ISIS and the psychology of fear

As I get ready to post this, it seems more timely than when I started writing it just a few days ago. NBC News reports that fear in the United States has risen to 9/11 heights. Obama is expected to “lay out” a plan to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State (IS) in both Iraq and Syria, according to the Guardian and other sources. Are you scared? I am, but I’m not afraid of ISIS. I’m afraid for all the innocent lives that will be lost in this next phase of the Hollywood movie called The War on Terror.

ISIS is weird. I know, I’m supposed to be writing, “ISIS is horrifying” or something along those lines, but in spite of the (staged?) beheadings, weird is all they are to me.

First of all, I think it’s weird that they dress like ninjas and have a scary looking black flag. When I see pictures like these, I wonder who designed their outfits and flag and who supplies them with them. It’s not like they could buy the clothes at Walmart and I doubt a bunch of women sat around a table like evil Betsy Rosses and sewed up flags for them.

AP image taken from Guardian article, How an arrest in Iraq revealed ISIS’s $2bn jihadist network

Then there’s the question of those shiny new vehicles with their lights on driving through the desert. Who took the shot? Why aren’t the vehicles dirty? Why are their lights on? Why is everybody standing up waving their flags? It all looks so staged, doesn’t it?

Everything about ISIS reminds me of a slick PR campaign worthy of Leni Riefenstahl. Check out this image that, according to the BBC article I found it in, was posted on a “pro-ISIS Twitter account.”

Trying to uncover facts in the mainstream media is like panning for gold. You’re lucky if you stumble across any nuggets that aren’t fool’s gold. The BBC article cited above contains a couple of interesting bits of accidental information. For example, what do you make of this one?

According to a web-based data mining software, a large number of pro-Isis tweets originated in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Gulf countries.

Then it mysteriously drops the subject. If the tweets originate in countries that are our allies, why aren’t the authorities in those countries doing anything to track down ISIS supporters on their turf?

The first thing I wanted to find out is how ISIS originated. If the MSM is anything to go by, it seemed to spring full-grown out of the sands of Iraq or maybe Syria or maybe both.  Supposedly, they got all their fancy new military equipment when they sent the Iraqi army fleeing in terror when they first arrived on the scene, but I can’t help asking myself a few questions:

  • What was the Iraqi army so afraid of if they didn’t have state-of-the-art weapons to begin with?
  • How did they amass such a large fighting force and go undetected for so long?
  • Where does all their money come from?

The Guardian tells me ISIS had $875m before they invaded Mosul. Apparently, that came from taking over oil fields in Syria in 2012 and other nefarious deeds.  After Mosul, they fattened their wallets and had a net worth of a further $1.5 billion thanks to the banks they robbed.

ISIS founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
ISIS founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Everything I read in the mainstream media just made me ask more questions, so I turned to alternative media for answers. James Corbett is a pretty thorough investigative reporter. He’s apparently been asking the same questions I have, but since he has more time than I, has been able to come up with some plausible answers. His recent article, Who is ISIS? An open source investigation, makes for perhaps unintended amusing reading. Take this passage about ISIS founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, for example:

During his time in Iraq, he was killed in a bombing raid in April of 2003; miraculously resurrected to be arrested in Fallujah in 2004; re-arrested in Baakuba in January of 2005; evacuated from Iraq in May of 2005; killed in fighting in June of 2005; and once again resurrected to be killed once again (presumably for good) in 2006.

What follows isn’t quite so funny:

But before he was killed off, the Washington Post reported that “internal military documents” proved that the Pentagon was engaged in a propaganda campaign to specifically play up the role of Zarqawi and AQI in Iraq, even quoting an internal briefing document produced by US military headquarters in Iraq revealing that US military chief spokesman Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt believed ‘The Zarqawi PSYOP program is the most successful information campaign to date.’

That acronym, PSYOP, is pretty scary, but the U.S. military through spokesperson Army Col. James A. Treadwell assures us that we “don’t psyop Americans. We just don’t do it”. Too bad that earlier in the same article, Treadwell’s assurance is contradicted with these words: “For the past two years, U.S. military leaders have been using Iraqi media and other outlets in Baghdad to publicize Zarqawi’s role in the insurgency. The documents explicitly list the ‘U.S. Home Audience’ as one of the targets of a broader propaganda campaign.”

Isis and the Psychology of Fear

John B. Watson, one of the founders of behaviourist psychology infamously declared: “The driving force in society is not love, but fear.” Unfortunately, he was sort of right. The most effective way to manipulate society is to make it fearful. The propaganda machine of the military and its partners in the U.S. government and media are very good at instilling fear into mainstream America. The whole ISIS thing is just the latest instalment in the smash-hit horror movie, The War on Terror.

Watson was sort of right because fear can be used to great effect. He was sort of wrong, too, because we are not, as the behaviourists claim, just mechanisms. We have the capacity to love. I believe love and trust are inherent parts of our nature. Watson himself may have proved it in his experiments with infants. One of the first things Watson learned was that babies were not inherently afraid of the dark. He then learned that they could be conditioned to be afraid of the dark. All you had to do was introduce the fear factor. That could be done with loud noises, pain and/or other traumatic stimuli applied at just the right moment.

Does that sound familiar? It should. Since 9/11, we have been conditioned to fear terrorists whenever the U.S. government wanted to invade another country. Never mind the fact that you are far more likely to be killed in a car or by a policeman, it’s a terrorist on the other side of the world you should be afraid of.

Had Watson not been such a warped individual, he might have conducted experiments to discover how children respond to kindness, affection and other positive stimuli. He probably would have discovered that they grow up to be healthy, cooperative, loving and nurturing individuals dedicated to the welfare of all.

Here’s a nice diagram I stumbled across on a website called Altruists International. How would you rather live; in fear or in love? The choice is yours. Don’t let the black magicians of the government and media fool you. We don’t need Big Brother to protect us. All we need is each other.

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