The myth that America’s narrative is losing to ISIS’s persists despite the fact that millions of people are fleeing ISIS territories, while mere thousands have traveled to join the group. It persists despite the fact that the Islamic State’s ideological sympathizers make up less than 1 percent of the world’s population, even using the most hysterically alarmist estimates, and the fact that active, voluntary participants in its caliphate project certainly make up less than a tenth of a percent.
In contrast to the Third Reich, whose Nazi ideology attracted tens of thousands of supporters in America, ISIS “has recorded only trifling victories in the war of ideas,” he writes. “There are no ISIS towns in America,” he continues, and “ISIS can claim no support from major celebrities or captains of industry in America or abroad.” Berger approvingly quotes Will McCants, who observes in The ISIS Apocalypse that “reducing the mass appeal of ISIS is pointless, given that it doesn’t have mass appeal.”
Berger’s writings on jihadism, not least his book on ISIS coauthored with Jessica Stern, are typically insightful and incisive. But in this case his commentary obscures far more than it clarifies. When Berger insists that ISIS is a fringe movement without mass appeal, he is right to the point of stating the obvious. Of course there are no ISIS towns in America or pro-ISIS voices in the dominant culture of Western democracies. Who would seriously argue otherwise, or contend that ISIS appeals to the masses?