Withstanding Propaganda: The Requirement for Canada to Create a Counter-Narrative

Peter Kuitenbrouwer’s October 23rd update of the tragic Ottawa shooting describes the upwelling of support by Jihadists who “celebrate the attacks this week that took the lives of Canadian soldiers in Ottawa and St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.” and “to encourage more attacks on Canadian soil.” These attacks were viewed as fair punishment for Canada’s involvement in fighting the Islamic State. Due to Canada’s response to the attacks, such as cancelling an NHL hockey game and ensuring that soldiers refrain from wearing their uniforms in public, “the fighters suggest that Canada does not have the backbone to withstand terrorist threats.” However, there is no confirmed link between the terrorist and the group thus far. Several other mocking tweets were sent out to humiliate the actions that followed the attacks as well as to help encourage more events such as these in Canada. By using religious lingo, such as references to Allah, these claims of victory have been tools to propagate this extremist group.

It is clear that, although there are not yet confirmed ties to ISIS in this event, that this act of violence has been manipulated to become further propaganda material for the group. Propaganda does not necessarily entail malicious intent. It is an organized method of communication that is used to promote a belief system. However, ISIS has used the power of propaganda to disseminate a message that is in support of these horrific events in Canada. Perhaps the most concerning aspect of this form of propaganda is that is has spread through the Internet, which can virtually be accessed by most people in the developed world. A far cry from propaganda’s past use of large posters and newspaper stories, these hateful messages can be spread for free through the use of Twitter or other social media sites and knows no boundaries such as a country’s borders.

Under the veil of religious intentions, members of this political religion have manipulated Canada’s story of terror and the loss of Canadian soldiers into a story of triumph and power for ISIS. In this way, it is possible to consider the role of the narrative paradigm in this event. Walter Fisher’s ideas that individuals will use common sense to differentiate between valid and invalid rhetoric is shattered in this case. Members of ISIS are choosing to believe in and propagate a story that has been warped in its meaning to benefit their extremist ideals. They have taken credit for an event that, for the time being, is not considered to have occurred under the influence of ISIS. Kenneth Burke outlined that this narrative paradigm, in tandem with consubstantial identity and identifying an enemy, motivates people to create a movement. This is most certainly the case for ISIS and leads to the question of how Canada will combat this extremist influence.

As discussed in class, the myth of Afrikaner Nationalism was rejected by creating a counter-narrative which reinvented a harmful belief system to effect positive change. I believe that it is now up to Canadians to encourage and proliferate a counter-narrative that will aid in snuffing out this ideology of hate.

Read Peter Kuitenbrouwer’s story, “‘Canada getting a taste of their own medicine’: Jihadists sneer at Ottawa shooting on Twitter” here: http://bit.ly/1wrX69n

– C.S. #349



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