Does It Matter How A Terrorist Presents Themselves?

People really do talk about branding some weird things – I read an article today about the branding of the Islamic State, and I have previously read about the economic model that terrorists use as being something to perhaps emulate … that being the basis of asymmetric warfare, where a $20 sticky bomb can take out an armored car that cost thousands of dollars.

I am sure that Cayce Pollard, the coolhunter protagonist with an unusual sensitivity to certain brand logos and corporate mascots in William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, would balk at some of these notions. There is a morbid fascination with some of these groups, and I suppose it comes out of the media’s inability to nail down the facts and keep the personal opinion of its reporters and talking heads out of the mix. It’s hard to explain groups like this away, so if you can find something codified in the way that they present themselves it doesn’t feel like you are a pat of butter sliding across a teflon surface, instead you are Tom-Cruise-Mission-Impossible free-climbing up a sheer face and reaching a conclusion.

Marshall Mcluhan, the pop sociologist who talked about the internet before there was an internet may have been able to extrapolate some data from his Medium Is The Message exploration of how whatever medium you are using shapes the message, and tack that meaning onto these insane individuals, but again, is the interpretation in any way useful for understanding the motivation behind such violent acts, and do you even need to?

A media image is being built of these guys that is pretty simply understood without all the back-and-forth and to-and-fro … if you are beheading someone it stands to reason that you are not a nice person and that you may need serious help. So, what could the brand possibly be, other than raving insane homicidal extremist maniac? Could you refit these guys and do a makeover that turns them into the freedom fighter for the day? It’s hard to spin murder into anything other than that.

You do not have to dig that deep or put one of these guys on a leather couch to understand them, and does anyone who is cuckoo for coco-puffs really spend that much time strategising their media presence? Are they really wondering whether or not their statements are getting traction. Perhaps having bombs dropped on your head is some kind of metric that terrorists take more notice of than Facebook likes, retweets, or Youtube video watches.