Sunday, April 3, 2016

Weiss, Michael & Hassan, Hassan (2016): ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror

What is it about?

The book describes the origins and history of the movement (without a better word for it) as well as its current operating principles and broad aims. The book is structured loosely in this manner, with the first half covering the history and the second half its current setup.

Was it good?

Without a rich knowledge and understanding about Middle Eastern politics, I found the first half of the book somewhat difficult to follow. This is not to say that it would not have been excellently researched and written, rather, the it is evidence of my deficient knowledge of the matter. For this reason, I found the latter half more interesting and accessible. Especially the means of recruitment, communication and coordination based on utilization of social media tools and quite mindful management of public relations/image made quite fascinating reading.

The main take-away for me?

Well, the book - like the abundant media stories featuring the movement and its undertakings - is bound to raise all kinds of thoughts, but during the latter half of the book I kept constantly thinking about the role of ever more efficient means of communication in shaping public discourse and political action, both local and global. Namely, it seems to me that such means have in addition to their intended consequences (c.f. Facebook's Mission statement) a very broad repertoire of unintended consequences which may be - at least so it currently seems - even more consequential than the intended consequences. While this is not too striking an observation, a good question is, what societal actions if any should we individually or collectively take to address those.

Who should read the book?

I think that the topic of the book appeals to anyone, but this particular book perhaps finds its best audience in those who already know quite a bit about Middle Eastern and global politics as well as have an above-average interest in the subject matter.

The book on ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror

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