PsyWar Can Destroy Islamism

William A. Levinson,

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William A. Levinson
William A. Levinson has written for the American Thinker, and his articles include the implications of psychological warfare in international conflicts, and political controversies.

Militant Islam has proclaimed openly its Allah-given right to dominate the world, exterminate Jews, and kill or enslave other infidels like Christians, Hindus, and the wrong kinds of Muslims. The last ideology that talked about annihilating Jews and ruling the world came with a swastika, and it killed forty or fifty million human beings before the civilized world stopped it. Psychological warfare is the only weapon of war that is legal for anybody to use during peacetime, and it is the only weapon of war that can win without killing. Let's use it to destroy this latest incarnation of what we thought we put down for good in 1945 before it grows too large to stop.

The destruction of an entire ideology through nonviolent persuasion sounds like an impossibly tall order--until we remember that Martin Luther almost destroyed the Catholic Church with nothing more than hand-powered printing presses. It would be strange indeed if modern delivery systems for psychological warfare such as the Internet, radio, television, and mass-produced leaflets, could not do the same to the driving force for terroristic violence against the Judeo-Christian world, women, gay people, and the wrong "kinds" of Muslims (the chief victims of Islamist violence). First, however, let's cover some basic tenets of propaganda and psychological warfare.

Colonel Paul Linebarger was a relatively obscure hero of the Second World War and Korean War. He was obscure because he never earned a combat medal, but he was a hero for saving thousands of enemy soldiers, along with the Americans whom they would have taken with them had they fought to the death. "Surrender" was shameful to Asians, but they could honorably "cease resistance" instead. Linebarger told the enemy to do this by shouting their own words for duty (the Way) and humanity: zi ren dao. Dao is the same thing as Tao, or The Way, of Asian philosophy. English-speaking soldiers were eager and ready to accept the enemy's zi ren dao. Linebarger's outstanding book on this subject is probably the most authoritative source available.

PsyWar Basics

(1) PsyWar is decisively effective. "Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society." Linebarger, however, wrote that the Communists proved that the figure is closer to two percent. This explains how a handful of Nazis, who made the effort to study psychological warfare intensely, were able to take over one of the most advanced nations in Europe.

(2) Propaganda must be simple, visceral, and convey the desired message in seconds. Sally Hogshead's presentation at the 2013 ASQ World Conference said that it is necessary to fascinate your prospective audience within nine seconds. The context involved business relationships, but application to PsyWar means that images are the most effective medium. The propaganda that both the Lutherans and the Catholics used during the Reformation consisted extensively of simple woodcut images that were comprehensible by somebody who could not read.

(3) The Propaganda Man is the person to whom we direct our argument. This means the propaganda must be tailored to each Propaganda Man (or woman); "one size fits all" emphatically does not work.

(4) Effective propaganda is honest. As defined by Linebarger, "Propaganda consists of the planned use of any form of communication designed to affect the minds, emotions, and action of a given group for a specific purpose." Appeals to donate blood, warnings against driving while drunk, and encouragement to get cancer screenings are propaganda by definition. Hitler proved that you can get away with a big lie but, more often than not, the instant the Propaganda Man catches you lying to him, you are finished.

(5) Direct negative propaganda against the enemy leaders, and not the rank and file. Linebarger warned against defining the enemy too widely. When we direct hatred at the enemy followers, we enrage them and encourage them to continue to fight. The idea is to discredit the leaders to get the followers to walk away from them. Here is an illustration from Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Note how the destitute subjects are carrying a fat king on their backs. An image of this nature could be directed at any enemy nation whose rulers live lavishly while the people go hungry.

Divide the leaders and followers A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)

The most of King Arthur's British nation were slaves, pure and simple, and bore that name, and wore the iron collar on their necks; and the rest were slaves in fact, but without the name; they imagined themselves men and freemen, and called themselves so.  The truth was, the nation as a body was in the world for one object, and one only:  to grovel before king and Church and noble; to slave for them, sweat blood for them, starve that they might be fed, work that they might play, drink misery to the dregs that they might be happy, go naked that they might wear silks and jewels, pay taxes that they might be spared from paying them, be familiar all their lives with the degrading language and postures of adulation that they might walk in pride and think themselves the gods of this world.  And for all this, the thanks they got were cuffs and contempt; and so poor-spirited were they that they took even this sort of attention as an honor.

Now let's look at examples of both sides' propaganda during the Reformation. Standard practice was to portray the other side's leaders as the Devil or the Antichrist. The first is a Lutheran caricature of the contemporary Pope as the Antichrist. The second is a Catholic depiction of Martin Luther as the Devil's bagpipe. They illustrate how two hostile religions fight each other, and they lead into the methods we must use to destroy Islamism.

Lutheran Reformation Propaganda: "I am the Pope"16th C. Woodcut; public domain due to age

Catholic Reformation Propaganda: Martin Luther as the Devil's Bagpipe 16th C. Woodcut; public domain due to age

This leads to the approach of the famous American evangelist, Jack Chick. I do not agree with his theology, but he is a brilliant propagandist. As a side note, defensive PsyWar methods can be used to thwart missionaries who are trying to make Jews into Gentiles. I have pointed out previously that PsyWar is almost exclusively an offensive weapon and that, per General Patton, the surest parry is a disabled opponent. The missionaries are, however, decent and well-meaning people whose only fault is to not realize that "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (in their case, share their belief in Jesus) worked only when people lived in the same village, with identical values and attitudes. Anybody who is familiar with international business considerations knows that there are people who definitely do not want you to do unto them what you would have them do unto you. The proper response to a well-meaning person who wishes sincerely to be a friend is not "the surest parry is a disabled opponent," but rather a good fence that keeps him a good neighbor.

Jack Chick:  Role Model for Anti-Islamist PsyWar

Jack Chick is well known for his prolific leaflets whose purpose is to convert people of all faiths (or no faith) to his denomination of Christianity. His biography is particularly informative. Emphasis is mine.

One day, Bob Hammond, missionary broadcaster of The Voice of China and Asia, told Jack that multitudes of Chinese people had been won to Communism through mass distribution of cartoon booklets.  ...Not long after, he was invited to present the gospel to a group of inmates at a prison near his home. He drew several pieces of cartoon art and prepared a flip chart to illustrate what he was saying. At the conclusion of his message, nine of the eleven inmates present trusted Christ as their Saviour.

Here are the key takeaways:

(1) Chick learned from the Chinese Communists the effectiveness of cartoon booklets.

(2) Chick proved that these methods were effective in winning over nine out of eleven criminals to his point of view.

(3) Chick recognizes the concept of the Propaganda Man, as shown by his development of different booklets for Jews, Catholics, and Muslims. I have little use for the first two sets and, with regard to Catholics, Chick seems unaware that the Thirty Years War ended in 1648. The ones for Muslims, however, provide outstanding and well-researched information about contradictions in the Koran.

The Koran Destroys its Own Credibility

As but one example, the Koran defines Jesus, as well as the Hebrew patriarchs, as Muslims because they submitted to the will of God. This is an excellent PsyWar technique for converting Jews and Christians, much as Christian missionaries once used local religions to convert the natives. As an example, the bloodthirsty Aztecs practiced ritual cannibalism, and they also had a deity known as Filth-Eater. Her function was to consume and absolve the sins of those who confessed to her. It was easy for missionaries to present them with the blood and body of Jesus, and superimpose the Catholic confession on Filth-Eater.

The Koran's problem is, however, that it also defines Jesus as a prophet. It is a basic tenet of religions, including Islam, that a prophet cannot lie. Then, however, the Koran calls Jesus a liar for claiming to be the son of God. It does not matter whether we believe or disbelieve Jesus' divinity; the Koran's self-contradiction is fatal to its credibility. There was an old Star Trek episode called The Changeling, in which a spacecraft called Nomad determined that its mission was to sterilize (kill) everything that was not perfect. It mistook Captain Kirk for its creator, a man named Roykirk so, when Kirk told it it had made a mistake and was therefore imperfect, it had to self-destruct.

One of Chick's leaflets cites specific verses, or suras, in the Koran. This exemplifies the principle of (1) presenting the Propaganda Man with an image that fascinates him, and (2) backs up the image with objective evidence. Here is what the Koran says about compulsion in religion.

  • [2.256] There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the Shaitan and believes in Allah he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.
  • [47.4] So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoners, and afterwards either set them free as a favor or let them ransom (themselves) until the war terminates. That (shall be so); and if Allah had pleased He would certainly have exacted what is due from them, but that He may try some of you by means of others; and (as for) those who are slain in the way of Allah, He will by no means allow their deeds to perish.
  • [4.89] They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah's way; but if they turn back, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them a friend or a helper. [Chick cites this as a command to kill apostates.]

Chick also points out that Allah is a capricious and cruel entity who could have guided all humans to salvation, but chose instead to condemn some to hell.

  • [32.13] And if We had pleased We would certainly have given to every soul its guidance, but the word (which had gone forth) from Me was just: I will certainly fill hell with the jinn and men together."
  • [14.4] And We did not send any apostle but with the language of his people, so that he might explain to them clearly; then Allah makes whom He pleases err and He guides whom He pleases and He is the Mighty, the Wise.
  • [6.39] And they who reject Our communications are deaf and dumb, in utter darkness; whom Allah pleases He causes to err and whom He pleases He puts on the right way.
  • [16.93] And if Allah please He would certainly make you a single nation, but He causes to err whom He pleases and guides whom He pleases; and most certainly you will be questioned as to what you did.

It is then simply a matter of presenting these facts in a form the Propaganda Man can understand, and Chick does an excellent job. Here are some additional talking points.

More Talking Points

(1) "Jesus died for Christians, Muslims died for Mohammad." One does not have to believe Christian theology to accept the argument that a religion whose premise is that the deity, or prophet, died for the followers is infinitely superior to one in which the followers die for self-serving prophets. One could similarly write, "Vishnu was born and died for Hindus (nine times so far), Muslims died for Mohammad." (The objective of Hinduism is to earn freedom from rebirth, so being born is a major impo‎sition.) Judaism does not seek converts but, if Jack Chick & Co. want to convert the rest of the Middle East to Christianity, we ought to help them do it. It will end a lot of violence and misery. Remember that militant Islam has openly proclaimed its right to rule the world, kill or enslave infidels (including those it deems to be the wrong kinds of Muslims), and annihilate Jews. The last ideology that talked about ruling the world and killing Jews came with a swastika.

(2) "A valid religion does not need walls to keep people in." If Islamism served its followers, as opposed to only its mullahs and ayatollahs, it would not need a death penalty for apostasy. The truth is that, as shown by the relative economies of Judeo-Christian and Islamist nations, Islamism has little to offer other than violence, superstition, and squalor. Oil-rich Islamist nations are a lot like the Beverly Hillbillies, a comic television family who, when the patriarch strikes oil on his land, moves to Beverly Hills California. They can be compared unfavorably to Israel and Japan; two resource-poor nations that rely on science, education, and industry for extremely high standards of living. This is, in fact, why Israel's Islamist neighbors hate it; it is a daily reminder of the inferiority of their culture and values.

(3) "A be‎havioral choice is not a race." This is an instant answer to those who accuse us of racism for denouncing militant Islam

(4) "Israelis turn deserts into gardens, Islamists turn gardens into deserts." The Palestinian Arabs proved this when they destroyed greenhouses that were given to them so they could raise food.

(5) "Why isn't your mullah a shahid (martyr)?" The mullahs and ayatollahs who promise teenage boys and young men celestial harems of 72 virgins for suicide missions never seem to be in any hurry themselves. The best propaganda exposes the enemy leaders for manipulating their followers with arguments they do not even believe. This is usually the point at which the followers tear them apart.

The context was this article by Mona Charen:

As for what a true martyr can expect, Chief Mufti of the Palestinian Authority police, Sheik Abd Al-Salam Skheidm, spelled it out in 1999: "From the moment his first drop of blood spills, he feels no pain and he is absolved of all his sins; he sees his seat in heaven; he is spared the tortures of the grave; he is spared the horrors of the Day of Judgment; he is married to 70 black-eyed women; he can vouch for 70 of his family members to enter paradise; he earns the crown of glory, whose precious stone is worth all of this world."

The nice thing about a racket like this is that, if the Mufti is lying, the shahid cannot return to demand his money, or his life, back.

Hire Native Speakers, and Possibly Former Islamists

Another propaganda pitfall is to use translators to whom the Propaganda Man's language is a second language. The bilingual propagandist may deliver a textbook-perfect literal translation, but it will lack the idioms and nuances that a native speaker would provide. The best people for the job are probably native speakers who have turned their backs on militant Islam.

Conclusion and key takeaways

(1) Martin Luther almost destroyed the West's dominant religion with hand-powered printing presses. We have the Internet. Let's put it to work.

(2) We don't need to accept Jack Chick's theology to use him as a role model for a PsyWar campaign against militant Islam. The things he does work. Let's make them work for us.

(3) The Koran's internal inconsistencies destroy its own credibility.

(4) Islamism has nothing to offer its followers but poverty, violence, and squalor. Judaism and Christianity offer peace, scientific progress, affluence, and freedom from want. This is why militant Islam must prescribe the death penalty for apostasy.

(5) The failure of Islamist religious demagogues to perform suicide missions proves they do not believe their own propaganda. The instant the man who claims to be God, or to speak for God, bleeds like an ordinary mortal, his former worshipers will rip him to pieces. This is what happened to Danny Dravot in Kipling's The Man Who Would be King.