• State Department Lamely Markets Anti-IS Messages to Millennials

    June 29, 2015

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq, Syria


    I know a fair number of State Department employees peak at this blog, so I have a favor to ask.

    Would someone please tell the “social media gurus” at the State Department young people join Islamic State for a number of very serious and often deeply-held reasons — religion, disillusionment with the west, anger at American policy — and not because they saw an IS tweet? And that you can’t dissuade people from their beliefs simply with a clever hashtag and 140 characters of propaganda pablum?

    Yet the idea that the State Department can use social media to “counter program” IS’ message persists, even as its uselessness stares everyone but the State Department in the face.

    A Little Background on YouTube

    The State Department’s propaganda uses a negative message to try and counter the attraction of Islamic State. Started in 2011, State’s blather was only in foreign languages, moving into English in 2013. In 2014 year the work started showing up on YouTube. The theme then was “Think Again, Turn Away; the messaging was found on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and even on the sides of buses in New York City as posters. One YouTube video includes subtitles such as “learn useful skills, such as blowing up mosques” and “crucifying Muslims.” Another features oil being poured on the ground framed as “squandering public resources.

    The content is seemingly written more to appeal to Washington than potential jihadis, as you can see in this example. A lot of the messaging mocks potential recruits, claiming, for example, they read “Islam for Dummies” before heading to Syria. Those efforts cost between $5 million and $6.8 million a year.

    When in Doubt, Hire a Consultant

    With the clear failure of that messaging to stop the flow of western recruits to IS (State does like to point to proving the negative, suggesting they cannot measure people who did not join), the State Department is now trying a new version of the old strategy.

    EdVenture Partners, a company whose self-described mission is to connect clients with the “valuable and powerful millennial market” to sell junk to dumbasses, was hired to enlist student teams to combat violent extremism with some kind of digital effort — an app, a website or an online initiative. It was to be a contest; State would pick the winners and fund those as U.S. government propaganda, er, counter messaging.

    Because, see, up until now, the problem has been that those dang young people just weren’t “getting down” with the messages old people at State were “putting out there.” For real. Ya’all.

    “Millennials can speak better to millennials, there’s no question about that,” State Department Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Kelly Keiderling, who was a judge in the competition, said, sounding like some 1950s educational film narrator.

    How to Defeat Islamic State

    So here’s how the young will be stopping other youngsters from joining Islamic State.

    — Australia’s Curtin University developed an app called 52Jumaa, which to support young Muslims. The app sends daily positive affirmations about Islam to users’ smartphones, allows them to connect with other Muslims and asks them to complete a selfless act of kindness every Friday.

    — Students at Texas A&M came up with a website idea called The Funny Militant, which would run jihadi-centric parodies, including a hilarious app for finding a jihadi bride and one called Who’s Your Bagdaddy?

    — Missouri State’s product, which won the competition, is a website about the dangers of violent extremism. The site provides English-language curriculum for teaching about the extreme ideological ideas on social media and how to recognize them. It also includes trivia, community boards and videos from people who have been directly affected by terrorism.

    Wait — the winner sounds almost exactly like the lame stuff the State Department already spews out, basically saying “IS is bad, so don’t do that,” the war on terror’s reboot of the 1980s anti-drug message “Just Say No.” The winning group also created a hashtag, so you know they are like super-serious: #EndViolentExtremism

    Here are all the winners of the competition. Looks can obviously be deceiving, but one does wonder how many Muslims are in a group seeking to speak directly to Muslims in a voice that doesn’t sound like a bunch of know-it-all white kids from the ‘burbs:

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  • Recent Comments

    • John Poole said...


      Well maybe some at the State Department do find reading WMW the peak of their day while others just peek,

      06/29/15 10:52 AM | Comment Link

    • State Department Lamely Markets Anti-IS Messages to Millennials - BBG Watch said...


      […] State Department Lamely Markets Anti-IS Messages to Millennials […]

      06/29/15 11:29 AM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...


      DAMNATION. My entry didn’t even make the finals: “One misplaced drone creates more terrorists than a millennial tweets.”

      06/29/15 11:49 AM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...


      06/29/15 11:51 AM | Comment Link

    • Bruce said...


      OR, solve The CAUSE: Because, BushCObama! (US, get the hell out of the Muslims’ And EVERYONE’S Countries!)

      06/29/15 1:13 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Peter Van Buren- controversial? Well maybe cogent truth telling has been now deemed “controversial” by his former employer.

      06/29/15 6:48 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      “Millennials can speak better to millennials, there’s no question about that,” State Department Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Kelly Keiderling, who was a judge in the competition, said, sounding like some 1950s educational film narrator”


      perfect. living proof the people in power in the state department are as clueless as a spider about to be drowned in the bottom of a bathtub..

      06/29/15 7:02 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      When is State going to hire MORE Americans of Middle Eastern descent as well as Muslim Americans??

      ECA and IIP, let’s name the bureaus, have a bad habit of hiring just a few Americans with such a background, and if they do it’s on Schedule A or as contractors so if someone makes a suggestion and it ruffles the feathers of someone higher up because the idea dares to think outside a box (as if anyone is even thinking inside a box) — they terminate that person’s contract.

      Not to mention, there is an old-fashioned notion of viewing Americans who have a Mid Eastern background or who are Muslim as the fifth column


      A Yemeni political analyst with a Yemen-based political think tank (an actual Yemeni national who managed to break the glass ceiling and be interviewed by NPR), recently was interviewed and his advice was the west was losing out because Al Qaeda goes into the villages and digs wells and provides services that people could actually USE — and if only we did the same thing, we’d win over hearts and minds by actually providing what people need and are asking for. No one needs comedy central or some lame app in English that they can’t understand but that’s about as much as our side can hope for, right?

      06/29/15 7:11 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Are you suggesting PVB “reup” to help dig wells in a FOB posiition? Who would those actual helpers be? Mexicans hoping for citizenship if they deploy to the Middle East?

      06/29/15 7:21 PM | Comment Link

    • sglover said...


      The social media horseshit is just another contractor gravy train. Whether it “works” or not is a tertiary consideration.

      06/29/15 10:36 PM | Comment Link

    • Boo boo said...


      This gave me a good laugh. Am I to understand that Muslims are to be deterred from joining IS by being Mocked? Yep. That’ll work. Give alienated Muslims a feeling of alienation to stop them from joining a group they feel stands up to the bullies who alienate them. Heaven forbid using Muslims with local and religious knowledge to offer a better alternative.

      07/3/15 5:11 AM | Comment Link

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