ISIS is a disgrace. In recent months, it has slaughtered hundreds of defenseless Iraqi soldiers and Shiite civilians, gunning them into trenches. It has raped and enslaved hundreds of women. It has brutalized children by forcing them to watch scenes of horrific cruelty and violence. It has presided over public crucifixions in its stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. And, of course, it has staged the executions of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, David Haines, and Alan Henning.
But is ISIS also funny? Or, rather, can it be made funny? The Lebanese satirist Karl Sharro evidently thinks so. Taking inspiration from a CNN report this fall on the “anatomy of ISIS,” Sharro produced his own sketch of the group’s hierarchy, lampooning its intricate and austerely demarcated offices:
I made my own ISIS anatomy chart, which is more accurate. pic.twitter.com/uMFzRN8Hr6— Karl Sharro (@KarlreMarks) September 19, 2014
Sharro’s chart was widely shared online and proved a big hit with the U.S. State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC), which in recent months has been using its own brand of mocking humor as part of a social-media campaign to counter ISIS’s online propaganda. The Center was among the 800 Twitter users that approvingly retweeted Sharro’s chart. Alberto Fernandez, the coordinator of the CSCC, told me that “sarcasm and humor can be very powerful tools against bloodstained criminals like ISIL,” adding, “but you better actually be funny if you want to be effective. Not easy to do.”