A panel of authors has attempted to unravel why young men were becoming sucked into Islamic State (ISIS) martyrdom killings – and the marketing behind this so-called “death cult” that’s attracting them.
Author and war correspondent Christina Lamb said on Monday night’s Q&A panel that there was no single reason for people joining ISIS.
She discussed whether a “hero’s journey” was responsible for attracting martyrs.
“There are people who are attracted to joining this sunny Utopia, I think that’s how they see it,” Ms Lamb said.
“It’s like Al-Qaeda attracting people to be a martyr to kill yourself and have 72 virgins, but that was much more about the after life.
“ISIS is much more about attracting people to be part of this sunny Utopia. There’s lots of people out there blogging from inside the heart of ISIS in Syria and Iraq saying to young people ‘come and join and you’ll have a villa with free electricity, a swimming pool and kittens’.
“Of course, the reality is, it’s nothing like that at all.”
Ms Lamb’s thoughts also turned to 9/11, when she made the trek to Saudi Arabia to a town where some of the suicide hijackers came from.
“We imagined uneducated and poor people, but when we got chatting to their friends they weren’t like that at all,” Ms Lamb said.
“They were affluent and educated and liked playing guitar. It was really hard to understand what it was that made them do it.”
Author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, Mohsin Hamid, said by delving deep into the minds of these young people about why they wanted to join ISIS, first you had to go to the source of the appeal.
“You have to put yourself in the shoes on somebody who might want to join, and what might make you feel that way,” Mr Hamid said.
“The (ISIS) videos are a marketing exercise, and you break your market into different segments.
“Some perhaps are psychotic and are attracted just for the sake of beheading people.
“Then there is perhaps a group of people, young men who have had this desire to slay dragons and be heroes.”
Panelist Douglas Coupland, visual artist and author of Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, interjected and agreed that the marketing of ISIS was the key to capturing these people.
“In the marketing world they know that the music people get most sentimental about later in life, is the music playing when they were 23 years old,” Mr Coupland said.
“So if you do everything to attract a demographic segment to buy a car, for example, you just go back and play whatever was playing then.
“The typical age for ISIS is 23, which is the average age for a soldier. Something happens in the brain around 23 when you have an altered send of risk assessment.
“Maybe this is nature’s way of having people to go to war, whatever the war of the day is.”
— Lord John Alldi$ (@Alljohn) May 18, 2015
Boo and Pistol don’t give a bark about death cult #QandA
— luciferal (@DrHsantana) May 18, 2015
#qanda Isis brainwashes its members into the movement. Most members goal is to kill or be killed. Seems pretty much a death cult to me.
— Scott Sinfield (@ozzysinco) May 18, 2015
Calling Islamic State a Death Cult makes them seem like a cosmic evil and prevents us from understanding and preventing their causes #qanda
— Pat Callanan (@PatCallanan96) May 18, 2015