Today, I stumbled upon a Google+ Page calling itself the official page of the Islamic State. Although I cannot speak to the veracity of IS being behind the page, nonetheless whoever is running it appears to be taking it quite seriously and using it to disseminate official propaganda.
This is an actual screenshot as of noon on December 12, 2015. There is no photo doctoring on my part.
I was struck by the fact that Google is hosting a page for the Islamic State. However, I was even more struck by the one and only person in its circle: comedian Jim Gaffigan.
On the one hand, I can understand why anyone would be a fan of Jim Gaffigan. The man is a brilliant comic with widespread appeal and a huge fanbase. On the other, I would not expect that the Islamic State would be a fan, as its values would seem to be at odds with his sensibilities and material. As but one example, Gaffigan’s avatar shows him posed with a hot dog the length of a person’s height, endorsing consumption of a product that is rarely halal.
In addition, Gaffigan has made at least three statements on his social media accounts making light of the organization:
Isis Ebola would be a horrible name for a baby!
— Jim Gaffigan (@JimGaffigan) October 20, 2014
Damn ISIS making it rain on the 4th of July. https://t.co/dfGLNQJnaW
— Jim Gaffigan (@JimGaffigan) July 4, 2015
When I get done with ISIS they are going to be ISIS cream! #anriISIStweet
— Jim Gaffigan (@JimGaffigan) October 22, 2015
“Wow,” said Gaffigan’s publicist Rob Greenwald, who to my pleasant surprise promptly responded to my request for comment. “I appreciate you pointing this out. Thank you very much.”
The Islamic State page did not respond to my request for comment via Google+.
As to Google’s hosting of Islamic State propaganda, its director of policy strategy Victoria Grand commented on it to the Washington Post in July:
ISIS has been confronting us with these really inhumane and atrocious images, and there are some people who believe if you type ‘jihad’ or ‘ISIS’ on YouTube, you should get no results. We don’t believe that should be the case. Actually, a lot of the results you see on YouTube are educational about the origins of the group, educating people about the dangers and violence. But the goal here is how do you strike a balance between enabling people to discuss and access information about ISIS, but also not become the distribution channel for their propaganda?
Presumably this reasoning also applies to Google+.