U.S. Drops Snark in Favor of Emotion to Undercut Extremists

  • 2016-07-29
  • The New York Times

The Obama administration has revamped a program designed to lure foreign fighters away from extremist groups like the Islamic State, focusing on a series of new advertisements and social media posts that seek to appeal to emotion rather than logic.

Money for the program, which is managed by the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, tripled this year, to $16 million, after administration officials concluded that past efforts that had attempted to scare potential militants away from the extremist groups were not working.

It is the latest in a long series of efforts from the Obama administration at what diplomats and other officials euphemistically call “public engagement,” and the multiple reboots have shown how hard it has been for these programs to find traction. Recent attacks in Turkey, Iraq,France and Bangladesh seemed to show extremism has been spreading.

But one thing has changed from similar efforts in the past. The new initiatives have been tailored to keep the United States government’s involvement as low-key — and in some cases, as secretive — as possible, because overt American backing for some projects had turned off the exact group of disaffected young men that the campaign is trying to reach.