On Dec. 11, it’s ISIS vs. Anonymous and company. The nameless, faceless hacker organization is encouraging North Americans and Europeans to rise up against Daesh — against the “#Daeshbags,” as Anonymous calls them — this Friday. And by “rise up” they mean troll.
“We ask you to show your support and help against ISIS by joining us and trolling them,” Anonymous wrote.
I, for one, am not convinced that this strategy — Anonymous’ strategy — is advisable. First of all, the definition of ‘trolling’ is as follows: “make a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.”
People you should troll: your feeble friend, a complete stranger on YouTube, a drunk uncle.
Organizations you should not troll: ISIS.
ISIS is a reactionary group. Its members have demonstrated that they are indignant extremists. One should not attempt to prod this bull. Don’t get me wrong: I am all for North Americans and Europeans standing together and demonstrating their unity and resoluteness against such a morally corrupt, fear-mongering group. But organizing a day on which citizens a) intentionally incite ISIS and b) gather together in major cities seems — again, to me, and who am I — unwise.
Anonymous, in the manifesto, criticizes ISIS’ ideology and religion, and questions their faith. The announcement also resorts to schoolyard tactics, saying, “We will mock them for the idiots they are.” It goes without saying that ISIS’ ideology and more extreme religious beliefs are at best questionable and at worst abhorrent. But: Please tell me the last time you accomplished anything whatsoever by calling someone an idiot. Please tell me the next time you expect to accomplish anything productive by calling the organizational equivalent of a psychopathic serial killer an idiot.
ISIS is like your kid brother. Let’s say this brother believes that Bigfoot exists. If you explain to him logically how you know that Bigfoot does not exist, he will, in all likelihood, refuse to comprehend your rational argument. He’s young and still has an imagination. “Yes he does too exist,” he’ll say. End of discussion. If you instead elect to yell or laugh at him for his mistaken belief in Bigfoot, he’s liable to throw a tantrum. And it’s going to be an ugly tantrum, one that you’re going to wish could’ve been avoided. But of course it could’ve been avoided.
Finally, Anonymous says: “I will not see you on December 11th for I am not a person, but an idea of love and peace.” First, would an “idea of love and peace” really resort to internet trolling? Presumably not. An idea of love and peace would presumably be better than that. And while it’s morally indulgent to suggest that forgiveness is a viable approach to the real threat posed by ISIS, it’s equally naive to suppose we can combat genuine craziness with vaguely sarcastic hypocrisy. The problem here is that Anonymous is not an idea, it is, itself, a non-state actor — and one of a few pretentious enough to use the word “us” to refer to most of Earth’s population.
Still, the internet war with ISIS is no mere side campaign. Terrorists recruit lonely people online. It’s harder to recruit people to a cause that, itself, feels lonelier than nothing. That said, it’s not clear that this won’t just meme-ify ISIS, diminishing it only enough to make it a smaller target.