GOVERNMENT REPORT: ISIS is winning over young Muslims because they know everyone loves pancakes

Here’s a table from the Australian government’s Review of Australia’s Counter-Terrorism Machinery, released today. It shows why groups like ISIS are able to connect with disaffected with young Muslims, and how government messaging is ineffectual by comparison.

While governments talk about aid spending, ISIS posts violent images and intersperses it with other appealing content like pancake recipes.


Sure, this cherry-picks two examples for maximum contrast. But it is a condemnation of the government’s weak communications strategy against extremists, who know their audience, craft their messages carefully and know where to reach potential recruits.

The report says of terrorists’ communication approach:

They also use social media to great effect, while empowering supporters to independently generate and distribute propaganda. Young people don’t necessarily receive information through traditional news channels, and are unlikely to trust government-led messaging. Yet Australia’s online counter radicalisation efforts are still largely passive, based on government-badged information.

Community leaders and young Muslim Australians are often seen by at-risk communities as more legitimate, although some, particularly older individuals, lack the digital skills and media confidence necessary to engage online or in public debate. Governments should build the capacity of these credible voices in order to increase their reach and effectiveness. This may include funding for multimedia training and the development of online forums and videos.

For example, the UK currently employs film crews who work directly with community organisations to produce material which challenges extremist narratives. These crews work directly with community groups to ensure the end product maintains its identity (and therefore credibility). The material is distributed directly by these organisations, with only a small portion directly badged with government involvement.

The report also suggests approaching companies like Facebook and Twitter for training in improving government and community messaging to combat youth radicalisation.


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