[Javier Lesaca, Weapons of mass seduction. Ediciones Península, 2017. 312 pages]


review / Alejandro Palacios Jiménez

What is it that drives a young man to abandon his friends and family and freely give up his dreams to join the Islamic State? With this question in mind, Javier Lesaca immerses us in this narrative in which he dissects the communicative apparatus used by ISIS to gain followers and spread its ideas and influence through the virtual Caliphate.

Thanks to his extensive professional career, the author sample in Armas de seducción masiva has a high Degree of depth and analysis, which is not incompatible with an entertaining and convincing narrative. Javier Lesaca Esquiroz (Pamplona, 1981), graduate in Journalism at the University of Navarra, works as researcher at the International Observatory of programs of study on Terrorism. His extensive knowledge on topic has allowed him to work in organisations such as the World Bank, the Inter-American Bank development and the Government of Navarre. Education Her work experience is complemented by her participation in forums such as the United Nations (UN) Security committee or the Euro-Arab Dialogue of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

His main hypothesis is that the crisis of credibility in traditional institutions, which has been fuelled by the economic and financial crisis of 2008 and is palpable in the 15-O movement, coupled with the technological revolution of the 21st century, has allowed the Islamic State (ISIS, or Dáesh, by its Arabic nomenclature) to influence the perceptions of Western citizens, in particular millennials, in a way never seen before. Millennials, who do not feel represented by their respective state institutions, seek to feel important and to participate in a new project that helps them to make sense of their lives and to stand up every day for a cause worth fighting for. And ISIS offers them just that.

Weapons of mass seduction

But what is Dáesh? Far from historical and religious explanations, Lesaca presents us with an unprecedented answer: the Islamic State embodies what is called modern terrorism, which uses the instruments of the new generations to get its messages across. In other words, Daesh presents itself as a global social movement that uses local communication campaigns that are disseminated throughout the world and whose terrorist acts are used as a mere "performance" within a broader communication strategy. Thus, Daesh defines itself as a leaderless movement that, paradoxically, moves away from the more purely religious elements to suit the concerns of the youth audience it plans to seduce.

The fact that it is a headless movement does not imply that it is internally unorganised. On the contrary, ISIS is a terrorist group that uses social networks very effectively and whose internal structure allows it not only to influence, but also to be in possession of some of the media. Its strategy consists of both developing its own media and using what is called "earned media". reference letter The former refers to Daesh's large communication structure based on: press releases, infographics, photographic reports, magazines in different languages, the Al Amaaq news agency, Al Bayan radio, Ajnabah music productions, the Isdarat website (now closed), audiovisual production companies and offline marketing in some parts of Iraq and Syria (billboards, posters and cybercafés). The media won is measured in terms of the number of times the terrorist group has succeeded in having its actions condition the diary of the traditional media.

The use of such a multitude of communication channels with the goal to create a parallel world, which its activists call the Caliphate, and to geographically segment the audience to modify the framing of the message - all under the cover of twisted interpretations of the Koran - is what is known as transmedia terrorism. To make this strategy as effective as possible, nothing is left to chance. One example given in the book, sample , is the control that the all-powerful Syrian executive producer Abu Mohamed Adnani, a friend of the caliphate's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, exercised over his subordinates, supervising and approving the content and messages that ISIS transmitted to the public. So much so that Adnani was considered by the West to be the de facto man who exercised the real day-to-day leadership within the terrorist organisation until his death in 2016.

All of this communicative strategy is precisely described in the book thanks to the large number of concrete examples that the author provides of massacres that Dáesh has carried out since its existence and the way in which these have been transmitted. In this sense, Lesaca emphasises the effectiveness with which ISIS, making use of the new media, camouflages real executions among images of video games(Call of Duty) or fictional films(Saw, Hunger Games, Sin City) in order to blur the line between reality and fiction, creating what is called a transmedia narrative. The idea is simple: how are these images going to seem cruel to you if they are similar to the ones you see in a cinema conference room eating popcorn?

In written request, Javier Lesaca attempts to define a useful strategy for dealing with the terrorism of the future. He argues that it is unclear what tools states should equip themselves with to confront this new form of terrorism. However, a good way to do so would be to make democracy fashionable, that is, to reinforce the values that have allowed the construction of the welfare society and development the greatest period of prosperity in our history. "The Islamic State has managed to win the victory of aesthetics, which is why we must make values such as democracy, freedom and equality attractive cultural products," says Lesaca. But this is not enough, he says. In addition, "we must promote institutional strengthening by eradicating corruption and implementing policies to create a Economics capable of absorbing all the talent of the new generations and achieving an effective management of public services".

At summary, this is a book that is a must-read for all those who want to familiarise themselves with the internal organisation and Structures of the power of Daesh, its objectives and the means it uses to achieve them group . It is also an invaluable guide for the study and subsequent reaction of the West to the communication campaigns not only of the Islamic State, but also of subsequent terrorist organisations that will form part of what is already known as modern terrorism.

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