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article imageOp-Ed: Marketing 101- 'Fitna' or how to sell propaganda globally on both sides

By Paul Wallis     Mar 29, 2008 in Politics
If you think of the War on Terror as a marketing exercise, Dutch rightwing politician Geert Wilder’s film Fitna has saved Al Qaeda, for whom it’s great propaganda, a lot of money. They won’t need to find a beard to stick on Al Jazeera for years.
London-based website Live, which was an original online source of Fitna, has now dropped the film.
CNN reports: said in a statement Friday that it decided to remove the film a day after it was posted "following threats to our staff of a very serious nature."
There’s no indication of the nature of threats or their source in the report.
Wilders’ comments are interesting:
"My intention was not to offend in any way but to show the truth -- at least, the truth as I see it," Wilders said. "And if the truth hurts and could be offensive, well, this of course is not my problem."
True enough. It’s the world’s problem, a lot of people have been hurt, and he’s obviously not part of that. Hundreds of thousands of dead people are just a byproduct, in marketing terms.
The reaction to Fitna is where the marketing comes in. Politics is inextricably linked with publicity. Getting public attention is harder than it looks, and stunts aren't exactly unknown.
Al Qaeda, in the process of electing itself the voice of Islam, has been selling the idea of Western attacks on Islam. The various militant net sites usually identify Christians and Jews as the enemies of Islam, etc.
Hate politics are simple, and they’re for simple minded people, so selling ideas is pretty easy. All you need to do is identify the enemy. The enemy are demonized.
Bear in mind also that this stuff usually isn’t sold to educated people, or those with enough knowledge to have their own opinions.
In recent history, the last 500 years, Catholics, Jews, Protestants, Huguenots, Calvinists, Muslims, Hindus, Sufis, Copts, Russian Orthodox, and other groups have been persecuted, and have persecuted, on exactly the same basis.
So along comes Wilders, with Fitna. He’s nothing new, politically, just the current version of a very old story.
But Al Qaeda can say this is a duly elected Western politician, who’s made a film which could only antagonize Muslims.
Let’s face it, “Obscure but irritating Dutch right wing independent” or “political nobody” doesn’t sound quite as impressive.
So on the terrorists’ version of MTV on the internet, a star is born, and globally Wilders gets more publicity than he could otherwise hope to get in a lifetime.
Wilders’ own approach is like the movie A Clockwork Orange. People are subjected to repeated associations of the Koran, Moslems and a series of unpleasant, ugly, images.
Exactly like a TV commercial, it’s the mental associations that sell the product.
Fitna produces instant polarity, which is the creation of points of fundamental for/against opposition. Polarity was invented in the heyday of quack psychology, when professional eunuchs had to find some way of being impressive, and wrote bookstores full of drivel. Naturally, Fitna includes an image of Mahomet, a guaranteed offense to any Moslem, as well as creating obscene contexts for quotes from the Koran.
It’s no great achievement these days to promote hate or polarities.
Eight years ago, there was no real or publicly perceived “Islamic threat”. There were a few nutcases called Al Qaeda who had attacked the USS Cole and killed a lot of African pedestrians in attacks on American embassies. Jemah Islamiyah was a fringe group in Asia. Wahabism was an insular Middle East form of Arab Supremacism. Any idea of an “Islamic threat” came from Iran. The Taliban were the rulers of southern Afghanistan, semi-acceptable, because of their role in the war on the Soviet invaders, with US backing.
For Al Qaeda, 911 was a marketing exercise. The group had nothing remotely like the importance it has now assumed. The marketing was applied to a market image for Al Qaeda, which not at all coincidentally took the role of an Islamic authority. It took credit for the Afghanistan war against the Soviets, supported anything vaguely Islamic.
Pure propaganda, and Al Qaeda, in terms of Islam, is another form of McReligion, like any other kind of fundamentalism. It has no real religious authority. Any local mullah or imam has more real religious status.
There’s no concept of justice in hate politics. Most of the world’s 1.4 billion Moslems may be dirt poor, living in hideously oppressive places, and not killing anyone, but they’re still apparently available to be insulted by any jerk with the ability to make a movie or draw a crappy cheap shot cartoon for no good reason.
Those of us from countries whose citizens have been hit by terrorism may be less than overjoyed that some publicity-hunting Euro-idiot is able toss some more fuel on the fire, and add any level of credibility to Al Qaeda and its allies.
In fairness, the Dutch and the rest of Europe aren’t exactly dancing in the streets about Fitna. But the fact it was created by an elected politician adds a level of implied governmental level involvement. Wilders may have a right to his opinions, however obnoxious, but creating a security problem isn’t a right.
There’s an expression in times of war which applies to Wilders’ film:
“Giving aid and comfort to the enemy.”
Because that's exactly what he's done.
More about Fitna, Wilders, Anti-islamic
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