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What ever happened to “Sticks and Stones….?” Apparently we are doing it all wrong. A new study published in London says the best way to win the fight against the a-Qaeda terrorists is via satire and ridicule. Words CAN really harm them.

The three researchers Jamie Bartlett, Johnathan Birdwell and Michael King believe that defeating the Islamist movement is as much about winning the battle of ideas and undermining Al-Qaeda’s counter-culture cachet as it is about conventional anti-terrorism operations. They suggest that al-Qaeda needs to be stripped of its glamor by emphasizing the incompetent and theologically incompatible side of al-Qaeda inspired terrorists through the use of satire.

  • The concepts of Jihad, terrorism and radicalization must be de-mystified and de- stigmatized through a series of open, local level debates. People want and need to talk about them openly. 
  • Governments must keep their messaging about what constitutes ‘good’ or ‘bad’ Islam to a minimum. Official badging of ideas or initiatives can damage legitimacy. However, governments will, inevitably, talk about al-Qaeda inspired terrorism and Islam. Where they do, communications should emphasise the terrorists’ shallow and Manichean conception of religion. Although it has been used in a number of countries, the slogan ‘Islam is peace’ should not be the dominant theme of messages: ‘Islam is just’ more closely represents the position of Muslim communities.

 In an interview with AFP, one of the researchers, Jamie Bartlett, said, “Terrorism must be defeated through the deliberate ‘toxification’ of the al-Qaeda brand; not by making it seem dangerous, but by exposing it as dumb, Al-Qaeda has to be ridiculed as the equivalent of a middle-aged dad at a school disco: enthusiastic, incompetent and excruciatingly uncool.”

The study points to satire as a tool that has successfully destroyed movements in the past:

…satire has long been recognised as a powerful tool to undermine the popularity of social movements: both the Ku Klux Klan and the British Fascist party in the 1930s were seriously harmed by sustained satire. Of course, governments cannot be seen to satirise terrorist movements, but can offer support and information to those who might.

Somehow I can’t believe that broadcasting “Your Brother Married a Goat” to every cave on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border will win us the war on terror. First of all who knows, maybe Bin Laden’s brother has a thing for four-legged creatures. More important is that once you forget the nice “peace, love and granola,” feelings, history has taught us that Islamists respect just one thing, Raw Power. Sticks and stones may not worm, but American Munitions are a better substitute than satire.

If you would like to read the entire study, called the Edge of Violence click Here:

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