Jihad Selfies: British Extremists in Syria Love Social Media
After being publicly sacked by al Qaeda leader Aymann al-Zawahiri and accidentally beheadinga fighter from one of their main allies in Syria, it’s fair to say the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)’s PR campaign has suffered in recent weeks. So, like any half decent group of militant extremists, they obviously want to address this slip. Unfortunately, a traditional media outreach is very difficult for them, given ISIS’s policy of kidnapping journalists. So they’ve turned, like many before them, to social media.
Over the past few weeks, foreign fighters from ISIS and their subgroup the Muhajireen Brigade have been busy uploading selfies across Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, in an effort to publicize their cause and win more recruits to the Syrian jihad. They offer a bizarre and fascinating look inside Syria’s most feared and least understood militant groups.
On paper, the Muhajireen Brigade are separate to ISIS, but they’re considered by some analysts to be a front group for the larger jihadist outfit. The social media evidence seems to support this view.
This picture (above) shows British fighter Ibrahim al-Mazwagi in battle with Omar Shishani, a Georgian Chechen who formerly led the Muhajireen Brigade, and is now ISIS’s military commander in Northern Syria.
Al-Mazwagi was killed in battle in February, aged 21. This is a collage made to honor him as a martyr, along with his friend and fellow casualty, Abu Qudama.
Above are two other recent British martyrs, Choukri Ellekhlifi, 22, and Mohammed el-Araj, 23. The pair are shown here at a jihadist internet café in Atmeh, a Syrian border town that is now firmly under ISIS control.
These two ads from a new campaign for Swarovski jewelry feature bony models getting “caught” buying and—gasp—even damn near eating food. Ladies? Better get yourselves some shiny baubles to deflect attention away from your disgusting habit of consuming life-giving sustenance.
Why Are So Many Social Media Managers Dipshits?
“Social media manager” is an important position at corporations. Through websites like Facebook and Twitter, brands have a great opportunity to attract attention and influence purchase via “earned” (read: free) media, as opposed to “paid” media (TV, print ads, etc.). The insider industry term for this free media is “eWoM”—electronic Word of Mouth.
Tom McElligott, founding creative partner of the great Minneapolis ad agency, Fallon McElligott Rice, once said, and I paraphrase because this was pre-internet 1980s: I would much rather overestimate than underestimate the intelligence of the consumer. That quote really stuck with me in ad school, and McElligott became an early hero of mine. You can see some of his creative work, which includes the brilliant Rolling Stone “Perception/Reality” trade campaign, here.
McElligott was a very smart ad man. Today, many of the social media managers at large and important companies are, by contrast, not very smart ad men. To say that they regularly underestimate their customers’ intelligence would be a great understatement. They seem to believe their customers have the brain power of a baked potato.
I’ve collected eight recent social media posts by large companies. Most of these updates are from the last month. To try to pick the abjectly stupidest one would not be easy. You can go ahead and give it a try, though.
All of these update images are via the Condescending Corporate Brand Facebook Page, one of the few reasons to ever actually “engage” with Facebook. I recommend “Liking” them.
KLM is the oldest airline in the world still operating under its original name. It has close to 32,000 employees worldwide. One of those employees writes KLM Middle East Facebook “engagement” updates like this one. This looks like a question on a third grade geography quiz. Egregious “Like-grubbing” posts like this one are unfortunately de rigueur by even seemingly sophisticated brands.
Mexican Drug Cartels Love Social Media
Members of Mexico’s drug cartels are really starting to harness the power of the internet, using it to run positive PR campaigns, post selfies with their pistols, and hunt down targets by tracking their movements on social media.
Antoine Nouvet from the SecDev Foundation, a Canadian research organization, has been working with drug policy think-tank the Igarapé Institute on a project called the Open Empowerment Initiative. The project looks into “how cyberspace is empowering individuals and rewiring relations in Latin America” and has uncovered a wealth of information about how cartels are using the internet to their own nefarious ends.
The first point Antoine touched on was how cartels have utilized cyberspace in much the same way as a TV company’s PR department might: “They advertise their activities, they conduct public relations initiatives, and they have basically turned themselves into their own media company,” he explained. “Colombia’s cartel groups or drug traffickers in Myanmar in the 1990s were very sophisticated at public relations, but they didn’t have this massive broadcasting platform.”
The Best Things You Sent Us on Snapchat, Vol 1
Here’s the long-awaited roundup of things things people sent to VICE on Snapchat (username: vicemag). We kind of feel weird about posting people’s faces, so we’re just not going to do that this time. Maybe next time? For the most part everything’s been pretty safe-for-work, except for the dude who sent us a picture of his large, glistening penis against a bent over woman’s thonged butt. We’re not going to post that, sorry. Basically it’s been 95% super boring photos. Try harder? A lot of weed, a lot of dudes staring at us, à la early Chatroulette. Also a lot of people sent us videos, which is fine, but, again, they’re usually kind of boring. We tried to send people as many snap chats as possible, but there are thousands of you and only a dozen people have been hired to man the Snapchat full time, so we can’t exactly keep up. A few people sent us flirty things, which is cool, we guess, but like, we’re not going to flirt back. We’re a brand. It kind of reminds of us that YouTube video of the girl at the EDM festival who is making out with and grinding on a tree (and presumably on drugs). Someone else sent us a video of them punching a glass window, with the caption “breaking into a house lol.”
Anyway, here are our favorites.
This is the least “out here” anyone could be
That’s cool, we always wished we knew how to make those
This guy actually sent us a ton of pictures of him with the gun, putting it in his friends’ mouths, pointing it at himself, etc. Some videos too. We’re going to assume it’s fake, but still. Not really funny, kind of scary.
More photos soon.
Whenever a new social media platform becomes popular, the VICE Tumblr Team is frequently asked about our strategy for said platform. "How are you activating pix.fux?" "What are you doing on coolz-E?" Generally, our answer is “nothing,” because most social media sites are stupid and everyone forgets about them in like a month and it’s always easier (and often wiser) to just do nothing. But every once in a while one sticks and we’re obliged to create an account. And so, we’re proud to announce that we’ve finally decided upon our Snapchat strategy.
We’ve created an account, username: vicemag, and we want you to send us pictures. We will look at them, and if we like them we’ll take a screenshot. (Yes, we know that screenshotting Snapchats goes against the medium, but the VICE Tumblr Team hails from So-Cal, the DGAF capital of the world.) Then, assuming we’re sent cool photos, we’ll post a weekly round-up of our favorites on this here Tumblr. We won’t use your names. Also, we might send you some photos of our own. Cool?
We had to do it.
these guys get it
The Facebook Comments That Rob Ford Doesn’t Want You to See
Above: A crack pipe word cloud, because, why not?
The comments on the Facebook page of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford are, on the whole, positive and congratulatory. Even in the wake of the ever-evolving ‘Crackgate’ scandal, Fordites have been posting a plethora of supportive comments to the Mayor’s wall:
“Rob. Hang on. you are doing the best job. We love you…Burden is on star to provide proof. There was no video released, so it does not exist. Not even short ten seconds teaser trailer. as to create attention. all this screams from pinkos are unsubstantinated. They have no video, you do not need to explain any further.”
“Mr ford I just want to say I have alot of respect for you and your visions for this great city of ours. Keep up the good work and remember there are alot of people rooting for you.”
It shouldn’t come as any surprise to you that the comments on the mayor’s Facebook page are heavily monitored and screened. For any high-profile politician, online comments are like town hall forums: they appear spontaneous but are actually highly choreographed. In the case of Ford’s Facebook page, negative comments are systematically cleansed from the mayor’s wall.
This practice came to my attention last week when Gawker first broke the Crackgate story. As the controversy reverberated throughout the digital space, I wanted to gauge Torontonians’ reactions. And what better place to share your support or dismay for your elected official than his public Facebook page? I noted a couple of particularly disparaging remarks about Mr. Ford and mentioned them to a friend in passing a couple of hours later.
When they tried to look them up, they’d already been deleted.