Selling War in the Twenty-First Century: From West to the (Middle) East Online Arena

Albeit the West (USA/its allies) covers an example whereby the marketing – or selling as used here interchangeably- of war becomes so painfully obvious that it commands further attention, today, one must delve into an even more alarming situation. That is, the terrorist use of social media to sell warfare; specially, in an uncertain and fast changing world.[1] Having said that, it is also imperative to turn the heed towards the (Middle) East to identify the means employed by, say, Russia and Israel to see the wider context wherein the Marketing of War occurs.

If one were to start with the Western milieu, s/he could focus on how the political leadership of the USA/UK had to sell the war locally and globally a priori stepping their foot in Iraq, in 2003. To this end, speeches a plenty that adopted rhetorical justifications such as the security narrative, placing emphasis on the alleged Iraqi possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction –WMD–[2], managed to masquerade any latent motives in view of how their claim relied on false intelligence.[3] In point of fact, the Bush 2 administration was accused for having utilized propaganda -i.e., lies/political manipulationof controversial justification so as to win public support on the Iraqi intervention.[4] Needless to add, RAND proposed the use of strategic marketing techniques/tactics to condition the civilian population, limit antiwar/opponent preferences while, synchronously, augment friendly or favor force decisions in the battlefield.[5] All in all, the superficiality and ideological exaggerations of George W. Bush, opened Pandora’s Box with detrimental consequences since Iraq fell short of being democratized as the American President preached whilst, a broader destabilization occurred.[6]

A parenthesis worth noting here is that, a rather subtle/refined method when marketing war to the unsuspicious (local/international) public in the 21st century may be the hiring of mercenaries; as, it is in the latter’s interest to wish to prolong the war (say, the US 16-years stay in Afghanistan) in view of how that would enrich them further.[7] Subsequently, governments relish less (population) dissent as otherwise the case where the need for conscription would arise before waging a war.

To remain within the Western context, the movie industry in combination with the social media revealed their muscles given the rise of threats contra Muslims in America that became evident in the wake of the screening of the movie “American Sniper”; more specifically, myriads of fierce messages aiming Arab/Muslim US people from social media vehicles like Facebook/Twitter, predominantly by those who watched the aforesaid film, were reported.[8] However, considering how a reaction is what shall certainly follow an action, the aforementioned backlash culminated with the Islamic State (IS) utilizing partial content from such, of late, popular Hollywood movies (i.e., ‘American Sniper’ amongst others like ‘The Hunger Games’) so that to reuse in propagandistic videos.[9] Indeed, terrorists have been very efficient in utilizing the Internet for the spread of their poison and the creation of networks.[10]

Moving away from the West, in regards to the terrorist utilization of social media channels to market their wars, the propaganda used by Da’ish, for instance, encouraged “lone wolf” terrorists to commit atrocities in nations beyond the Middle East and Central/South Asia.[11] To be sure, cyber technology is all about adapting quickly and, terrorist groups alongside organizations do exactly that: without spending anything, they are able to recruit/radicalize new members with merely the use of social media. Western investments such as that of the EU amounting to $20 million into backing counter-radicalization,[12] reveals how the said groups happen to be way ahead of the West in this particular playing field. Not to mention, the momentousness of information operations -or, the multidimensional communications strategy- campaign of the IS led by its dominant media units that comprises of communiqués performing as proselytization/terror apparatuses.[13]

Moreover, when ISIS’s fighters from abroad (say, Britain) post on social media, they often refer to Syria’s “Five-Star jihad” while uploading selfies across Instagram or Facebook/Twitter for recruitment-related purposes.[14] Further, selling/supply presupposes buyers/demand wishing to consume the specific product on sale; in this case, buying into the (non-existent) fairy tale thanks to the various misleading photographs and/or professional videos that circulate over the internet. Nonetheless, one must note here that, the price for one to pay is extremely high: their own life!

On the negative side, IS and other extremist groups like Boko Haram of Nigeria exhibit online efficiency through, say, social media sites; admittedly, the internet facilitates their own marketing to the point of bolstering recruitment as, many youngsters from America have already joined IS – thereby, US (e.g., Homeland Security) officials carry out an homeopathic treatment to cure this particular thorn by using the very (young) individuals that terrorist groups strive to entice.[15]

On the positive side, however, there is a group of volunteers who zealously tracks down and reports IS(IS/-IL)’s salient recruiters and propagandists in an effort to impede the spread of the latter’s propaganda; notably, this kind of hunting was instigated in 2014, when hacktivist collective Anonymous declared ‘war’ against IS with the #OpIsis campaign.[16]

Furthermore, it is noteworthy stating how Israel markets itself as ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ while placing the Palestinian fight under the ‘terroristic’ umbrella; also, Israel has managed to convert tactics of control – with their related weapons of surveillance systems- into marketable products – the Security (or police) State that is being promoted whereby, the people are effortlessly manipulated by a mania vis-à-vis security may be here to stay, if not, set a model for others to emulate in the future.[17] Or, how Russia appears to use the cyberspace in order to achieve its ends (e.g., via hacking); its use of covert ‘propaganda factories’ to subvert democracy in addition to the overflowing of Twitter/Facebook with a multitude of computer-generated bots posting under made-up names (other than its undetected conflict on LinkedIn against its American antagonists) are indicative.[18]

To conclude, the diachronic value of classic writings such as, George Orwell’s “1984” piece become ever more evident given how ‘War is Peace’; in other words, the proclivity of governments/leaders to secure their power is made manifest via the control of language and hence, thought/behavior.[19] Therefore, it is the duty of any critical thinker to be aware of the language of terror/war and, in turn, how that may be adopted so as to sell war.


References

[1] Gilpin, R. (2001), Global Political Economy: Understanding the International Economic Order, Princeton University Press, New Jersey (358).
[2] Moses, J., Bahador, B., and Wright, T. (2011), “The Iraq War and the Responsibility to Protect: Uses, Abuses and Consequences for the Future of Humanitarian Intervention,” Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 5:4, pp. 347-367 (347-348).
[3] Kutz, M-S (2013), “Just Wars and Persuasive Communication: Analyzing Public Relations in Military Conflicts,” in Selling War: The Role of the Mass Media in Hostile Conflicts from World War I to the “War on Terror”, ed. Seethaler, J., Karmasin, M., Melischek, G., and Wöhlert, R., pp. 107-133 (109), Intellect, Bristol; Moses et al., op. cit., 348.
[4] Kutz, op. cit.
[5] Gouliamos, K. and Kassimeris, C. (2012), “Stratocracy: The Growing Hypertrophy of the LifeWorld Militarization,” in The Marketing of War in the Age of Neo-Militarism, ed. Gouliamos, K. and Kassimeris, C., Routledge, New York, pp. 9-22 (16); Gouliamos, K. and Theocharous, L.A. (2008), “Harming Democracy in Mediolatry Societies: Decoding the Marketing of War and Animosities through Photo Images,” Journal of Political Marketing, 7:3-4, pp. 338-362 (342).
[6] Theophanous, A. (2016), E Diakyvernisi kai e Politiki Economia mias Omospondis Kyprou [The Governance and Political Economy of a Federal Cyprus], I.Sideris, Athens (162).
[7] Ben-Meir, A. (20 July 2017), “Afghanistan: A Morally Corrupting War”, Alon Ben-Meir: Professor.
https://alonben-meir.com/writing/afghanistan-morally-corrupting-war/
Accessed 23 July 2017.
[8] BBC News (25 January 2015), “American Sniper film ‘behind rise in anti-Muslim threats’”.
https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-30972690/
Accessed 25 May 2016.
For further details, see also: Constantinou, M.C. (22 August 2016), “The Marketing of War in the Middle East: The Revenge of History”, Eastern Mediterranean Policy Note, No. 9, pp. 1-5 (4), CCEIA/UNIC.
https://www.emgr.unic.ac.cy/wp-content/uploads/EMPN_9.pdf
Accessed 28 August 2017.
[9] Shepherd, K. (31 May 2017), “ISIS using Hollywood movie scenes in propaganda films: Report”.
https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/may/31/isis-using-hollywood-movie-scenespropaganda-films/
Accessed 14 August 2017.
[10] Jarvis, J. (2011), What Would Google Do?, translated in Greek by Manolis Andriotakis, Metaixmio, Athens (388-389).
[11] Kerigan-Kyrou, A.D. (20 August 2015), “The Terrorist Use of Social Media: A successful cyber strategy combines hard and soft power”.
https://unipath-magazine.com/theterrorist-use-of-social-media/
Accessed 3 March 2017.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ingram, J.H. (2015), “The strategic logic of Islamic State information operations,” Australian Journal of International Affairs, 69:6, pp. 729-52 (729-30).
[14] Roussinos, A. (5 December 2013), “Jihad Selfies: These British Extremists in Syria Love Social Media”.
https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/gq8g5b/syrian-jihadistselfies-tell-us-a-lot-about-their-war/
Accessed 14 August 2017.
[15] Nixon, R. (18 July 2017), “Students Are the Newest U.S. Weapon Against Terrorist Recruitment”.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/18/us/politics/students-are-the-newest-us-weaponagainst-terrorist-recruitment.html
Accessed 26 August 2017.
[16] Solon, O. (21 July 2017), “Global network of ‘hunters’ aim to take down terrorists on the internet”.
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jul/21/global-network-hunters-againstterrorists-on-the-internet/
Accessed 28 August 2017.
[17] Halper, J. (20 August 2017), “Europe Must Not Buy What Israel Is Selling to Combat Terror”.
https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.807941
Accessed 26 August 2017.
[18] Stein, J. (3 August 2017), “HOW RUSSIA IS USING LINKEDIN AS A TOOL OF WAR AGAINST ITS U.S. ENEMIES”.
https://www.newsweek.com/russia-putin-botslinkedin-facebook-trump-clinton-kremlin-critics-poison-war-645696/
Accessed 14 August 2017.
[19] Charles, R. (25 January 2017), “Why Orwell’s ‘1984’ matters so much now”.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/why-orwells1984-matters-so-much-now/2017/01/25/3cf81964-e313-11e6-a453-19ec4b3d09ba_story.html?utm_term=.35f77d2be31e
Accessed 27 August 2017.


Constantinos Constantinou

Ph.D. Candidate in Business Administration
European University Cyprus

First Published at “In Depth Volume 14, Issue 4, September 2017″