BIGHDADDY teases the terrorists and clobbers the ‘caliphate’ with satire
The Bighdaddy Show, a collection of short vids stinging and satirizing Islamic State (IS), is named after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, IS’s leader. “Don’t forget to like, share and comment or else I swear by God I’ll execute you all,” threatens Bighdaddy. Published on July 7th, the video series is the latest attempt to deliver a KO to IS on social media, as soldiers slug it out on the battlefield.
The Bighdaddy show is not the first to fight the ‘caliphate’ with comedy. But the show adeptly depicts IS as an organisation of buffoons with guns and a ridiculous approach to religion, politics and everything else. It has gained popularity in the Middle East; its Facebook page has garnered more than 200,000 likes and the videos have around 1m clicks each.
Bighdaddy promises to free Andalusia from bull-fighters, Washington from the White House and Iraq from the Iraqis (“God willing”). The first season contains free-standing skits, including one set in the Caliphate’s recording studio where Bighdaddy directs a whiny jihadi rapper to include the lilting lines “detonate them…destroy them…” in the chorus, to give it a “feminine touch”. In the latest season the episodes are more connected, and tell of Bighdaddy’s origins. In one poignant scene, he is scolded by Osama bin Laden for giving (correct) non-violent answers to a pop-quiz on Islamic punishments.
It is unclear who exactly is behind the project. In an interview with VIVISXN, the administrator of the project’s Facebook page, who wished to remain incognito, claims that it is operated by a group of volunteer activists, lawyers, journalists and graphic designers from across the Arab world (including some in IS-held territories). In response to the well-produced videos in IS’s own social-media campaign, he said that they wanted to fight back in equal measure.
The videos are in Arabic, with English subtitles, though some things are lost in translation. The real Mr Baghdadi is from Iraq, but his parody has an accent that drifts across the region, from Syria to Saudi Arabia. The anonymous admin said that this was to make viewers across the Arab world see that there is a bit of Baghdadi in every country (the most common location of those liking the Facebook page is Iraq).
Taking satire to social media rather than television screens means that the makers can get direct feedback from viewers. Some mistake the videos as laughing at Islam (blasphemy), which is far from the intended effect. The team has a special name for one category of commentators—“the ISIS engagement”—made up of IS sympathizers and supporters. They have a policy to deal with this: rather than fight back with hostile comments, they engage with them, either in private messages or in the public comments beneath the video. IS sympathizers will never admit that you have changed their mind, says the admin of the Facebook page. But when the conversation starts with threats of rape and murder, and ends with them saying that they will pray for you, you can see that they have been affected.
So far they have released six episodes of the second season, and are planning more. Rumors of the real Baghdadi’s death are unimportant. “Even if you kill Baghdadi, there will be someone else. You have to kill the idea.”
Peep the Bighdaddy Show on Facebook 🙂