Thursday, June 11, 2015

Poetry and Music: Keys to Defeating Daesh?

The Havok Journal, an on-line publication featured an article entitled: “Jihadis, Poetry and the Ongoing Bromance of ISIL: Are We Sending The Right Message?” (see: which is also the photo source.)

The main thesis of the article was that dominating the information high ground against Daesh will require taking the offensive with the poetry and music that is a part of the Arab culture. In support of this position, the article states that Osama Bin Laden was recognized for his eloquence of the classics and postulates that poetry is the way that Daesh communicates.

The author notes: “Rather than littering Raqqa, as we recently have, with pamphlets full of cartoons and meat grinders to try to push disenfranchised Muslim youth or already hardened ISIL fighters away from the cause, we should engage them in dialogue they understand and inculcate.[7]  Suggesting that Uncle Sam should sit down and pen ISIL a poem to open up dialogue seems like a ridiculous stretch, but if we put this responsibility in the hands of those capable of crafting the right message, perhaps we can take this understanding of culture and use it to our advantage.”

Is this really “a ridiculous stretch”? I frankly don’t think so. The essence of communication is that the messages are in tune with the receiver’s system. Deciding what media to deliver the message is a different decision than what the messages ought to be. Leaflets may or may not be the right medium in that particular AO, however, we must not lose sight of the fact that the messages are more important.

Understanding the culture is a prerequisite to crafting and delivering effective messages. Having said this, truly understanding a culture is not a trivial matter or a quick undertaking. One needs to enlist not only the reservoir of published material, a degree of immersion, preferably with a group of knowledgeable and cooperative ‘natives’ of that culture is another key ingredient.

Given that we will be engaged for quite a long time, this investment seems not only prudent – but, necessary.

As always, reader comments encouraged.

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