Narasi Tandingan

Why Indonesian’s Small Act of Defiance Can Be a Huge Blow for ISIS

TERRORIST attack in Jakarta, Thursday (14/1/2015) surely caught Indonesian people off guard. Everybody is surprised by the suicidal attack that resulted in 7 people death and 26 people injured. Suddenly, Sarinah became the center attention of the world.

Terrorism is a complicated and sometimes is hard to define. Simon (1994), for example, reports that at least 212 different definitions of terrorism exist across the world. But from all the hustle bustles of hundreds of definition, another researcher, Schmid and Jungian from University of Leiden found out that “causing fear” is a concept that appears in 51% as the main component of terrorisms.

While the tragedy evolving, emotional messages are pouring out through social media. People are angry, sad, and even shocked with this kind of accident. But if fear is what this terrorist hopes to inflict, they surely have failed.

Within hours, people took social media back as an act of defiance. People show solidarity through hashtag, tweets or status, and even meme. Jokes are exchanged, shared, and re-shared. Instead of talking about the terrorist, people discusses ordinary people: satay booth who calmly grills his satay, policeman and their good looking appearance, people taking selfies and many more. Some even took this moment to Instagram, selling shoes similar to the one worn by the policeman.

In just a moment, people have hailed this as an example of Indonesian resilience in the midst of terror. For some, this might be carefully examined as not an act of bravery, but ignorance. The pessimism, of course, has a legit stand. But to see it in another perspective, especially from Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (ISIS) who claimed responsible for the attack, this trivial thing can deal a huge blow for their plan to expanding their network to Indonesia.

ISIS and Social Media

To understand this, we must go back to the beginning of ISIS. In 2014, a term of “femtorisk” is coined by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America (PNAS). From the word “femto”, a prefix meaning one quadrillionth, the term is used to refer “a numerically small phenomenon capable of exerting an outsized impact on global politics.”

ISIS fits this definition perfectly. It started as a tiny nucleus of terrorist operatives, evolved into al-Qaeda in Iraq, and erupted into a full-scale insurgency with significant local and international support (Berger, 2015). Imagine ISIS, a less than one-hundredth of 1 percent of the world’s 1,6 billion Muslim, managed to spark an endless controversy of what is and what is not Islam. With a few thousand fighters, they manage to captured (for a while) Mosul, a city of 1,5 million people.

But perhaps there’s no better example for ISIS as a femtorisk than its social media presence. One study from Brookings Institution (2015) for example, estimated that there are at least 46.000 Twitter accounts that were used by ISIS supporters, between September to December 2014 periods. With an average of 1000 followers each, considerably higher than ordinary Twitter users. Furthermore, around 500 to 2000 accounts are a group of highly active users who sent more than 50 tweets on average per day. From this considerably small number, especially compared to the monthly Twitter user base of 288 million, they manage to gain a disproportionate amount of attention.

Indeed, one of the most useful tools for ISIS to amplify (and sometimes, exaggerate) its influences through social media. Not only Twitter, ISIS is also very good at spreading radical propaganda through Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. They aren’t shy to use Hollywood-like movies to promote their lifestyle (Harry, 2015). We can see whenever there’s any causalities achieved by its member, such in its Paris Attack, ISIS will quickly use it to spread “fear” that will result in amplifying their influences.

This is when Indonesian small act of defiance through social media comes in play to deal a huge blow for ISIS. Not only it took the moment faster than ISIS can use, it ridiculed the effect that ISIS definitely will try to amplify in their social media propaganda. For the group whose media strategy are to amplify its brutality by social media to scare its enemies (Weinstein, 2015), and to have its show stage taken away in front of their eyes, it’s analogous with “macan ompong” or tiger whose teeth has been taken away, Indonesian terms used to refer things that has lost it power.

When they are not only failed to cause serious damage in the attack, but also in social media, the only thing that amplified are the anti-thesis to ISIS purposes: that fear is not in our dictionary. This means that ISIS will still remain only as a tiny nucleus with no real power in Indonesia. Or in a simpler word: that ISIS just doesn’t belong, here in Indonesia.

Harry Febrian, S.I.Kom, M.A.

Communication Research Coordinator; Media and Journalism lecturer at Multimedia Nusantara University, Serpong, Banten; Fellow of Netherland Fellowship Progam (NFP) on Producing Media to Counter Radicalization.

This Article was published on the Jakarta Post on Sunday, January 24, 2016.


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