Lots of debate on whether we can use the words, “Islamic terrorism,” “Islamic fundamentalism,” “Global War on Terror (GWOT),” and the really ball-busting one, “Radical Islam.”
Is is about numbers? All eyes were on France. Twelve to 16 killed in France, but that same week, over several days, counts differ from 150 killed to as many as 2,000 people killed by Boko Harum, an Islamic militant group in Nigeria, whose aim is to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, back in the United States, much outcry that President Obama missed the rally in Paris and failed to send a high enough personage to represent us at the rally…. Our Ambassador was there; our top lawyer was there but didn’t attend; Secretary of State Kerry was in India and on his way to Pakistan, I think….
Meantime, in Egypt, President Al-Sisi made two historic speeches/appearances. On January 1, “I say and repeat again that we are in need of a religious revolution.” He stressed that “it’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma [Muslims worldwide] to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world.” His second appearance was on the Coptic Christmas Eve, celebrated on January 6, where he wished all a Merry Christmas and urged Egyptian solidarity. You may see both here.
That was then, and now? The Jordanian pilot caged and set on fire. Twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christians executed in Libya. Two Danes killed in Copenhagen over the weekend. Today’s BBC report on 45 Iraqis burned alive five miles short of the base 320 U.S. forces are using to train Iraqi soldiers. Who is doing all these killings?
Well, it depends on whom you listened to. Could be terrorist extremists, according to the White House, who are hosting a three day conference on just that topic beginning today. Or it might be an ongoing holy war initiated by Islamic extremists who use extraordinary violence and tactics to achieve their stated aim of a Caliphate State. A week ago, there was a horrible incident where a man shot three people over a dispute about a parking space. Or was it? The three people executed were Muslim and their family claims this is the backlash of naming Islam extremists as part of Islam.
Understand when you curtail the use of certain words or allow only certain groups to use certain words, you have cut the chords of free speech and short-circuited any intelligent discussion. What is propaganda? At its most basic, propaganda is the art of changing people’s behavior to accept or deny your message using emotion, not opposing viewpoints. The best way to do that is to short-circuit the mind and go direct to emotion by presenting images, focusing on fears.
It can be as simple as a commercial for mouthwash (do you have bad breath?) or deodorant (do you have body odor?) or as complex as Twitter, limiting thoughts to 140 words, necessitating shorthand for concepts and thought, or a video showing the killing of children or a Jordanian pilot or 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians. The White House put out a statement, “The United States condemns the despicable and cowardly murder of twenty-one Egyptian citizens in Libya by ISIL-affiliated terrorists.,” with no mention of the salient fact they were Christian. Does that make a difference? I think it does. When the video itself states the reason for the killings “In a message to the “crusaders,” a masked man holding a knife says the group is “chopping off the heads of those that have been carrying the cross illusion.”
The crusades? Geez, how long has it been since the Crusades? The year: 1095. We are in the year 2015, but President Obama reminded us of our culpability in the Crusades on February 5, 2015 at the National Prayer Breakfast and our guilt re slavery and Jim Crow laws. Is this moral equivalency? Really?
Communication is the name of the game and the first to get their message out wins. This idea of winning hearts and minds is real. Just because the enemy believes in a life style dating back to the 8th century doesn’t mean they do not know how to sell their message. And, they put Madison Avenue to shame. The U.S. State Department announced Monday that really it is a matter of providing jobs to disenchanted youths in the Middle East. Marie Harf, in an interview with Chris Matthews, said, “”If we can help countries work at the root causes of this — what makes these 17-year-old kids pick up an AK-47 instead of trying to start a business?” Gosh, Marie, maybe their reasons are what they themselves say they are: to adhere to a version of Islam that wants to establish a world-wide caliphate where all people are subject to Islam.
One of the best interviews I’ve seen on naming the enemy was the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. General Michael Flynn, Retired,
Part I in a discussion of how propaganda works to divide people and play to their fears.