“ISIS is talking online about jars of Nutella, pictures of kittens and emojis,” she said. “They want people to believe their life on the battlefield isn’t so different than yours. They actually eat Nutella, and I guess they have pet kittens.”
(A Costello tweet with video of her talking about this appears to have been deleted.)
But Nimmi Gowrinathan, an expert in gender and violence, who was the guest in the segment, provided a more intellectual take on why women are drawn to the Islamic State. And it’s far deeper than a chocolate-hazelnut spread.
“I think the thing to recognize is that women are not fighting for women’s rights, the fight for ISIS is a fight for something else, it is the idea of a caliphate,” she said. “It is a political fight, which goes a bit deeper than social media. That is what women are attracted to because they feel safer, because they feel their identity is threatened…”
Basically, women, oppressed in their communities, are looking for somewhere to belong, something to be a part of, she said. It’s a political choice.
But this Nutella gambit did not come out of nowhere. The Daily Mail reported in August 2014 that jihadists were posting pictures on Twitter posing with jars of Nutella. The same story noted there were also images of gun toting militants holding kittens.
Steven Stalinsky, executive director of Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a pro-Israel group that tracks social media activity of pro-Islamic State accounts, said it’s very common for militants to post pictures of themselves with cute animals, or candy. But he doesn’t think it’s for recruitment, but rather just what they do in their down time – much as westerners post pictures of themselves.
“They do have a lot of down time, they are swimming in the ocean, playing soccer, hiking, things like that,” Stalinsky said. “Part of the down time is documented. Just like in the West … for their friends and families back home.”
The White House is hosting meetings this week on how to counter the recruitment efforts of the Islamic State. President Obama, in a speech Wednesday, said more must be done “to prevent people from being susceptible to the false promises of extremism.”
Because, we’re pretty sure, it’s not all kittens and Nutella.