As many of you know, as a native Brooklynite, I have been often accused of being sarcastic. Over the years I’ve learned that sarcasm can be a sharp weapon of humor, but not a general-purpose approach.
I believe successful sarcasm is steeped in nuance and must be tailored to a particular situation. It came as somewhat of a surprise to me that the State Department was employing sarcasm in their influence campaign as detailed in a NY Times article of Friday, July 29, 2016 (see: U.S. Drops Snark in Favor of Emotion to Undercut Extremists at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/29/world/middleeast/isis-recruiting.html?_r=0; which is also the photo source.) which is also the photo source.)
The article goes on to describe the approach to influence those who might leave their native countries to fight on behalf of ISIS. Media include: Facebook Instagram and Twitter. The article notes that there is also a need to distance the message from the source. That it is very likely that any message which appeared to come from the US government would be discarded out of hand.
The viewer or reader was more often ‘annoyed at its smug sarcasm rather than appalled at the horrific images on the screen’ according to the article. This comment resonates with me because the target audience has a mental picture of their personal assessment of ISIS where even horrific images purportedly portraying them would not move the influence needle.
Perhaps another error in judgment with the sarcastic approach is that one size or in this case, one message does not fit all. Research cited in the article and a dose of common sense would seem to indicate, that while there are common threads of motivating factors, the mix influencing each individual would differ significantly.
The influence missions is a difficult one and the disparity of the audience in terms of geography may very well be just as varied as the reasons that influence them.
One thing though is for sure - the sarcastic approach is not working here.