“That propaganda is good which leads to success, and that is bad which fails to achieve the desired result. It is not propaganda’s task to be intelligent, its task is to lead to success.”
This quote could so easily belong on the lips of any political strategist amongst Democrats and Republicans in America or Labour and Tories in Britain; in actuality it belongs to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda.
Hitler started an ideology – a quasi-religious ideology at that. Here is Goebbels again: “What does Christianity mean today? National Socialism is a religion. All we lack is a religious genius capable of uprooting outmoded religious practices and putting new ones in their place. We lack traditions and ritual. One day soon National Socialism will be the religion of all Germans. My Party is my church, and I believe I serve the Lord best if I do his will, and liberate my oppressed people from the fetters of slavery. That is my gospel.”
Hitler may have believed in his ideology, he was mad enough too, it’s easy imagining him truly hating Jews, Communists, gypsies, homosexuals and so on – but those hatreds are somehow beside the point.
Nazism wasn’t about anti-Semitism and race politics at root – certainly not for its followers. What anti-Semitism and race politics did was to attract and inspire men – and women – with a violent hatred bubbling inside them. I would pander a guess that the truly devout National Socialists hated Jews, truly, because they wanted something to hate, they needed an outlet for their brutality, for their violence, for their insanity.
ISIS is doing the exact same thing today.
But before getting to ISIS I’d like to mention a country I dearly love, even in this dim context: Cuba. As I’m planning a trip to Cuba everyone tells me the same thing: best to go soon before the Americans come in and it all changes. This is a very ill-informed and ignorant thing to say. Before it changes, how, it becomes more affluent, the marginalised have more class mobility, there’s more freedom of the press, homosexuals and blacks are less discriminated against, that there’s more opportunity for wealth?
Castro’s revolution achieved something not even Goebbels could manage: it won the propaganda war and won over the minds of its enemies. Look at us, now, wearing Che Guevara t-shirts as if he were John Lennon, buying Cuban cigars as if they were made by fairies, and buying Castro berets as if he were, well, Jesus. This is a deliberate aesthetic bombardment to make us forget the brutality of Che Guevara’s politics, the abject poverty enforced on the Cuban people (oh but at least they’re educated!) and the oppression Castro inflicted on his beloved people. Castro and the Cuban revolution has won the aesthetic war. Few dictators can manage that.
The joke is on us when Westerners go around wearing Che Guevara t-shirts and at the same time campaigning for human rights. Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara must be laughing in his grave!
And let’s make no mistake about it: ISIS is also winning the propaganda war in the hearts of many young Muslims. There is a parallel between ISIS and Fascism, but also, with Castro.
ISIS is a rallying cry for sadists. But it is, just as Hitler’s was, a very professional, customised cry. ISIS know their target audience. Young disenfranchised men – not just Muslims – who are unemployed, drug-addicted, without any prospects, already violent by nature. ISIS projects itself as a brotherhood. Come join us and you will be feared, reviled, people will cower when you walk into a room, and of course, the more you kill, rob, butcher, the more of a god you’ll become. And of course, you’ll have all the women, guns, and power you’ll ever want – all the things an unbalanced young man could ever dream of.
And don’t lets underestimate the appeal of this. ISIS videos are more professional than Eurovision song videos, their websites are sleek, brutal and kinky, and their preachers are masters of social media and they know their populism ten times better than Trump. In 2015 alone, according to American intelligence, 250 Americans and 750 Britons have gone to fight for ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Not to mention, in the same year, the 1,200 French, 440 Belgian and nearly 600 German ISIS recruits. It is becoming cool to join ISIS.
Che Guevara was also renowned for exporting his Marxist-revolutionary tactics abroad; to Angola, the Congo and of course Bolivia where he was eventually killed. Remind you of anyone? The same international brand of terrorism ISIS are exporting to Europe and elsewhere. This, also has great appeal for the sadists that rally to the black flag. To bring the West to its knees is a great turn-on for them, and to walk the streets of Brussels or Paris wearing Muslim garb, with a long black beard and instilling fear in Westerners is the greatest rush any unstable teenager can get.
It’s all about power. And we need to be wary of this.
Now many of you, especially liberals, are expecting me, by now, to make the obvious metaphor: just as Hitler’s brutality wasn’t about anti-Semitism and race politics, so Islamism isn’t about Islam. Jihadi John from South London doesn’t care about the Caliphate or about the Hadiths or Sharia. He just wants to be feared, an easy thing to achieve if you can bring yourself to kill; he also doesn’t care about a martyr’s heaven – he’s demented enough to not care about dying. Violence and brutality is a great adrenaline rush.
There, point made, however, I don’t think liberals will be happy with the but that’s coming up now.
I’ve made the comparison between Castro’s Cuba and the Caliphate, but now, ask yourself this question: where would you rather live: in Communist Cuba or ISIS-controlled Syria?
I think I know your answer. I certainly know mine. And why is that? Castro may not have cared about Marxism – he just adopted it as a tool of power – just as ISIS may not care, really, about Islam (think of this: in Mosul, all alcohol is banned, but the ISIS elites spend most of their time drinking, see, it’s all about power!): however, Communism, Islamism and National Socialism are not irrelevant.
The devil is in the detail. Islam can not and should not get off lightly. Why have the sadists rallied to the flag bearing quotes from the Quran as opposed to quotes from Voltaire or from Kipling? Islam is a ready-made ideology for would-be sadists. Yes, it’s a ready-made ideology for peace-lovers and men of good will as well, no one can deny that. But why did Castro pick up on Marxism – Marxism has excellent ideologies embedded in it, I’m the first one to admit it, but it also has a lot of brutality and totalitarianism that Castro could pick up on. Same thing with Islam. We can’t deny there is something genuinely attractive within it to evil minds.
A few examples, if I may: Quran (3:56) – “As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help.”
Quran (5:33) – “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement.”
Sahih Bukhari (52:220) – Allah’s Apostle said… ‘I have been made victorious with terror.’
And the list literally goes on. Religion of peace? It depends how you read it. Like all religions, it is made in the minds of its believers. But if your mind is sick then you will find plenty of consolation in the Quran and other holy books.
We are seeing now that Islamic-inspired thugs and criminals have erected one of the worst totalitarian states in modern history – yes, even rivalling Nazi Germany and, in my opinion, far out-matching Castro’s Cuba. And yet, people keep flocking to its borders. We cannot, absolutely cannot let ISIS win the propaganda war. Do your part, don’t spread the ideas that the West is to blame for all this (we’ve made our mistakes, we’ve messed up in the Middle East, but we messed up even worse in South America, and you don’t see any Nicaraguans blowing up train stations in Paris, could it be because they’re not inspired by the Quran?) and don’t let’s deny that this is radical Islamic terror, and please, in the name of whatever you believe, don’t think for a second that we deserve any of this.