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The new propaganda war – Isis, social media, and the tactics of terror

Two days ago we witnessed a film of such simplicity, purpose and extreme violence it ripped away at the ideals that secure the western fabric. Make no mistake, this is a new propaganda war and those that understand emotion are winning.

The video execution posted with such cold blooded purpose to YouTube tackled and hit the golden touch points of this Call of Duty age. We may well be repulsed, but we should not underestimate either the tactics or the results. From the very beginning Isis understood the culture it wanted to undermine and the vital need to create emotion amongst the crowd in doing so, and as we have witnessed, it is masterful at it.

Every great communicator from every age has understood how to use the tools of the time to their best advantage and to drive them with emotion and simplicity. These new media terrorists also understand the impact of the visual meme and how that feeds the global newswire to engage and shock the masses. They know how to pierce the imagination and conscience to recruit, create fear and make no mistake about their point. These are young people who have grown up in a disruptive technology age, where gaming crosses the reality divide and those with fatal charm grab the headlines and effect life forever.

The West need to liberate themselves from these suffocating mantras with a genuine strategy and purpose that matches in engagement. We can’t struggle to keep the old world alive. This world needs better insights, imagination, thinking and collaborative inspiration for a better purpose. Too often the West is still pre-occupied with useful things for themselves – recognition, growth, money – than useful things for the world we live in. Communications and messages are mired in complexity and opaqueness and too often miss the point.

This is not only a ‘Message to America’, it’s a message to us all. These propagandists know exactly how to tell a story and leverage it at maximum speed across social channels, disrupting the well-oiled Western propaganda machines and placing them on a back foot.

Isis takes its haters’ thoughts as inspiration, not direction, wrangling emotion to the ground and their best effect. It’s toxic stuff. Just as Joseph Goebbels used the Nuremberg Rally and swastika to turn a generation, the Isis propaganda machine will reinvent terrorism for the social media generation. We should not underestimate the tactics of terror.


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