The Islamic State's intense social media presence, its slogans and black attire, and its brutal tactics have caught the world's attention. And the Middle East is no different, with the militant group sparking deep anger and disgust among large swaths of the population. It also has been the butt of many, many jokes in the region. The increasing hostility toward the group is clear from parodies of the Islamic State that have gone viral in places such as the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.
This Palestinian parody is a pointed critique of the Islamic State's strategy — the YouTube clip shows fighters killing Muslims and Christians but letting Jews go unharmed. It's telling that Palestinians see the militants as more of a danger to those belonging to their own faith.
In Beirut, a band called al-Rahel al-Kabir performs songs ridiculing the militants. In a song mocking the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a line goes: "And because we need to reduce traffic, we will blow up human beings.”
Another video posted by a user, whose location is hidden, criticizes the use of Toyota pickup trucks by the Islamic State and other terror groups. Earlier this year, Public Radio International published a piece asking why Toyota’s trucks were so popular among insurgent and terrorist groups and mainly referred to their adaptability. Now the trucks themselves have become a focal point of the Islamic State's grandiose propaganda, as this parody shows:
The idea of parodying the Islamic State has also reached Twitter. Several accounts make jokes about what some experts consider the group’s regressive attitude.
Among these tweets are Photoshopped images of fashion magazines advising Islamic State militants how to “choose the right hair-band” and featuring “8 reasons why moustaches are out.” Another user mocks the Islamic State leader’s watch, which was visible in his most famous video message. While some of the parody videos have gone viral, the majority of ironic Twitter accounts seem to contain graphic pictures and vulgar language. Nearly all of the profiles hide their creators' real locations, but the language used indicates that at least some of them are likely to be native English speakers.
The technology company Recorded Future recently found that the Islamic State had been mentioned favorably on Twitter 27,000 times from Aug. 18 to Sept. 3, which would indicate a strong support base on the social network. It is hard to say who is winning the propaganda war on Twitter and other platforms, but parody accounts certainly play a role in this war of words and pictures. Twitter has recently cracked down on Islamic State-affiliated profiles, which is why many users explicitly state that their posts are meant to be satirical.