Why Does ISIS' Propaganda Work? Same Reason the Nazis' Did.
Terrorists exploit the “glamor of action movies, video games, and gangsta rap.” Counterterrorist efforts somehow have to counter that glamorization.
There are holes in how we talk about “holy war,” and about what stirs the hearts of extreme “isms.”
1. Jihadis and spa-lovers have similar motives, Virginia Postrel writes. Both seek glamor, and what gets glamorized can shape lives. Terrorists exploit the “glamor of action movies, video games, and gangsta rap.”
3. Terrorist recruiters can spend hundreds of hours turning each prospect’s specific “frustrated aspiration ... into moral outrage.” (Meanwhile, material incentives can backfire on moral issues, jobs ≠ cure).
4. Counterterrorism must counter this action-movie glamor. Postrel suggests using mundane truths to disillusion glory-seekers (“Islamic State is for losers”). But that’s burdened by uncoolness (sensible warning labels haven’t beaten smoking’s cool).
6. Whatever their faults, wrote George Orwell (reviewing Mein Kampf), “Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life.” “Hitler ... knows that human beings don’t only want comfort. ... They also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice.”
7. “Most perpetrators of violence are neither pathological nor self-interested,” but believe they’re serving a “higher moral good,” says Steven Pinker — therefore “the world has far too much morality.” But that’s like saying there’s too much adrenaline or emotion — our capacities to produce adrenalin and strong moral feelings are inalienable. We can’t wish away our glands, or our social-rule processors (we can only configure their triggers and scripts).
8. Our fear system is badly skewed by news biases, Pinker feels. Statistically, traffic accidents threaten Americans far more than terrorism. But facts don’t trump fear (our “indirect rationality” means fear can only be retrained slowly).
10. Barack Obama faces Postrel’s predicament: How to sell the unglamorous and sensible? This “speechwriting challenge” highlights how the optics and game of politics can generate disastrous decisions.
Our response to terrorism shouldn’t ignore human appetites for glamor, and revenge (or justice), and meaning through sacrificing for a cause. Nor our “indirect rationality.” None of those are going away; we’d better harness them to good ends.
Illustration by Julia Suits, The New Yorker cartoonist & author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions
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The Oxfam report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency."
- A new report by Oxfam argues that wealth inequality is causing poverty and misery around the world.
- In the last year, the world's billionaires saw their wealth increase by 12%, while the poorest 3.8 billion people on the planet lost 11% of their wealth.
- The report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency." We explain what Steven Pinker's got to do with it.
Moans, groans, and gripes release stress hormones in the brain.
Could you give up complaining for a whole month? That's the crux of this interesting piece by Jessica Hullinger over at Fast Company. Hullinger explores the reasons why humans are so predisposed to griping and why, despite these predispositions, we should all try to complain less. As for no complaining for a month, that was the goal for people enrolled in the Complaint Restraint project.
Participants sought to go the entirety of February without so much as a moan, groan, or bellyache.
- Facebook and Google began as companies with supposedly noble purposes.
- Creating a more connected world and indexing the world's information: what could be better than that?
- But pressure to return value to shareholders came at the expense of their own users.
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