Friday, April 22, 2011

How to Fight Jihadis by Sharing Online Articles Via Email

THE USE OF VIOLENCE is the Jihadis' strength. To fight them, we'll have to use violence ourselves, but that's the military's domain. There is something civilians can do that exploits the orthodox Muslims' weakness and plays to our strength: We can use freedom of speech as a weapon against jihad.

The internet is an especially fine tool for exercising freedom of speech. The internet makes sharing information easier than it has ever been in history. And the spread of information between non-Muslims can help unify and educate the team, and can help clarify what needs to be done.

In the war of memes, freedom of speech — exercised over the internet — is like a laser-guided nuclear weapon. So when you're on the internet and you find a good article about jihad, one way you can help defeat the third jihad is to share the article with your friends. Simple, right? I have a few suggestions that will make your sharing more effective:

1. Be sparing. We all know someone who sends lots of mass emails of varying quality. And how do you react? You start to devalue that person's emails. So I suggest you only send very good articles, and only once in awhile. Once a week at most.

2. Try to choose articles that will penetrate. In other words, if you have an atheist friend, don't send him an article praising Jesus. It will turn him off, and the information won't penetrate. It might even turn him off to potentially influential articles from you in the future. Think of where your friend stands on the issue, and where you want him to stand, and try to choose articles that persuasively will move him over toward the goal.

3. Don't just send bad news. Most bad news leaves the reader feeling helpless, and we don't need to spread helplessness among our teammates. If you do send bad news, send along with it something your friend can do about it — either another link to an article, or a short paragraph from you.

4. Don't send the whole article. Send a link. Many links are eight inches long, however, and don't work on the other side. Several places online provide a service that makes the link much shorter. Use one. Here's one: Tiny URL.

5. If you do a mass mailing, hide everyone's email address. It's the courteous thing to do (it doesn't expose the addressees' addresses to other people). Put all the addresses in the BCC section and then put your own email address in the main address section. The only address that shows will be yours. Ideally, and to make the email more personalized (and therefore have greater impact) you would not send mass mailings but would write to each person individually. It doesn't take that much longer. You can copy and paste most of your message.

6. Tell them the most interesting part of the article and why you think the article is illuminating. This only needs to be a paragraph or two.

7. Before you send it off, re-read your message and improve it if you can. Small improvements can help give your message greater persuasive force. Small mistakes, overstatements, or clumsy sentences can distract your reader from the message.

Sharing articles via email is easy, but you can make it more effective by taking the time to do it well. This is a valuable opportunity to influence your friends. The cost in money and time is little enough, but the potential opinion-changing, educational impact is very great indeed.

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