Lecture held by IPA Peru Member J G Kinosita at IPA International Conference on Terrorism and Security

21 Jun 2020

The Propaganda of the Islamic State and the Language of Terror

On 15 February 2020, an IPA international master conference on international terrorism and global security in the 21st century was held at the headquarters of the Counter-Terrorism Directorate of the Peruvian National Police in Lima. The lecture was given by Javier Gamero Kinosita, a jurist and criminologist, member of IPA Peru and resident in Switzerland. The event was chaired by the General of the Peruvian National Police, Vicente Tiburcio Orbezo, the Director of Counter-Terrorism and senior officers from that unit.

Gamero pointed out that the violent uprising of the Islamic State militia in Iraq and Syria calling for the creation of a world caliphate appealing to global jihadism, has plunged the whole region into a new situation of war, extending a threat also to the whole West. The rhetorical power of the caliphate is a war machine based on language, which is armed with violence, incitement, seduction and great persuasive power. Gamero Kinosita stated that in order to fight the Islamic State, it is a conditio sine qua non to know the art of its rhetoric, in order to understand its propaganda, since words are its weapons. The art of Islamic rhetoric is flourishing, it has method and a cognitive objective, it is decorative, with the traces of sinuous golden lines of its writing on a black background and at the same time didactic, based on quotations from the Koran. The lecturer cited the thesis of the Moroccan philosopher Philippe-Joseph Salazar, that there is a perceived “Koranisation of language”.gamspeech

The weapon of Islamic dialectics

Gamero stated that in the weapons of Islamic dialectics, the ornament is instructive. He also quoted the German historian Johannes Dillinger as saying that the jihadists, in their efforts to communicate with external audiences and through propaganda manipulation, can recruit followers, raise funds, transmit a message to the community, spread subversive information, give scoops and revelations, claim responsibility for terrorist attacks, and even justify the acts perpetrated. They stage horror and terror, through the dramatic nature of their communications.

The Caliph

The Islamic State operates with a strategy of symbolic action. When the Caliph Ibrahim refounded the caliphate in the Great Mosque of Mossul in the summer of 2014, major international sporting events were taking place in Western Europe, such as the cricket at Lords, the Wimbledom tennis championships, and the Football World Cup in Brazil. In May 2015, when the film Mad Max was being celebrated with joy at the Cannes Film Festival, Caliph Ibrahim in a second proclamation addressed Urbi et Orbi calling on all good Muslims of emigration to integrate under the protection of the caliphate.

Gamero added that the caliph assumes ipso facto the role of the Imam, he preaches, is eloquent and objective, speaks without interruption, without a manuscript, gestures and leads the prayers before the believers, showing them the way and emphasising the spiritual efforts they must follow in the jihad, and demanding absolute obedience and the expansion of the Muslim faith in all humanity; obedience is a political virtue. The caliph assumes responsibility for the jihad.

The caliph attacks polytheism, including all of Western culture, the cult of the idol of culture (media, cinema, sport), the idol of the market (consumer goods, the greed of profit), the idol of the theatre (science, communication and technology), the idol of the human being beyond the reach of God, which is reflected in the norms of the democratic state, which place human rights at the centre of the polytheistic system.

The caliphate's propaganda

The lecturer detailed that the caliphate's propaganda is energetic and powerful, they appeal to technical terror: in the absence of arguments aspiring to victory through technique. The "digital caliphate" makes better use of technical advantages, instrumentalising the internet, with jihadists dominating the digital weapons of terror better, resorting to the cognitive priority of the visual media, the immediacy of the screens, the technical illusion, Facebook, the virtual world that has neuro-psychological effects on their internet user. In this way, it is attempted to wield not only a technical, but also a moral superiority.

The digital rhetoric of the caliphate

The caliphate's digital rhetoric, Gamero added, is aimed at capturing the attention and interest of young people, who are potential recruits to adhere to their cause. This is accompanied by beautiful images, as well as rhythmic songs and hymns that reflect heroism and exaltation, highlight the martyrdom of the victims, the union in the struggle and that incite to go beyond the limits generating a narcissistic ambition of the young people for glorification. These video-clips are also aimed at intelligent and well-trained young people to convert them to the cause, using convincing arguments and scrupulously outlined ideas. Bruce Hoffman, a political analyst at Oxford University, stresses the dialectical nature of jihadist propaganda information, as it informs and teaches. A strategy of counter-propaganda is needed to confront the idealism of young jihadists. Dialogue and psychology must be used to counter jihadist propaganda and thus achieve a de-radicalisation of the soldiers of the caliphate.

The religious propaganda

Gamero added that preaching and speech are forms of religious propaganda in politics, preaching tries to link the concerns of man with divinity, and speeches are proclaimed Urbi et Orbi. The Islamic State appeals to the culture of call or convocation, the culture of the pulpit, the culture of prayer and harangue in battle. They resort to populism, the motor of the revolution, do not divide society between rich and poor, between the haves and have-nots, between political society and civil society, between those of the extreme right or extreme left, but divide it between believers and non-believers. The division is not political but theological. They appeal to the enormous populist potential of individual voluntarism and of a social movement.

The caliphate's call for jihad wields a radical separation of the bad part of society (the elites, the traitors, the rich, the followers of materialism) from the good part, made up of all those who are willing to offer resistance and immolate themselves, imbued with a culture of death. They distinguish the secular people from the people of God, the latter where the population is subject to religious norms. This populism highlights the distinction between the true people (divine) and the false people (secular). Revolutionary populism is based on a dialectic between voluntary individuals and the spontaneous social movements that are formed.

Masculinity of the soldiers of the caliphate

The soldiers of the caliphate display a belligerent masculinity, which is reflected in the black and sand-coloured garments, the colour of the desert, that the jihadists wear, without symbols of hierarchy or rank. A mask is worn in contrast to the veil of women.

Jihadist propaganda

Within the essential characteristics of jihadist propaganda we have dialectic codes that are opposed to rational norms, a rhetorical leadership, which despite not being linked to any character, is inspiring and charismatic, uses a compact, strong and firm language, being equipped with a communicational strategy, where aesthetics and ethics go hand in hand.  This ideological propaganda also resorts to the power of literature, the caliphate has an ideological library, based on an extensive archive that includes countless communications, texts, videos, publications, which serve as a source of inspiration and doctrine, it preserves and rescues from the undergrowth of oblivion, the long history of hagiography and religion and preserves the divine tradition of Islam. The digital caliphate has an impressive literary power and so, little by little, book by book, and battle by battle, it is gaining ground and representation.

Final Reflection

Gamero concluded that as you cannot shoot at an idea, an idea must be fought with a better idea. To win the war against the caliphate, it is necessary to win the war of ideas!

Javier Gamero Kinosita, Member IPA Peru