Is ISIS winning the Facebook war?

Nicole Colson shines a spotlight on the world's greatest purveyor of war propaganda.

FBI Director James Comey (right) (Paul Morigi)FBI Director James Comey (right) (Paul Morigi)

WHY WON'T they "like" us on Facebook--or rather, not "like" the terrorists?

That was the level of the analysis from U.S. officials and the media when they warned last week that militant Islamist groups--specifically, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)--are utilizing social media and online propaganda to reach "thousands" of people inside the U.S. and sway them toward terrorism.

There was much hand-wringing about the "sophistication" of ISIS's memes--but the media managed to ignore the most obvious point: People aren't driven to plan and carry out violent attacks against perceived enemies in the West because they view videos and social media--but rather because they've watched the best-armed military in the history of the world commit atrocities against military and civilian targets alike around the globe.

In a chat with a select few reporters that was well-timed to take advantage of the wall-to-wall media coverage after the armed attack on a "Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest" conference sponsored as a provocation by professional Islamophobe Pamela Geller, FBI Director James Comey revealed last Thursday that the terrorists...use the Internet.

As a result, Comey said, "radical poisonous propaganda" is found much more easily by those in the U.S. who are "disaffected." This makes it harder for the FBI to determine who might act on professed sympathies with militant Islamists, according to Comey.

Comey pointed to Elton Simpson, one of the two men who was killed by a security guard during their armed attack on the Garland, Texas, event. Simpson had been convicted earlier of lying to FBI agents about plans to travel to Somalia to "engage in violent jihad," and had recently showed up on the FBI's radar again. In fact, officials now say that organizers of the Texas event were warned several hours before the attack that Simpson could pose a threat.

Comey warned that groups like ISIS are able to reach people easily through social media. "It's almost as if there is a devil sitting on the shoulder saying, 'Kill, kill, kill, kill' all day long," he said. "[They are] recruiting and tasking at the same time."

So the U.S. government's new terrorist boogeyman--able to warp young minds and recruit them to violence--is the smartphone. The ongoing crimes of U.S. imperialism--shredding civil liberties; drone attacks on civilians in Pakistan, Afghanistan and beyond; the persecution of Muslims by a vicious Islamophobia industry--are nothing compared to the threat of Facebook, apparently.

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THE CLAIMS about "thousands" of people in the U.S. supposedly being drawn to ISIS and other terrorist groups aren't worth the hot air used to utter them.

In all, according to the government, a total of 62 Americans from 19 U.S. states have joined, tried to join or supported others in joining ISIS or al-Nusra in Syria--hardly the dire threat we're told we face from those being brainwashed by online terrorist propaganda.

Despite this, the overblown online threat was a key feature of a congressional hearing in early May titled "Jihad 2.0: Social Media in the Next Evolution of Terrorist Recruitment."

"The videos that they're doing are incredibly slick, fancy and attractive," Sen. Cory Booker (D, N.J.) complained about ISIS--before going on to lament the state of the U.S.'s own online efforts: "If you know anything about social media, then one of the things you should look at is the engagement of people on our social media feeds, and it's laughable...I know something about memes. Look at their fancy memes compared to what we're not doing."

As for what to do about it, not a single politician dared to suggest that the U.S. government should pull back on Barack Obama's drone war--one of the key factors spreading outrage against the U.S. government around the globe.

Instead, political leaders who likely can't use social media without the help of various handlers tried to suggest ways for the government to match wits with the growing online threat.

"Let's face it: We invented the Internet. We invented the social network sites. We've got Hollywood," stated Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. "We've got the capabilities...to blow these guys out of the water from the standpoint of communications," he added--before offering the helpful suggestion that the federal government should start "trolling" ISIS with "a rapid response communications team" drawn from presidential campaign media staffers. "Trust me, we've got those capable individuals within our knowledge base," Johnson said.

By the way, guess who was arguing the day before the hearing that the U.S. needs to have "boots on the ground" in the Middle East--one of the main factors driving anti-U.S. sentiment in the first place--to defeat ISIS? That's right, it was Sen. Ron Johnson.

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THE LATEST hysteria about ISIS memes is no different from the sensationalized stories earlier this year about the Islamists luring young female recruits by, as CNN talking head Carol Costello put it in February, "talking online about jars of Nutella, pictures of kittens and emojis...These three images are in part helping ISIS recruiters lure westerners into their fight."

In reality, the idea that ISIS is recruiting large numbers of people inside the U.S. and Europe is a fable that both ISIS and Western governments have a stake in promoting. ISIS can claim it is striking an ideological blow against the West, while the U.S. government gains another excuse to justify the ongoing assault on civil liberties and the need for the U.S. war machine.

John Carlin, head of the Justice Department's National Security Division, told ABC News: "They are shooting out into the ether-sphere thousands and thousands of messages a day, over 90,000 a day and it's to millions of people across the globe. What they are trying to do is to convince young people to go slaughter civilians in a vicious war."

But ISIS certainly doesn't have the market cornered on trying to "convince young people to go slaughter civilians in a vicious war." It was revealed this week that the U.S. Department of Defense paid $5.4 million for "sponsorship" deals with 14 NFL teams from 2011 to 2014. As National Guard spokesperson Rick Breitenfeldt told ESPN:

This isn't, as some might think, payment for unfurling a flag or to welcome a soldier home on the field. This is more about spending for marketing and advertising, for signage, for website takeovers...We have hundreds of [sponsorship agreements] with teams, including minor league baseball and at high schools. We have found that spending in sports to help us recruit in our 18-24 demographic works out for us.

In other words, the perpetual flag-waving and "salutes to the troops" at pro sporting events are premeditated to get young people to sign up for the military--a military that has been engaged since the launching of the "war on terror" in bombing people across the globe in the name of "freedom."

Meanwhile, ABC News pointed out a slickly produced ISIS video in which the style of the popular "Grand Theft Auto" video games are used as a recruitment video as the words "Your games--We do the same actions on the battlefield" flash on screen. "They are using products from American culture--video games--for their purposes, and taking and making a message that works for them," fumed Scott Talan, a social media and marketing professor at American University, on ABC News.

So does Talan not realize that video games are popular in other cultures, and not just the U.S.? Beyond that, antiwar activists have long pointed out how the U.S. military uses virtual reality and video game simulators as recruitment tools on high school and college campuses--and that the U.S. military took the lead in financing and sponsoring video game technology, as a way of developing applications for recruitment and training purposes.

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THE HYPOCRISY is obvious--and telling. After all, the world's greatest purveyor of violence, as Martin Luther King once described the U.S. government, is also the world's greatest purveyor of military propaganda. One report from the Associated Press in 2009 found that over a five-year period, the Pentagon spent $4.7 billion on propaganda alone to win the "hearts and minds" of those at home and abroad to supporting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From the policy of forcing journalists to "embed" with military units and show only Pentagon-approved footage, to refusing to allow photos of the coffins of dead soldiers during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, even mainstream media figures like Dan Rather have been forced to admit that the U.S. government has "made stenographers" out of the media when it comes to covering warfare.

That's why the accusations by journalist Seymour Hersh that the Obama administration lied about the circumstances of Osama bin Laden's death--challenging the gung-ho narrative celebrated by the media--are entirely believable, even if they haven't been verified.

Governments lie--especially those engaged in imperialist adventures, but with humanitarian excuses to provide cover story. Anyone worried about the propaganda coming from ISIS through Facebook would be better off questioning the much greater volume of propaganda that comes from the U.S. government about its ongoing "war on terror."