In July, Jon Stewart described watching Donald Trump’s presidential campaign as being “like eating ice cream on a roller coaster made of hugs.” (I Bowdlerized that quotation a little.) Indeed, Mr. Trump has provided this nascent blog with so much material that it almost feels like cheating to write about him.
However, this time I am going to actually write something that (gasp!) defends him, just a little. Because there is one denunciation of Trump’s insane call to ban Muslims that has yet to unfold: there hasn’t been Islamic militant propaganda with Donald Trump.
A great, great number of politicians and pundits across the political spectrum have said Trump’s bigoted proposal would be prime material for Daesh propaganda, specifically using the p-word.
“They will draw from the political debates in many different countries in formulating their own propaganda…They will clearly seek to use rhetoric that looks like it’s discrimination or stigmatizing of Muslims to fuel their movement,” said Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security advisor to President Obama.
“At a time when America should be doing everything we can to fight radical jihadists, Mr. Trump is supplying them with new propaganda,” said Hillary Clinton.
“This is the greatest propaganda coup for ISIS in recent times,” said Dan Rather.
“[Trump] is a propaganda bonanza for ISIS,” commented David Axelrod.
“He has given the Islamic State and other barbarians a piece of propaganda as big as any of his resorts and as shimmering as any of his office towers,” wrote Frank Bruni in the New York Times.
And former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff called a Muslim entry ban “the single best propaganda gift for ISIS.”
But here’s the thing: it hasn’t been used for Daesh propaganda. Not yet, anyway.
How can I tell? Because, as some people may be surprised to learn, the propaganda material of Daesh, Al Qaida, and other Islamic militant groups is readily available online and updated regularly.
Granted, it has only been a little over a week, so there is plenty of time. And today’s militant groups are putting out some sleek productions, which must be time intensive. Nonetheless, this is the Internet age, where content is produced at the speed of light practically.
I checked two of the better sources for posting the latest terrorist propaganda, Jihadology and Jihad Intel, and so far there is nothing that appears to reference Donald Trump. I will concede that my methodology is sub-optimal, because this is based on my skimming videos almost all of which are in Arabic. Nevertheless, neither website has any material making prominent use of Donald Trump.
I also checked the Islamic State Google+ page (the one I covered previously that has Jim Gaffigan in its circle) which is updated most days and is partially in English. It was updated as recently as about twelve hours before I started writing this piece. Again, nary a mention of Trump.
And for the heck of it, I even checked the Taliban’s English language news website. Once again, no mention of Trump. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should add that the Taliban website appears to be using WordPress, the same website currently hosting the Thought Front blog, oddly enough.)
So what does the propaganda cover? A lot of it is about military victories on various fronts, as well as tributes to “martyrs” who have died engaging in terrorism. There is sometimes highlighting of civilians who have died at the hands of other entities’ military actions, including the US. Daesh is also big on using sleek production to make their work seem “cool.”
Instead, Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric is lighting up in the mainstream media, in the Muslim world and beyond. So the Muslims learning about Trump’s plan are more likely ordinary civilians than militants. Would Trump’s proposal turn the former into the latter? That is not clear.
So Trump can take some comfort in knowing that, at least for now, the experts are wrong about the claim that he’d be used for terrorist propaganda. However, that could all change very quickly.