Fighting fire with metaphors

Today, I have seen yet another article about the Brave Individuals™ who fight the Islamic State, now, with videos on YouTube. I thought I have a problem with this, so let’s find out what the problem is. Finding out what disturbs you is done best by thinking loudly, and the modern era equivalent of this procedure is writing blog posts. Welcome again to “Dimitri ranting about newspapers”.

My first issue with this is the problem of audience. There is obviously a difference between a guy or gal who would think that it is a good idea to join the jihad and someone who would think that “Moderate or not – Allah will find his own” is a good joke. This is actually the general problem with politics, hurting people with different world views (which is not necessarily bad in itself) is a very different objective from actually making them think what you think, for the same reasons.

My second issue is the inadequacy of means. No matter how hard you fight effects (with propaganda, water, electricity, e-mail advertisements), you only can do so much with persuading people not joining some strange guys. If the aforementioned strange guys have money and obvious, measurable success, then they will attract people in any case (because there always are some strange people who are into that kind of entertainment). So solving a problem of a large, organized group of people successfully spreading violence and attracting more people is best solved by dismantling the organization with all the nice tools the last two centuries have to offer, including, but not limited to, intelligence, investigations, and, in some cases, violence. And this is, as the last two centuries teach us, only doable with another large organizations. (Which brings me to the lack of a comprehensive theory of organizations.) The times of individuals, singular actions, and the one weird trick are not the times we live in. Even the sniper, the modern army hero guy, is a very specific tool whom a lot of people have worked hard to educate, deploy, and extract.

The core of my problem seems to be that, again, people seem to think that memes can help you in all situations, and that really existing things magically fade away when you have convinced yourself they do not matter anymore. In lots of cases, this is true, but in an equal or larger lot of cases, it isn’t. It is especially and most dramatically not true when the thing in question is a person with a gun.

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