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Jihadists have a soft spot for Drake. Not his music, but his now ubiquitous internet meme showing contrasting images of the rapper dismissing something in disgust and then welcoming something else as just the ticket.

Since the loss of the physical caliphate of the Islamic State two years ago, supporters of the Islamic State have grappled with their diminished relevance online, reinventing their propaganda through a range of bizarre strategies, from pornographic ultraviolence to the crap post based on memes. In fact, ISIS’s virtual caliphate has grown exponentially since 2014, when black-clad terrorists burst into the Iraqi city of Mosul, facing little resistance from the Iraqi military. Unable to be overwhelmed by far-right militiamen, QAnon or MAGA, ISIS supporters have spent the past half a decade building their online community with their own flashing slang, largely derived from elements apparently counter-intuitive lifted. of American popular culture. ISIS fanboys love it breaking Bad, SpongeBob and Iron Man.

Unlike the official terrorist network propaganda portals, which are always limited to serious and messianic content, these memes are not hosted on encrypted platforms. They are readily available on Facebook, the world’s largest social media company.

Their biggest Facebook page is the 11,000-member “Company for the” Clanging of the Memes “which in itself is a play on ISIS’s famous” Clanging of the Swords “video series released in 2012. , as a snuff movie. and recruiting efforts. The “company” specializes in collecting the latest jihadist memes from the internet with three main interests: attacking the leaders of rival terrorist organizations, mocking the United States and of their global “incompetence” in the face of internal civil unrest and pining for the now demolished caliphate.

These have long been the themes of jihadist discourse; What’s different this time is the way images from recognizable TV shows and Hollywood blockbusters are used to peddle them. And while tech companies automate the wiping process “99 percent”From official terrorist videos and content from their sites, a younger generation of ISIS supporters has grown up on likes and lulz continues unabated. They poke fun at Silicon Valley’s efforts to silence them with memes of a beheaded Mark Zuckerberg, hosted on Zuckerberg’s own platform. And they eschew the serious appeals to messianic Islamism that characterized their predecessors with obscure references within the group, laden with the sort of sly nihilism and pseudo-irony typical of other online subcultures.

The same instinct that drove the anti-government far-right movement Boogaloo, which takes its name from a cult 1980s film about hip-hop dancers turned online meme, drives ISIS cheerleaders to co-opt their own viral symbolism.

“Drakeposting,” after all, came from video game discussion boards on the 4Chan platform, the primary digital forum for white supremacists and incels. And there are a lot of ISIS Drakes to browse. There is the war against Noel Drake who says yes to Santa hats and no to disbelievers – a threatening warning to “liberal Muslims” not to participate in any Christmas festivities. There’s the hardcore jihadist Drake, who says no to Abu Mohammad al-Julani, the founder of Front Nosra, the former al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, and yes to ISIS’s balaclava militants. Then there is the Drake of Islamic conquest, deceived in a turban, who rejects the idea of ​​a Muslim world relegated only to the Middle East and North Africa and part of Spain, but supports an expanded one extending across Africa, most of Asia, and parts of the United States and South America.

ISIS doesn’t just use Drake’s images as a referee on what they like and don’t like; they also changed his photos to images of a soon to be beheaded hostage in an orange jumpsuit, his punishment for rejecting the Quran.

The SpongeBob Squarepants ISIS memes also build on what previous online shitposters have done, including a scene of the underwater invertebrate holding a fish and asking it to come closer as it spits ” I need… ”over and over, culminating in revelation:“ a prophetic caliphate. ” Another meme has SpongeBob’s boss Mr. Krabs, his neighbor Squidward and his best friend Patrick sitting around a table, with Krabs and Squidward concerned about “the demise of populations with the rise of global protests and lawlessness “and” world governments on the brink of economic collapse. Patrick sits between them, smiling because ISIS is “waiting for prime time.”

Many ISIS memes attacks focus on talkative jihadist opponents, including al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri (now rumored to be dead) and al-Nosra Front commander al-Julani . breaking BadWalter White is al-Zawahiri in the eyes of supporters of al-Qaeda, and al-Julani is Walter White in the eyes of supporters of Nosra. In fact, according to ISIS, the two are the group of silly friends of Jesse Pinkman, Badger and Skinny Pete from the popular AMC series.

This is an audience that is also familiar with the wider Marvel Universe, using superheroes and villains as a way to galvanize those who might otherwise condemn comic book mythology as un-Islamic. Thanos, the genocidal alien of The Avengers, usually plays the role of America and Europe, while ISIS is portrayed as Tony Stark or Iron Man. As with his co-opting of SpongeBob SquarePants, the talking and gay sea creature, ISIS is either oblivious or indifferent to the fact that Robert Downey Jr.’s character was once the embodiment of America’s military-industrial complex turned counter-terrorist. under contract with the US government.

The fact that ISIS has developed its own digital subculture might be easy to dismiss as a harmless side effect of its growing obsolescence in the real world, but for the fact that the terrorist group continues to recruit willful executioners in the whole world. Lately ISIS attacks have increases in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Nigeria, Mozambique and Afghanistan.

As the gray beards of al-Baghdadi’s generation are slain or captured on the battlefield, we should expect to see more of this youth-focused recruitment drive, borrowing liberally from what other extremist groups digitally born were the pioneers. Nothing illustrates this better than the co-option of Pepe the Frog. The alt-right symbol is now firmly a part of the jihadist subcultures online. Jihadi Pepe, like his far-right counterpart, is as indignant at Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood as at Westerners. Pepe le Takfiri channels the “us versus the world” discourse adopted by the fighters of the Islamic State. ISIS studies the West as much as the West studies ISIS, and jihadists know only too well that what begins with the avatars of Pepe the Frog culminates in Charlottesville.