Friday, February 12, 2016

ISIS: A Successful Brand?


In the MEMRI Daily Brief, No. 78 (February 10, 2016), MEMRI VP Alberto M. Fernandez offers to readers the presentation he recently gave before the US Congress, titled, "After San Bernardino: The Future Of ISIS-Inspired Attacks," and he argues that such attacks will continue so long as the ISIS brand continues to outshine all competitors, so let's see what Fernandez says about this brand's success:
[T]he ISIS brand is a huge success. The fact that it has mobilized tens of thousands . . . . is testimony to the power of its message. It most certainly does represent, as one scholar noted recently, very much a revolutionary, contemporary appeal. Many of the components of this message are not new but the message is nothing if not contemporary . . . . [It] is a compelling package, which includes a strong Salafi Jihadist ideological component, a political project which is portrayed incessantly as seemingly successful and growing, and a 21st century appeal to substantive and consequential participation aimed at youth searching for purpose and identity in a apparently aimless, empty and hedonistic world . . . [It offers] fame and notoriety, vicarious violence, sex, and the end of the world . . . . [W]hat the Islamic State has succeeded in doing, at least for some, is creating a post-modern Salafi Jihadist sub-culture: high tech, cool, ultra-traditional, and non-compromising . . . . [This] brand is a "condensed symbol" . . . [- having] multiple layers of meaning, [offering] different things to different people [-] . . . . The fully formed brand as we know it today is really new, about 18 months old, dating from the double blow of June 2014: the fall of Mosul and the declaration of the Caliphate. Despite being so new, its success is complete in that it is now not a specific video or statement that mobilizes but rather the concept or image of the organization that does so . . . . If I [were] . . . to try to be as precise and narrow [as possible] in the words to describe the ISIS brand, it would be "Khilafa Rebellion Now." These three words sum up thousands of videos, tens of thousands of graphics and millions of tweets . . . . "Al-Khilafa" (the Caliphate) summarizes both the religious and state-building efforts that are unique features of the Islamic State. "Rebellion" captures the youth revolt, the "insurrectionist" nature of the movement . . . [-] this is a revolt against "the way things are now," the status quo, the mundane both in bourgeois Western democracies and Arab dictatorships. This [is] also rebellion against "the Other," the Jews, the Shi'a, the Christians and all those described in these words of power that ISIS uses: Kufar (Infidels), Mushrikeen (Polytheists), Rafida Najas ("Dirty Shi'a"), Taghut (Tyrant). And "Now" because the call is for action now, it includes a palpable sense of urgency, not something to be done in some fuzzy future.
Fernandez goes on to make several suggestions on how to tarnish that glowing image, but I will leave those for readers interested enough to go to the linked document and read it in its entirety.

For now, just understanding that there is a "brand" is enough.



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