2/09/2015

Social Media as a Force Multiplier

ISIS has proven very adept at using social media tools to win power, influence, recruits and strategic advantage over their opponents. So far, they've mostly portrayed their strategic, battle field, psychological and opponent success after they have achieved it.
Here, I will examine how they could, and likely will, use social media as a significant force multiplier if they coordinate their assault with their social media skills to cause panic, chaos, death and destruction in the United States. Basically, after much research, I believe ISIS will create widespread panic through the use of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. They will use social media as a force multiplier in tandem with an actual physical assault within the United States. 
A social media force multiplier as I use the term here is an individual or small team who, through the use of special tactics, can do the damage of a much larger force. It is easy to understand that a skilled sniper is a force multiplier on the battle field. Why? Because one sniper can tie up an enemy battalion and are capable of force multiplication without ever directly engaging the enemy, they are a commonly known force multiplier. I propose that a few jihadi social media “snipers” can create the kind of chaos, death, destruction, and panic to millions of American civilians. 
Enter “#ISIS” as a search term in Twitter. You will be amazed at the number of entries that display when you do, and most of those entries support them. 
Or, if you prefer, enter “#ISIL” as a search term in Twitter and you will get similar results. 
With social media tools, whatever safety we enjoyed once behind oceans and land masses is gone. Every day and night, state sponsored and individual hackers’ strike at our government, our corporations, and our infrastructure. (Most recently was the hacker attack against SONY.) As they are after specific information, be it financial, military, or otherwise, they generally do not destroy the servers or data or destroy electronic, digital, water, financial or other networks. 
But what if ISIS were to strike those same networks? And what if they used their substantial knowledge of social media as a force multiplier to increase their destructive capability? 
They’ve already proven themselves to be very adept at using their social media tools to recruit and train candidates from dozens of nations. They’ve uploaded their combat and recruitment films to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Their assault on Syria and Iraq was probably the first combat operation that was widely carried live on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media. 
They have demonstrated a professional grasp of messaging and messaging tools. They understand that the optics as captured in social media is as important to their victory as anything they achieve on the battlefield. 
So…let’s take just one scenario. 
Let’s assume that for a year or two ISIS and their sympathizers accumulate weapons and explosives inside the United States. If they preposition operatives and supplies in just 20 U.S. neighborhoods, they have a rather formidable force. Then, they pick a day for a coordinated attack and hit hard. 
But knowing how powerful social media can be as a force multiplier, they not only stock piled arms and explosives. They also set up hundreds of accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and other social media, and preprogrammed smart phones to spread their message rapidly…all as a force multiplier. 
As in Syria and Iraq, they have one operative with a cell phone recording every action. As fast as it happens, they upload it to social media websites like YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook using accounts they have already established. And they comment about it all, enjoying the element of surprise and the advantage of first report without counterviews reported. 
With a terrorist journalist assigned to each strike force, they could quickly and widely disseminate their message. A violent, coordinated, well executed attack on a large number of American neighborhoods accompanied by a professionally executed social media campaign, in addition to causing a large loss of life and significant damage to property, could accomplish the penultimate goal of every terrorist organization: panic. 
And they have mastered this ability already. Just one Tweeter named Mahdi under the name “Shami Witness,” an executive from Bangalore, India: “…spent his mornings, afternoons and evenings sending thousands of tweets of propaganda about the Islamic State militant group, acting as the leading conduit of information between jihadi’s, supporters, and recruits. 
His tweets…were seen two million times each month, making him perhaps the most influential Islamic State Twitter account, with over 17,700 followers.”[i] 
Remember how adept at using social media as a force multiplier the Islamic terrorist was who struck the patrons of the Lindt cafĂ© and chocolate store in Sydney, Australia at the height of the Christmas shopping season and in the heart of their financial district. 
In contrast to prior terrorist hostage takings going all the way back to when the Palestine Liberation Organization who when they would hijack planes in the 1970’s silenced all hostages , the jihadi at the Lindt store allowed their hostages to keep their phones. And he sent out a barrage of tweets to news media outlets and others. Why? 
Why would they do that when doing so would provide an opportunity for them to communicate with their families and the media? 
He had some hostages call news outlets to try to get on the air. Again, why? I argue they know by now very how powerful a force multiplier social media can be as a way to get on the networks. While misguided, uninformed or defeatist analysts in the West may label these actors “lone wolfs,” they are well aware they are part of a larger, global jihad. They now use social media as a force multiplier with the sword to continue their 1,400 year long drive for world domination. 
Orson Wells in his famous 1938 drama “War of the Worlds” achieved massive citizen panic using just his voice and an earlier social media tool, the radio. ISIS has far more sophisticated tools at its disposal, and it knows how to use them. 
Once underway this kind of large-scale citizen panic is difficult to contain. As they have already cut off captives heads, engaged in mass murder and mass rape, enslaved thousands, turned Christian churches into prisons, recruited, trained and activated suicide bombers and engaged in other widespread and repeated violent behavior, their launching multiple attacks inside the U.S. is easily imaginable. 
Given their proven global proficiency and experience coordinating their attacks with social media propaganda, ISIS using social media as a multiplier force when they strike the United States is easily imaginable. 
The full impact of that attack through their use of these social media tools for the past several years in the Middle East and globally shows they are proficient in their use, and they will use them here when they hit hard. 
We can shut down ISIS social media tools BEFORE their use of them results in large numbers of American death, panic, mayhem and destruction. The consequences of waiting until AFTER this social media force multiplier is used on a larger scale are unimaginable.


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