaganda. The shiny, soaring, scary object that was ‘Triumph of the Will’ had tremendous appeal in its heyday of the mid-30s; it had less so in the rubble of German cities in 1944-45. The gap between the propaganda and the reality was too wide to be breached by celluloid. An ISIS Caliphate who predicates that it will conquer Constantinople, Rome and America ‘by the permission of God,’ is unmasked if it cannot hold Tel Abyad or Raqqa or Mosul.

“But given the difficult political-military reality and the difficulty in identifying on the ground alternatives to the Islamic State, what are practical steps which can be taken now to mitigate the appeal of the Islamic State and to at least try to put a blanket on that accelerant which is social media?

“On a strategic level, governments must identify ways to combat the basic pillars of Jihadist Salafism which is the breeding ground from where this ISIS pathology emerges. It is important to point out that this worldview does not emerge fully formed, Athena-like, out of nothing but has been promoted by countries like Saudi Arabia – whether officially or unofficially – for decades. Salafism, not all of which is pernicious, has for decades had the cash, the patronage, the protection and the push that other trends and worldviews within Islam have lacked.

“But much of the activity in this Salafi sphere does frankly promote a worldview which is very conducive to radicalization, material that is extremely intolerant, antisemitic, anti-Christian, and anti-all sorts of Muslims such as Shias or Sufis or others found insufficiently ‘Islamic’ by this worldview. Once the strategic decision is taken that a key part of the problem is Jihadist Salafism, this can be tackled in a variety of ways.  Some of the best ways to counter this may be through quiet and frank conversation by our diplomats behind the scenes with local interlocutors but this is still something than needs to be prioritized and done.

“On the tactical level, there are a series of practical steps that need to be taken to begin to reverse the head start the extremists have built up over the past few years. We need to recognize that while social media propaganda is not super-expensive, we in the West have treated it with far less urgency and importance than have our adversaries. ISIS is prolific, working 24/7, tailoring its approach to the individual and nationality it is seeking to influence. The budget over a three year period of the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC), for example, which I headed for three years, equaled cumulatively the cost of just one Reaper drone. It accomplished some good things with small amounts of money but was always outnumbered and outgunned in the very specific space we are talking about. We need to fund a media counteroffensive appropriately. We don’t need to break the bank to fight this adversary in social media but we do need to spend somewhat more than we have and spend more wisely.

“In the highly charged narrow space we are talking about, the good guys are heavily outnumbered. ISIS and its supporters are trolling and messaging 24/7 in large numbers. You need a network to fight a network. The way to address this is to both increase the number of anti-ISIS messengers and to make it more difficult for extremists to communicate freely, while recognizing that you will never be able to remove everyone and that the extremists’ message needs to be actually confronted. An August 2015 MEMRI report minutely documented how an ISIS hashtag campaign was ‘hijacked’ by anti-ISIS twitter trolls. The hashtag #WeAllGive BayahToKhalifah was massively interrupted with over 50% anti-ISIS material including all sorts of mockery and even a lot of explicit sexual content within 24 hours. This hijacking limited the reach of the ISIS media campaign, caused ISIS supporters to abandon the hashtag and is something that was not happening a year ago at the height of the ISIS media offensive after the declaration of the Caliphate.

“Secondly, you need content. ISIS messaging is MOSTLY about a Utopian, grievance-laden version of Jihadist Salafism, but it is presented in a wide range of tailored ways, many of these approaches are not particularly violence filled. There has been some incremental progress in this field but not enough. A sarcastic approach on Twitter such as ISIS Karaoke is an interesting small-scale effort but this is not enough. Another recent effort comes from Japan where #ISISchan uses the imagery and language of anime to push the revolutionary concept that ‘knives are for cutting melons,’ not heads. There are a number of reformers, liberals and secularists throughout the Muslim world who have been fighting the good fight against extremists, on their own for years even before the rise of ISIS. Maximizing the stories and visuals of the steady stream of individuals disillusioned with the Islamic State is another resource that counterterrorism communicators are aware of but that is still being used too little. There also needs to be some sort of organized ‘off-ramp’ in Western countries where returnees or convicted, repentant supporters can look directly into a camera, like ISIS supporters often do, and relate in their own words how they were wrong.

“Much work can also be done in highlighting the voices and stories of Sunni Arab Muslim victims of ISIS violence. The stories of the massacres of the Syrian Shaitat tribe or of the hundreds of Iraqi Anbar province Sunni tribesmen or clerics are yet to be told in the words of those who knew them. There are people today in Syrian refugee camps, on the road to Europe as refugees, or being held as prisoners by friendly governments that can make a more compelling case than we can directly on why joining ISIS is a really bad idea and underscore a basic criticism of ISIS that actually has power, which is that most of its victims are the very Sunni Muslim population it claims to represent. It is also pertinent to mention the heroic work of citizen journalist collectives such as Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently and Mosul Eye, reporting bravely from deep inside ISIS-controlled territory.

“Deepening understanding among at risk populations about the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen in the West is still another needed element. It has been a while since I was in school but we generally seemed to do a good job in the United States in inculcating civic values about what it means to be an American to our children. That is not the case elsewhere. I recently spoke to a Northern European citizen who lamented that his country did a poor job in promoting love of country among its immigrant population. The symbols and stories of the nation-state had, because of a fear of extreme nationalism which has existed in Europe in the past, been surrendered and instead of promoting loyalty, pride and inclusion all too often governments promoted nothing, allowing a vacuum to exist which will be filled by others. As Bob Dylan once said, ‘you’ve got to serve somebody,’ and if you can’t serve and be proud of the country you are in, you may go and try to find that with someone else.

“More can also be done to digitally empower leaders and opinion-makers in at-risk communities (both domestically and overseas) to be able to fund and support their own private, individualized approaches to counterterrorism messaging. This will not all look the same or necessarily say the things we would say, but that is alright as long as there is activity constant over time against those who would radicalize the innocent and lead them to violent extremism. An individualized, handmade approach to counter-radicalization can have power by the very nature of its authenticity and independent nature. The very fact that such an approach doesn’t sound or look like what the State Department spokesman would say gives it more, rather than less, credibility.

“Radicalization through social media is often not the mass consumption of snuff videos but rather the direction, intimate interaction between individuals who form a bond through cyberspace. There is a role for vetted members of civil society in helping out in a very powerful, unique and individualized way to intervene against these extremist interactions.

“Finally, we need to recognize that just like extremists have flourished in the ungoverned corners of the world on the ground – Waziristan, Somalia, Northern Mali, parts of Yemen, the chaos of Syria and Iraq – they have also taken advantage of the mostly ungoverned space existing in social media, in space provided by mostly American social media companies. Not all companies are the same and there has been real progress made, for example, by Facebook in protecting its space from ISIS supporters. Others have done less well, with YouTube and especially Twitter being far too open to the incitement and provocation of explicitly labelled propaganda by Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) which should have no place in social media. Both those companies are trying to do better, but they should do more to police the space they control and ensure protection from misuse by FTOs and supporters in what often is abuse of the terms of service of the companies themselves.

” And there are still other online hosts, such as the San Francisco-based Internet Archive founded by Brewster Kahle in 1996, which is frequently used by Jihadists as a safe harbor for their material. Surely there has to be a better way to safeguard freedom of expression, preserve online archives, and protect the public from terrorist propaganda. A bright light needs to be shined on the work of companies so that there should at the very least be an informed and rational discussion of the challenges that democratic open societies face in dealing with the propaganda of violent radicals.

“The political pathologies of the Middle East have very deep roots going back centuries which can be addressed and mitigated by Western governments but in the end cannot be solved by them. While the heavy military and political lifting can best be done by governments in the region, many of whom have a longstanding and productive relationship with the United States, there are a series of commonsense, relatively low cost steps that the U.S. government alone, and in partnership with friendly governments, with civil society, and with social media companies can, and should, take to, at the very least, make the work of these terrorists seeking to radicalize the unwary more difficult. As impressive as ISIS propaganda is, the impact has all too often been not because it was so great but because there were little or no countermeasures taken by its opponents.”

***

Here is the video of the entire hearing:

 WITNESSES AND TESTIMONIES

Ahead of 9/11, Al Qaeda Trains for ‘Lone Wolf’ Attacks

A suspected Yemeni al-Qaeda militant, center, holds a banner as he stands behind bars during a court hearing in state security court / AP

A suspected Yemeni al-Qaeda militant, center, holds a banner as he stands behind bars during a court hearing in state security court / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, Sep. 10, 2015:

Al Qaeda is disseminating training manuals urging “lone wolf” attacks on America ahead of the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to a copy of the terrorist group’s latest publication.

Al Qaeda on Wednesday published a list of targets and methods for individual terrorist attacks on the United States in the latest edition of its English language publication,Inspire, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which released a copy of the terrorist manual.

Just days before the annual commemoration of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the group’s media arm, published a manifesto entitled “Assassination Operations,” according to the materials.

The contents of the publication are dated Sept. 15, and an editor’s note in the magazine urges lone Islamic extremists, or those not formally affiliated with a specific terrorist group, to take up arms against America and carry out a so-called “lone wolf” attack.

“Editor Yahya Ibrahim, after praising the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack [in France], notes that ‘in the coming days we are waiting for the anniversary of … the blessed 9/11 operation,’ and states that ‘We at Inspire, and in the cause of the events of 9/11, encourage the Muslims in the West to join the Lone Jihad caravan,’” according to MEMRI’s report on Al Qaeda’s latest call for violence.

The manual lays out “for the Lone Mujahid ways and methods to enable him to give victory to the religion and the prophet.”

Included is a step-by-step guide to carry out a terrorist operation without being detected by U.S. authorities.

This section, titled “Open Source Jihad,” explains “assassination operations,” as well as how to make “a timed hand grenade” and various “field tactics” to successfully complete a terror attack.

Screen-Shot-2015-09-09-at-5.01.25-PMOther portions of the guide detail how to specify “a target,” how to collect information for reconnaissance purposes, how to generate a plan of attack, how to prepare for an upcoming terrorist operation, and how to successfully execute the operation.

The guide also points out weak spots in the U.S. security regime, particularly among the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which is responsible for guarding the nation’s airports.

“This issue includes graphics with text mocking Department of Homeland Security and TSA efforts and advising readers on how to circumvent them,” according to MEMRI. “One features a photo of a water bottle at airport security with the text: ‘Did you know that a TSA security officer is more likely to confiscate a water bottle than a bomb?’”

Screen-Shot-2015-09-09-at-4.49.21-PMAl Qaeda has begun to encourage lone wolf attacks as its global terror network is dismantled by international efforts. Extremists who are not affiliated with a formal terrorist network have become indoctrinated via social media networks and other online outlets.

The latest issue of Inspire was disseminated by al Qaeda-affiliated groups via Twitter, where it is easier to avoid detection by intelligence agencies.

Also see:

The Islamic State’s Propaganda War: Advertisers and Marketers Weigh in on the World’s Angriest Ad Campaign

Screengrab via freethepresscanada.or

Screengrab via freethepresscanada.or

Vice News, by Landon Shroder, July 14, 2015:

Healing the Chests of the Believing People is a July 4th summer blockbuster offering by the Islamic State (IS). The 10 minute video chronicles the fate of 25 Syrian soldiers as they are led from Tadmur Prison to the ancient Palmyra Amphitheater where, in front of the black flag of IS, they are executed by what appears to be a group of teen-age soldiers.

IS knows that this video, along with other recent death cult recruiting video classics like:Punish Them Severely to Disperse Those Who Are Behind Them, A Message Signed with Blood To the Nation of the Cross, and Healing the Souls with the Slaughtering of the Spy (Part 2, no less) will inspire people to join their cause of revolutionary social change (of the bloody jihad variety) — just like thousands of other Westerners already have.

Videos like these represent just one piece of IS’s global marketing campaign, which also consists of monthly magazines, documentaries, and nasheeds http://messages, as well as online forums, blogs, postings on the ever-ubiquitous social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and even their own short-lived Arab-language app, The Dawn of Glad Tidings, that, once downloaded, automatically posted tweets by IS to a user’s personal Twitter account.

Welcome to the propaganda war with IS — a war that is central to their defeat, and a war that the US isn’t winning.

But how does IS sell their message? How does it get people from comfortable backgrounds in the US and Europe to give up everything and join a movement so infused with violence and brutality?

The answer ultimately resides with the kinds of marketing strategies used by advertising agencies all over the world. In the most basic terms, IS is selling an idea the very same way a company would sell a product.

According to the last National Counterterrorism Center estimate released in February, almost 3,400 Westerners have traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside IS. While some of these people would have found their way to the fight no matter what, it would be incorrect to assume that most have joined IS simply to satiate some kind of religious blood lust.

“Today people buy based on social conversation,” Brett Landry, creative director for DarkHorse Marketing, told VICE News. “Brands find success by placing themselves within the social conversation in meaningful or fun or shocking ways.”

Nowhere has this strategy been more successfully executed than in the horrifying media campaign run by IS’s publicity wing, al-Hayat Media Center.

The videos and images of beheadings, burnings, crucifixions, and mass executions have simultaneously revolted and enticed viewers, becoming a core component of their marketing strategy. Those who are attracted to these kinds of graphic media are initially drawn in by the production value, which is extraordinarily high compared to Al-Qaeda and other jihadist-produced propaganda of the past.

In contrast to al Qaeda’s videos, which were shot on shaky handheld cameras, IS uses sound design, special effects, rehearsed sequences, and multiple-angle scenes, as well as high-tech 5D cameras and professional editing teams.

The sensational videos take the viewer directly inside the war being waged by IS, much in the same way a video game or action movie would. This has allowed IS to situate themselves at the center of a worldwide conversation on religion, politics, and war, in a way that is entirely unencumbered by traditional communication strategies — particularly those that would rely exclusively on mainstream media to spread their message.

“The burnings, beheadings, and torture are really hard to look at, but we’re not the [target] audience,” Jason Smith, creative director for Magnetry, an advertising agency in Phoenix, told VICE News. “The brutality works in their favor because it proves their effectiveness. The darker the images, the more obvious the void or lack of someone preventing them.”

Marketing these atrocities has a two-fold propaganda value: IS is not only defining exactly who they are, but who they are not, as well, which resonates with a select group of people who equate extreme violence with power. More importantly, the brutality automatically narrows down the viewing audience, allowing the message to specifically target those who might be susceptible to radicalization.

Additionally, IS propaganda is produced in a way that allows it to be packaged for broadcast media and online video forums like YouTube, LiveLeak, and Vimeo. This ensures that at least some of the content will be replayed on mainstream news outlets, regardless of the subject matter.

Because of this, IS has developed a very effective and low-cost type of advertising campaign reliant on something called “earned media.” Earned media is about generating buzz — getting other people to talk about and push your agenda and story. This kind of marketing strategy fundamentally relies on the viral tendencies surrounding online “word of mouth” and comes in the form of mentions, shares, reposts, views, and third-party broadcasts, and acts as a force multiplier for any IS media project.

“The sole focus of an earned media campaign is to reach the maximum amount of viewers with the minimum amount of effort,” Landry told VICE News. “The US and world media are feeding on the content, and that’s huge earned media for ISIS…The more it’s talked about, the more free advertising they get.”

Using social media sites like Twitter contributes to the earned media campaign of IS by providing platforms to spread videos, documentaries, audio messages, and other propaganda products, and allowing users to interact and engage with those products instantly and continuously.

While there are no exact numbers available with regard to internet penetration by IS, according to the ISIS Twitter Census, released by the Brookings Institution in March 2015, at any one time, there are between 46,000 and 90,000 active IS Twitter accounts, each having an average of 1,004 followers who produce approximately 2,219 tweets during the account’s lifetime.

These accounts not only further disseminate IS propaganda, but allows recruiters to connect with potential volunteers in near real time, which has helped the IS brand reach a diverse global audience.

“There are units of specialized recruiters operating around the clock from internet cafes in Iraq and Syria, interacting on an individual level with prospective recruits,” Henry Tuck, program coordinator for Extreme Dialogue at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told VICE News. “Content is expertly tailored to specific audiences in multiple languages, with propaganda aimed at women, converts to Islam, and even certain professions.”

Read more

Also see:

‘A Global Network of Jihadi Activists’: ISIS Using Social Media to Reach Americans

Gorka on FoxFox News Insider, July 18, 2015:

Did ISIS propaganda inspire Chattanooga shooter Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez?

Just days before the attack, Abdulazeez posted a cryptic message on his blog. “Brothers and sisters, don’t be fooled by your desires. This life is short and bitter, and the opportunity to submit to Allah may pass you buy,” Abdulazeez wrote.

Dr. Sebastian Gorka appeared on “Fox and Friends Weekend” to explain how terrorists are using social media to turn typical American kids into radical extremists.

Gorka said that when it comes to using the Internet, ISIS makes Al Qaeda look like the real “JV team.”

“If you compare the number of platforms they have, more than 20,000 platforms, if you compare the magazine they have, the English language e-magazine called ‘Dabiq,’ it makes Al Qaeda’s English language Jihadi magazine, ‘Inspire,’ look like some high school publication,” Gorka said. “The Internet is essential to recruiting and also to training, providing the trade craft lessons to the future jihadis that will attack Americans.”

He said that the State Department’s attempts to counter ISIS propaganda fail again and again because they ignore the fact that this is about religious ideology.

“You can only beat an ideology by coming up with a counterattack, a counter-offensive, like we did during the Cold War. You’ve got to have counter propaganda,” Gorka asserted.

He added that it’s time to ditch the label of “lone wolf attacks.”

“This is designed to make us disconnect the dots. It’s designed to make us think these are sporadic, disconnected individuals,” Gorka said. “They’re not. Whether it’s the Ft. Hood shooter, whether it’s the Tsarnaev brothers, whether it’s the Charlie Hebdo shooter or this man in Chattanooga, they are all connected by the ideology, by the stuff they consume on the Internet. This is a global network of jihadi activists, and we’re only going to beat it if we attack it as a network.”

Anna Kooiman pointed out that ISIS reportedly creates 90,000 social media posts per day and has between 500 and 2,000 Twitter accounts.

Gorka said we need to go on the offensive.

“We have to help the reformers. We have to help the people who want to take the fight to the jihad through technology, through financing. The CIA has to be involved, and we have to get serious about it.”

Will ISIS Attack on the June 29 Anniversary of the Caliphate?

A photo posted by ISIS today of their caliphate police force

A photo posted by ISIS today of their caliphate police force

PJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, June 1, 2015:

It’s not the best time for the United States to be facing a terror threat from within.

Intelligence services have been overwhelmed with not just covert communications but a massive web of open-source outreach including tweets, chats, books, videos, new slick radio [2], memos, photo essays and magazines by terror organizations, members and sympathizers. Even when a suspect is known to authorities, such as Garland, Texas, shooter Elton Simpson, they’re flying under the radar.

It’s a time when ISIS is emboldened from the seizures of Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria, expanding their territory as their opponents squabble over who gave up the Iraqi city 80 miles west of Baghdad. As ISIS contractors around the globe are written off as “lone wolves,” [3] the terror group is letting its followers know that they needn’t come to the caliphate to train but can prep for and execute a lethal attack at home. And if someone does choose to get on a plane, they need only get their confidence boosted by today’s report[4] that Transportation Security Administration screeners caught just 3 out of 70 attempts to sneak banned items, including dummy bombs, through checkpoints by red-teamers for the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general.

Jihadists didn’t attack a heavily armed “draw Muhammad” event last Friday outside the Phoenix mosque attended by Simpson and fellow attacker Nadir Soofi, though the organizer has gone into hiding after threats. Online jihadists were relatively subdued about the event, though al-Qaeda did release guidelines [5] last week detailing which blasphemers would be on their hit list.

So what is ISIS waiting for? Their anniversary, perhaps.

British jihadi Siddhartha Dhar, who now goes by Abu Rumaysah al-Britani after slipping off to the Islamic State when UK authorities arrested him but failed to take his passport when he was released on bail, recently penned what he passed off as a rather innocuous guide pitching the homey comforts of the caliphate from lattes to pickles. Yet he stressed in “A Brief Guide to the Islamic State [2015]“ [6] the importance of an upcoming date: He called the founding of the Islamic State on June 29, 2014, a “date right up there with 11th September 2001.”

“In fact, in many ways it surpasses it purely for what it symbolizes,” he added.

Rumaysah ended the 47-page guide on a decidedly dark note: “As the Islamic State army edges closer and closer to Damascus and Baghdad, as a lion stalks its prey, watch closely at how defeat eats away at the loser, because these two cities are just appetisers. When we descend on the streets of London, Paris and Washington the taste will be far bitterer, because not only will we spill your blood, but we will also demolish your statues, erase your history and, most painfully, convert your children who will then go on to champion our name and curse their forefathers.”

June 29, a Monday, is one day before the P5+1 deadline for a final nuclear deal with Iran. Congress is in recess that week for the Fourth of July holiday. The Islamic holy month of Ramadan begins June 17.

Charlie Winter, a researcher at the Quilliam Foundation, told [7] The Independent that he believes ISIS will be “more active than ever” as their anniversary approaches.

“There is a concerted effort to appear as relevant as ever, stronger than ever and more defiant than ever in the face of international opposition,” he added, predicting the group would be planning “more violence, more advances, more attacks.”

They may not be specifically aiming for a U.S. attack; the Islamic State hacking division just days ago published the names and addresses of Italian military commanders online as targets, the faces of the women cut out.

Maurizio Gasparri, a senator with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, last month accused [8] the government of “bringing in Islamist fundamentalists and using Italian ships as taxis for potential jihadists” with migrants trying to get from Libya to Italy.

Italian foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni warned [8] that they “don’t have months and months” to address the migrant crisis with humanitarian and national security implications. “The double risk of an advance of the Islamic State group in Libya and the waves of migrants means we are in a race against the clock,” he told Corriere della Sera.

ISIS’ desire to sack Rome warranted an entire e-book [9], predicting “recruits” from among “left-wing activists” in Europe sympathetic to their cause “will give intelligence, share weapons and do undercover work for the Muslims to pave the way for the conquest of Rome.” They also predicted, though, that the Mafia will put up a fight.

Here in the United States, nearly a month ago the Pentagon raised the security level at military bases to the highest level since the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

FBI Director James Comey warned around the same time that “the haystack is the entire country” when it comes to finding ISIS.

“We are looking for the needles, but increasingly the needles are unavailable to us. … This is the ‘going dark’ problem in living color,” Comey said. “There are Elton Simpsons out there that I have not found and I cannot see.”

As far as specific threats for America, a message [10] to “brothers and sisters fighting for the Sake of Allah” was posted on an online file-sharing site days after the Garland attack by a user claiming to be an ISIS-affiliated American.

“We have been watching closely who was present at this event and the shooter of our brothers. We knew that the target was protected. Our intention was to show how easy we give our lives for the Sake of Allah,” said the message, which was tweeted by a user who described him or herself as “stuck in the lands of the kufr [nonbelievers],” with a photo of an ISIS flag and a residential suburban neighborhood in the background.

The message said ISIS has stationed “71 trained soldiers in 15 different states ready at our word to attack any target we desire.”

“Out of the 71 trained soldiers 23 have signed up for missions like Sunday, We are increasing in number bithnillah. Of the 15 states, 5 we will name… Virginia, Maryland, Illinois, California, and Michigan,” the posting continued. “The disbelievers who shot our brothers think that you killed someone untrained, nay, they gave you their bodies in plain view because we were watching.”

“The next six months will be interesting.”

The Newest Guide On ISIS: Comparing Self-Declared Caliphate to “Plush Holiday Resort”

tourist-guide-cover

CSP, by Rachel Silverman, May 27, 2015:

Abu Rumaysah, a British jihadist who fled the UK to join ISIS in Syria, has released an ebook guide titled, A Brief Guide to the Islamic State (2015). This guide targets western recruits and compares territories under the extremist group to a “plush holiday resort.”

When describing the food, Rumaysah writes, “If you thought you would be living on stale bread and septic water then erase that culinary fib from you mind. The great thing about food in the Caliphate is its freshness. You can be sure that the vegetables you crunch down on basked gloriously in the sunshine before reaching your dinner plate. And what about the olive groves? Yes, there are plenty of them and the pickles and rich oils that spring them beat anything from your local Tescos.”

Rumaysah boasts of the education offered in the Caliphate, “There are no classes promoting homosexuality, evolution, music, drama, interfaith and the rest of the rubbish taught in non-Muslim schools. You child’s delicate mind is well and truly protected in the Calihpate.”

Despite the strict curriculum, Rumaysah goes on saying the Caliphate, “screams diversity” and has become a “magnet for talent.” “If you thought London or New York was cosmopolitan then wait until you step foot in the Islamic State, because it screams diversity. In my short time here I have met people from absolutely every walk of life, proof that the Caliphate’s pulling power is strong and tenacious.”

There is, however, no mention of the sex slave markets, beheadings for being gay, dismemberment, stoning, violence and tyranny widely reported in Syria and Iraq.

Rumaysah extols the improvements to transportation under ISIS and how one can now travel freely between Iraq and Syria now that the “satanic boundary” has been bulldozed, even though the guide makes no mention of the historic monuments, antiquities, and religious sites it has also destroyed.

Just like the guide that was released in late March, How to Survive in the West: A Mujahid Guide (2015), this ebook is also just another propaganda piece designed to convert more Westerners to join fighters in Iraq and Syria, as ISIS strengthens its grip in the Middle East.

The guide ends with a chilling message for the West, “When we descend on the streets of London, Paris and Washington the taste will be far bitter, because not only will we spill your blood, but we will also demolish your statues, erase your history, and, most painfully, convert your children who will then go on to champion our name and curse their forefathers.”

Islamic State Magazine Asks: ‘Did You Think We Were Joking?’