Saturday, February 6, 2016

Perspective - The New Era of High Tech Terrorism: a marketing perspective || Sidhartha Bhattacharyya || IIM Udaipur || January 2016 edition

The New Era of High Tech Terrorism: 

a marketing perspective

Sidhartha Bhattacharyya
IIM Udaipur

The author George Carlin once quoted “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”  Well this quote is not true in its entirety and as I shall hopefully convince you through article. To get to the point, a man who has been living in a civilized society and is not averse to reading a newspaper would have heard of the dark cloud looming over the world by the name of The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. They are a well know terrorist organization who operate out of the mentioned 2 countries and have amassed a huge army as well as land due to hostile takeovers. In the midst of gathering one of the largest and most devout armies of the world they have planned and masterminded some of the cruelest and horrific acts of terror the people of the world have had the misfortune of seeing.

The Successor Has Taken the Throne
At this point one would logically raise the question, about where has this terrorist organization been able to muster such a large work force. One must think that the ISIS consists of the people from Al-Qaeda who have shifted their allegiance to a stronger organization. The strength of the organization is said to be around 200,000 (1) which is significantly greater than its predecessor having just over 28000 members at it strongest (2). So one may ask where the new Islamist Extremists are coming from who never joined the Al-Qaeda.  Al-Qaeda has willingly taken a backseat in this affair as they cannot compete with the sheer size and scale of operations at ISIS and have been terms as too extreme by the current head of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri.  The scale has taken things to such an extent that “Coca-Cola” and “Pepsi” can be substituted by “ISIS” and “Al-Qaeda”. All this has happened due to the fearful beauty of the marketing and advertising strategy of the ISIS.

Frightfully Beautiful Strategy
Considering the fact that ISIS is a terrorist organization which incorporates sort of medieval practices people think that it is sort of an archaic organization. But on the contrary the organization or “Caliphate” as they term it is led by a group of highly intelligent and tech savvy group. Like any major company, ISIS has a well set out business plan which they intend to execute. Their plan is to impose the Sharia law on the whole world. Like every James Bond their intention is world domination. To do this they must have certain strategies and a marketing plan. Well that requires a simple STP analysis. The segments they have at their disposal is the whole Muslim population of the world which was 1.6 billion people in the year 2010 (3) and is also the fastest growing religious population of the world. Thus they have an ample group of people to target. So they set up their strategy to target the young Muslim population from around the world aged between 20 and 30. The reason they have been targeted as they are the young rebellious individuals of the world and have been aliened by the society around them. The impact of racial attacks and constant hate received by the Muslim community enraged these post-adolescent young adult and send them into a frenzied state of rebellion. Now the beauty in the ISIS strategy is their positioning. They positioned their organization in a way that it gives a safe haven to these so called outcasts of society and where they are free to practice their religion and all the extremist facets attached to it. They provide help to those who are in the need of this sense of belonging. People from all around the globe and majorly countries like the UK and Australia are falling prey to these promises.

Propaganda Propagation
ISIS may follow extremist laws but their methods of communication are highly varied and try to find different kinds of media through which they can target their audience. Videos are their prime source of media attention for the organization where their extremist acts are caught on tape and published in social media for the entire world to see. On the 4th of July they released a movie by the name of “Healing the Chests of the Believing People” where they show the execution of 25 seemingly teenage soldiers after they have been caught by the ISIS.  They feel that this video along with videos 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” will “inspire social change” in the western world. They intend to portray the concept of Jihad to the rest of the world and attract thousands of young impressionable souls into their bloody path like so many already have. These videos include the beheading of several foreign journalists which do attract western military attention. Now this is not something that the organization would necessarily want but once people see their “brothers” getting killed at the hands of people who have been suppressing and isolating them from their childhood.

Gender Based Strategy
These strategies work on men very well but for women they have to use a separate method to help them join. Just like the men they have been isolated in these civilized societies and have a sense of hate welling up inside them. Along with this Muslim women do not have much say in the choices they make. Most of what they do is chosen by the family and are forced to follow them. ISIS realized that fact and targeted this group of enraged women in order to gain their support. They presented the environment to be beautiful as well as a place of freedom where they can choose to do whatever their heart desires. They presented the place as an utopia for Muslim women where they have the freedom of choice and also conform the ideals of Islam. But the scenario there was very much at loggerheads to what they presented. Women ran away from their homes and spent all their money to get a flight ticket into Turkey from there they sneaked their way into the IS stronghold. Expecting a beautiful environment they were very much shaken up to find that they made into slaves for the ISIS fighters. They were immediately brutalized, raped and made to live in the houses of the fighters in order to serve their every need. Needless to say they were not given the authority to leave and their lives which were bad just turned worse.

Introspection
The point at the end of the day is that it is our fault that the ISIS is so strong today and nobody else’s. If we the people of civilized non-extremist society do not marginalize and isolate people based on their religion as well as what some religious extremists might have done before. We are nobody to judge a whole community based on a particular group of individuals. This form of constant judgement leads to gradual build-up of resentment and hate which drives them to the point where it seems to them that they have no choice but to go into the faction of religious extremism. The lessons learnt from the ISIS are not just about how a terrorist organization can lead a successful marketing campaign but how we the people have been a cause of our downfall. We have played a major role in the creation of this huge black cloud that is looming over the world just because of our own stupidity in these matters. We are the large group of stupid people and it is up to us to make a change in the way we look at things in order to stop this growth.

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