What do Trump and ISIS have in Common?

Journalists who join the PR field are often said to be crossing to the dark side. That’s because fashion-414352_1280some think PR is just about spinning and deception. As I pointed out in my post News Corp. Goons Provide PR “Protection”, some journalists and forms of journalism can also be ethically suspect; which side, really, is the dark one?

PR can serve noble purposes, but it can also advance evil causes and politicians and policies that you might find to be disagreeable, or even scary.

E.g. ISIS has proven to be adept at media and communications, and using these things to get attention, build their brand and recruit.

The NY Times pointed out that Boko Haram has taken more lives, yet ISIS gets more press coverage and notoriety. Why? The paper wrote that ISIS crafted a media strategy early on, and said that the group is Displaying a Deft Command of Varied Media:

ISIS… is using every contemporary mode of messaging to recruit fighters, intimidate enemies and promote its claim to have established a caliphate… If its bigotry and beheadings seem to come from a distant century, its use of media is up to the moment.”

Donald Trump also has shown a keen instinct for grabbing attention and headlines. (He wouldn’t be thrilled to be lumped in with ISIS, and I am not pointing out similarities other than their communications savvy).

Author and media pundit Doug Rushkoff, who has been interviewed here twice, wrote a great piece yesterday for Digital Trends: Donald Trump Works the Internet Better than You Do.

“Donald Trump is the ultimate Internet candidate— not in the sense that he is utilizing the organizing capability of the net …. Yet Trump is an Internet spectacle nonetheless — a political Charlie Sheen who seems to know exactly how to ride the crest of trending topics, or even create them. On television, his speeches are incoherent mashups, without a clear story or theme. As clickbait, though, they are perfect: short, angry slogans, each more explosive than the last.  With Sheen it was tiger blood and winning; with Trump, it’s Jersey City Jihadists and also, possibly, winning.”

A free press and open Internet can be used to support all kinds of causes, including politics and politicians that you may not like.

What can be done when these things are co-opted to spread evil and support terrorism or criminal activities? The laws of each land can intervene, and social network owners (and in some cases, posses like hacker group Anonymous) can try to disrupt or shut down their accounts.

There are plenty of lessons that the PR world can learn about effective tactics– but I find the idea distasteful. How about you – what do you think?

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