ISIS, a radical Islamist movement with its own army, has ramped across Iraq, conquering large swaths of territory in a kind of blitzkrieg, removing the heads from captured Westerners, fashioning itself as the revival of the medieval Caliphate, and generally scaring the crap out of everybody. Originally a small rebel group fighting in the Syrian civil war, it metastasized and spread, growing as it goes, recruiting from the very forces sent to fight it.
ISIS — or ISIL or IS, depending on who’s talking — wants to become its own nation-state as well as the center of Islam. It aims for what every good Jihadist has tried since Muhammad, to conquer the world for Allah. So far, it’s doing a bang-up job (if only in Iraq and Syria). The West, duly alarmed, wants to bomb it down from a major threat to an historical asterisk. Even so, ISIS is becoming a pretty long footnote.
The group, which has roots in Al Qaeda and local criminal gangs, receives much of its money from smuggling and protection rackets. (They’d insist they were simply moving Caliphate resources past infidel embargoes, meanwhile “taxing” the citizens of their newly established country.) But Western powers are busily blowing up those oil facilities and other infrastructure, so ISIS may have to turn elsewhere for major funding.
Now, the leaders of the movement seem to have a good grasp of modern publicity, using Twitter and YouTube to get out the message, and proudly publishing online videos of beheadings. (No, I don’t have the links to those videos, you barbarian.) They even sponsor tours of newly conquered areas. It’s all kind of flashy.
Which got me thinking: maybe they should simply drop any remaining scruples and do a huge Western-style marketing campaign — something out of Madison Avenue. To that end, I propose several ideas:
• T-shirts that say, “ISIS Iraq Tour 2014”. On the back, a list of cities conquered.
• Compact disc, “THE MUSIC of ISIS”, containing Wahhabi religious and folk tunes, smuggled for sale into towns on the “to conquer” list. The back cover reads: “If you’re holding this, you’re next!”
• TV ad with a handsome man in a short-cropped gray beard who intones, “I don’t always cut off heads. But when I do, I use Wilkinson Sword Blades. Stay bloody, my friends!”
• ISIS Spiced Rum: for non-Islamic markets only, the label sports a pirate mascot — beard flapping in the breeze, bloody sword raised high, free hand clutching a severed head — standing above a slogan: “Our rum is a cut above the rest!”
• Hash for Cash: a kind of charitable outreach where you give them money for the cause and they hand you little bags of Taliban-controlled marijuana (or heroin, depending on demand).
• Telethon, complete with celebrities, music, whirling dervishes, belly dancing. Sponsored by Ginsu Knives.
• Charity rubber bracelets, inscribed: “KILL-STRONG”.
• Branding rights: wealthy Saudi families — or major weapons manufacturers — bid to rename conquered towns after themselves.
• Family documentary, “ISIS and YOU”, including introductory weapons training for children of the faithful. “The family that prays together, slays together!”
• Pin-up calendar featuring twelve of the most beautiful women in the region — fully clad in burkhas, of course, so you can’t really see them. Ya-habibi!
• Autograph parties: high-ranking officers make surprise visits to newly conquered towns, signing CDs, calendars, tees, hash bags, empty ammo clips. Sales would skyrocket.
Hey, don’t laugh, this could work! If they try everything on the list, win or lose on the battlefield, they’ll be up there with the big boys in no time.