Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Are we ready for an anti-Daesh Influence Campaign Task Force?

The UK based Quilliam organization (www. recently published an exhaustive report entitled: “Documenting the Virtual ‘Caliphate’” which can be downloaded from their website. The 50 page + report provides a month long  snapshot of Daesh propaganda between 17 July and 15 August 2005. Which consists of 1,146 “separate propaganda events”.

It is generally believed that Daesh is winning the propaganda and influence war. This report was developed because Quilliam believed before there is any hope of countering this influence onslaught, much less overcoming it, it is critical to understand the deeper nature of their propaganda efforts.

The report offers 10 key conclusions. The essence of some of these is quoted below:

1.     “This is an exceptionally sophisticated information operation campaign, the success of which lies in the twin pillars of quantity and quality. Given this scale and dedication, negative measures like censorship are bound to fail.”

2.     While consistent overall, the Daesh brand shifts according to events.

3.     Over half of the effort is aimed a depicting the utopia existence under the ‘caliphate’.

4.     “Economic activity, social events, abundant wildlife, unwavering law and order, and pro-active, pristine ‘religious’ fervour form the foundations of Islamic State’s civilian appeal. In this way, the group attracts supporters based on ideological and political appeal.“

5.     The military is generally shown during offensives or in stasis.

6.     Military attacks with mortars and rockets are shown even though they are not part of any actual offensives. Rather the intent is to show a perpetual offensive.

7.     Control of the population in their current AO – discouraging rebellion and dissent seems to be a major theme.

8.     “The quantity, quality and variation of Islamic State propaganda in just one month far outweighs the quantity, quality and variation of any attempts, state or non-state, to challenge the group. All current efforts must be scaled up to achieve meaningful progress in this war.’

9.     The global desire to find a panacea counter-narrative to undermine the Islamic State brand is misplaced. Categorically, there is no such thing. Those engaged in the information war on the ‘caliphate’ must take a leaf out of the group’s own media strategy book and prioritise quantity, quality, variation, adaptability and differentiation. Most importantly, though, it must be based upon an alternative, not counter, narrative.

It seems to me that a multinational effort is required that can cut across national boundaries, employs commercial, military and diplomatic expertise. This task force should be part of an international organization, which, along with its members could provide personnel and funding for the long haul that will be required to deal with this challenge.

It appears to me that a NATO lead makes the most sense mainly because it is an existing multi-national organization that has appropriate membership and expertise. Set along the lines of a Combined Joint Influence Task Force, this new organization would of necessity focus on cyber media, but would also be able to employ more traditional media such as television, radio and print whenever it made sense to do so.

Diplomatic (Public Diplomacy) participation at the highest level and liaison across embassies in the region and elsewhere would be another key element needed for successful execution.

This is a ‘stalking horse’ in the sense that my purpose is to stimulate input from Blog readers. Comments eagerly awaited.

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