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How a Syrian rebel group won Video Marketing

The media and news coming out of the Syrian civil war have varied from the professional  content being produced by the Islamic State showing their barbarity to shocking ads of refugees from human rights group. But the general narrative is of brutality and complicated chaos that Game of Thrones would find hard to match. However one of the goals from every side is to portray themselves as the good guys in order to gain popular support, material supplies and recruits. The Islamic state is currently at the top of the other militant groups in their content and video marketing to gain attention and recruits. However, another rebel group, the Levant Front, has caught up on Facebook news feeds with an execution video that has already received more than half a million views. Check it out below
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How Marketers can Defeat ISIS

The Islamic State has become the box office busting sequel of Al-Qaeda, not just for it’s military conquests but for also creating one of the most effective marketing campaigns in military history. And it shows, it’s enemies have bought the hype that the Islamic State is bigger and stronger than it actually is. Not to mention a recruiting campaign that is recruiting fighters as fast as the US can bomb them. Suffice to say IS does marketing right, and it’s tactics offers the lessons to defeat it.
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Nazis Invade Canada Feature Image

When Hitler Invaded Canada: A tale of Transmedia

Transmedia Storytelling has only been coined recently, but it isn’t a modern creation, as the Christian Church has used it throughout history. But even governments have gotten into the action with a more recent example being the Winnipeg government’s marketing effort to sell war bonds during World War 2. 
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Nazis vs ISIS Feature Image

Why ISIS are NOT our new Nazis

ISIS has been considered the 21st century Nazis (including me). However, if the Nazis had Facebook it would pictures of perfect blond children and Hitler doing something cute; not posts bragging about beheading a bunch of people. That’s just crazy, and there haven been recent publications explaining what ISIS wants: Make everyone their enemy, call them the army of “Rome”, lure them to a town called Dabiq (consequently the name of their propaganda magazine), have them fight the army of Islam (read them) which will bring about the Islamic apocalypse, where ISIS will naturally win. Even Hitler’s generals managed to stop Hitler from thinking that stupid, and below is why ISIS are totally different villains from the Nazis.

Flaunting their Crime

Villains often come in two flavours: the ones who hide their crime and those who don’t care. For example, General Mandible from the movie “Antz” manipulated everyone with his bulldog general demeanour to hide his genocidal plan to create a stronger colony. On the other hand, if the whole of Gotham (especially Batman) doesn’t know of his deeds, the Joker would rather just turn on the tube and yell at Harley for another beer.

Hitler Triumphant + ISIS Boy

Replace, Patton-like ant with frothing Charlie Chaplin, and you’ve got the same intentions. Then replace a plucky Woody Allen with a flood of Allied soldiers, and Nazis who acted like everything they did was for the good of the world, frantically burning bodies, blowing up gas chambers, burning papers to hide their crime.

The Islamic State, on the other hand (thankfully), cannot hope to match the scale of atrocity as regimes before them. What makes them so terrifying is that they’re like internet trolls. Everything that they do will provoke outrage, so it most definitely will be shared with the world to get a reaction.

Well-intentioned Extremist

For most villains, it’s all about sex, money and power. Take Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars, who manipulated the entire Galaxy just to gain power. On the other side of the coin, Darth Revan from the video game Knights of the Old Republic, invaded the galaxy because he wanted to prepare the galaxy for the real threat approaching from the outer reaches of the galaxy. 

ISIS on Horse + Hitler on Car

While Hitler was  anti-Semitic, and of course wanted his perfect world to be non-Aryan free, Nazi military conquests were quite similar to many empire builders through European history. Hitler could be considered a 20th century Napoleon (except with a dumb moustache and stupider).

On the other hand, ISIS are taking a very stupid way to gain riches and power, provoking factions that didn’t even want to fight them, and even making potential allies their enemies. And if it isn’t the power and prestige of a state but to fulfill their beliefs, they are well-intentioned in their extremism. Of course, said intentions are great for everyone under their view on Islam (just horrible for the rest of us).

Still Crazy

Most villain plans they are credible enough that their failure was because of the Big Damned Heroes ruining it. On the other hand, there are villain plots that are still undone minus the hero. In “Return of Superman” how was Lex Luthor going to defend his island with just three guys against the buttload of refugees coming from the land he just destroyed?

Sad Hitler + Lonely ISIS Flag

For the Nazis, they had clear strategic goals and the tactical plans to create a German Empire, and only the stupidity of Hitler and violating one of the lessons of history (don’t invade Russia) were they defeated.

For ISIS, victory is relying on luring all their enemies to fight them at Dabiq. Even forging their military limitations (no airforce) how are they going to manoeuvre their enemies to fight at Dabiq? And if they did somehow succeed in this, how are they going to defeat the rest of the world, including the most advanced military force the world has ever seen? Everything is relying on their enemies showing up and hoping that their prophecy is true. And maybe it will happen and that ISIS will win, and then maybe Hitler can come by to congratulate them while riding a unicorn. 

Jordan King & Clint Eastwood

Why Middle Eastern Kings quote Hollywood

So King Abdullah has started thinking he can carry a Winchester and go all squint-eyed on ISIS. With him quoting Clint Eastwood from “Unforgiven” and with fighter pilot experience (Not like Mr. Mission Accomplished who shirked Vietnam) we have a crazy chance that a head of state might actually lead his troops into battle like it was the Medieval Ages. But let’s get back to King Abdullah, a Middle-Eastern King, quoting America’s favourite gritty cowboy.

It may be odd for a head of state to quote Hollywood, but it’s a testament to Abdullah’s savviness of how pop culture narratives influences our perception of reality. 

Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven

While I’m sure Jordanians watch Hollywood movies, Abdullah was talking to U.S. lawmakers who have at least watched a Clint Eastwood film (I would expect that Dirty Harry is required watching for every Republican) and undoubtedly enjoyed the escapism of them. Now “Unforgiven” is a great film, four Academy Award wins including Best Picture and Best Director is the definition of a great film. A hallmark movie for a genre that is unequivocally American and part of it’s psyche.  And announcing ones intentions for  “Any man I see out there, I’m gonna kill him. Any son of a bitch takes a shot at me, I’m not only going to kill him, I’m going to kill his wife and all his friends and burn his damn house down.” can be taken that Abdullah is as serious as Clint Eastwood’s face.

Of course Jordanian Kings isn’t the only head of state to try and evoke the power of popular culture in political rhetoric. Kim Jong Un, was his usual adorable self again and refused to hold talks with the US (unless it’s US giving food aid) calling them gangsters.

Scarface & Kim Jong Un

Kim Jong Un was probably trying to channel the best of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, his movie knowledge likely from powering through his dear departed dad’s movie library. He was likely using the definition of our gangster narratives. The stories from Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese. The rags to riches rise to the top of the criminal underworld, losing friends and family along the way until the inevitable downfall as a metaphor for U.S. capitalist culture. Or maybe gangsters is a naughty word in North Korea. Who knows with the country that threatened to bomb J-Pop?

But King Abdullah on the other hand is a smarter sort of chap who runs a country a little more competently than the land of people who think grass is nutritious. Because Abdullah isn’t just making sure the U.S. fully understand his intentions but also setting up his and his country’s narrative of vengeance against ISIS. “Unforgiven” is about inexperienced boys getting caught in violence and old veterans embracing it. Quite appropriate for the situation. Something that King Abdullah means full well and ensure he is going to bring narrative compliance of destroying ISIS.

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Nazis = ISIS

Why ISIS is our new Nazis

So in recent news,  ISIS, or ISIL or IS (Why don’t we stick to ISIS because it reminds me of Archer) has utterly dominated the war in Syria and Iraq in headlines and military successes, as well as been accused of numerous atrocities, including ethnic cleansings, genocide, slavery, and beheading westerners on Youtube.

They are also totally like Nazis.

Nazis playing with kittenISIS Soldier playing with kitten

Okay cute kittens aside, (even villains have their Pet the Dog moments), ISIS aren’t just Nazis because they kill and enslave people under their role (more on this later) but because they fit into the narrative of the greatest real-life villains we love to hate.

They are both box-office busting sequels: For many movie trilogies it’s usually the second one that’s bigger and better than the original i.e. Godfather 2, The Dark Knight etc. Likewise both the Nazis and ISIS emerged from the failures of their weaker predecessors. In this case, the Nazis were more dangerous than the imperial ambitions of the German Empire, while ISIS, once just the Al-Qaeda branch in Iraq eventually became more radical and powerful than the whole of Al-Qaeda.

Their ascents are frightening: When establishing villains as the all-powerful and primary antagonist to the heroes there is often a montage or a background exposition of how they ascended so quickly and how they are a threat. For the Nazis, by conquering France and the Low Countries in little more than a month, they accomplished more than what the Imperial Germany army had bled themselves over for the entirety of World War 1. Their Blitzkrieg tactics and waves of goose-stepping soldiers became the most feared army in the world. ISIS in the same way, captured the city of Mosul despite being outnumbered 15 to 1, and fighting an army equipped with the latest military equipment, then they proceeded to capture more territory than Al-Qaeda in Iraq ever hoped to dream. They have also developed their tactics and capabilities to become a fighting force that even the US military is getting nervous of facing.

Nazis marching into cityISIS soldiers marching into city

Both committed crimes deserving of villains: Villains we love to hate have to establish their status through their actions, often when they are introduced, as there has to be a reason they deserve to be defeated. The crimes the Nazis committed really don’t need a introduction. If you don’t know why they have been the go-to villain for many a video games, than me and your high school history teacher are very disappointed in you. ISIS also hasn’t been quiet in the atrocity front. Unlike the Nazis who at least made some attempts to hide their crimes, ISIS have not only been accused of crimes from genocide to sexual slavery, they post it on the internet. (P.s. if your  twitter account has your kid holding up a head, then you seriously need to rethink your qualifications as a dad). 

Nazi warsaw uprisingISIS massacre

Their defeat will be in the hands of the allies: Nothing is more epic than when the allies team up together to deliver a epic smack down on the stories main villain (The big damn heroes, Ravagers and the Nova Corp teaming up to take on Ronan in Guardians of the Galaxy is the most recent example). Bonus points if said allies were enemies before. One of the few great things about World War 2 was that the western powers were nearly at war on the Soviet Union over Finland before becoming firm allies to give the Nazis a thorough ass-whupping.

United we are strong World War 2 posterAnti-ISIS Coalition: A Mile Wide, An Inch Deep

ISIS has followed the Nazi’s role to being beaten. From antagonizing practically every country, military group (even original flavour Al-Qaeda) they can; they are also losing support in  the territory they occupy by being oppressive.

All that we are waiting for is the Alliance.  The alliance where Turkey and the Kurds could put aside their enmity, that Iran and the US can sit down and agree that ISIS is a greater enemy, that all these potential allies can actually be allies and fight together to deliver another proper beating on a villain that deserves it (and here’s hoping that the Kurds, the Iraqis, the Syrians can achieve the freedom they deserve).