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ISIS: The State of Terror

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ISIS: The State of Terror
By Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger
HarperCollins, 2015
416 pp.

Despite the similarities between ISIS and previous theocratic revolutionaries, from the Abbasids to the Wahhabis, the rise of the Islamic State represents something new and modern. The technologies of globalization offer contemporary radical extremists opportunities to reach mass audiences their predecessors could never have imagined, and ISIS has exploited these technologies more successfully than any of its contemporaries in the Islamist world. Stern and Berger’s book provides the most compelling analysis yet of the group’s creative and sophisticated propaganda efforts and its unprecedented use of social media. ISIS has several thousand active online supporters who operate in disciplined regiments. After the group posts something to the Internet—say, a beheading video—and it is authenticated, a second-tier regiment takes to Twitter to “retweet the link with a hashtag, then retweet each other’s tweets and write new tweets.” At coordinated times, online hashtag campaigns generate hundreds of similar tweets to create a “Twitter storm.” Other members upload the material to multiple platforms so that it remains available even if Internet providers pull the content down. If 
“al Qaeda was publicity-shy,” write Stern and Berger, “ISIS, in contrast, is a publicity whore.”

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