References to Mean Girls and Jay-Z are designed to humanise an army known for lethal force in the region. And it is workingby Daniella Peled / October 11, 2019 / Leave a comment
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the bakery chain Greggs was the social media champion of 2019, with its genius marketing of the vegan sausage roll and expert trolling of Piers Morgan. But there are other contenders for the “most unlikely organisation to win the internet” award.
Take the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), the best-trained and most capable army in the Middle East, feared for lethal and often disproportionate force, with the odd accusation of war crimes thrown in. And more recently, their Twitter snark.
Just last week, for instance, the IDF Photoshopped Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah into a Mean Girls scene alongside Lindsay Lohan. “There’s no one meaner than the mean girls of the Middle East,” ran the caption.
In something of a theme, there was also the mock-up of an online chat between Nasrallah and regional chums in which the Hezbollah chief is peeved they have forgotten his birthday. “Happy Bday, bunker boy!” replies Bashar al-Assad, while Qasem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Quds brigade, sends a hilarious GIF.
Then there was Iran Against Humanity, the IDF’s take on the card game, featuring riffs such as: “In addition to hiding weapons in Lebanese homes, Iranian proxy Hezbollah has also been hiding the fact that it secretly likes to…”
As well as the usual infographics of attacks and images of Israeli homes destroyed in missile strikes, the posts also make much play of the ultimate IDF cliché: young, attractive women in combat uniform holding large guns. And then there’s the cuddly stuff—deaf soldiers singing the national anthem in sign language, officers building Lego with cancer-stricken kids in their spare time.
“I think the IDF is like Marmite on Twitter, a very strong and globally recognisable brand that people either love or hate,” said David Patrikarakos, author of War in 140 Characters: How Social Media Is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century. But either way, it “is now a household name in its sphere and without [the IDF], political and military Twitter would be a totally different place—especially in times of conflict,” he told me.
To an Israeli audience, the IDF celebrating the 25th anniversary of the sitcom Friends with grinning soldiers replacing Monica et al in the iconic opening credits doesn’t seem particularly weird. The IDF, after all, is an army of the nation’s children, with most…