Japanese Twitter Users Are Mocking ISIS With Photoshopped Memes

Hours after the Islamic State (IS) group released a video threatening to behead two Japanese hostages, Japanese Twitter users were defying the militant’s threats by creating and sharing images mocking the militants.

In a January 20 video, a British militant believed to be the infamous “Jihadi John” demands that Tokyo pay $200 million within 72 hours to spare the lives of the two hostages.

If the Japanese public does not pressure the government to pay the $200 million ransom, the militant warns, then “this knife will become your nightmare,” referring to the serrated weapon he brandishes in the video, and with which he is believed to have beheaded several Western hostages.

It is reasonable to assume that “Jihadi John” was not expecting that the “Japanese public” (or at least Japanese social-media users) would react to his threats in quite the way they have — with a Photoshop contest.

Using a Twitter hashtag that translates roughly as “ISIS crappy photoshop grand prix,” the Japanese Twitter meme has gone viral, with hundreds of images being shared. On January 20, there were around 40,000 mentions of the hashtag on Twitter.

Some of the photoshopped images poke fun at what is now an all-too familiar image — that of the black-clad “Jihadi John” flanked by hostages dressed in bright orange jumpsuits designed to evoke images of Guantanamo Bay inmates.

Some images mock “Jihadi John” directly, such as this photoshopped picture that shows the British militant using his knife to make a kebab:

Some of the images are slightly surreal, such as this one showing “Jihadi John’s” head photoshopped onto the front of the beloved British children’s character Thomas the Tank Engine:


In this image, several “Jihadi John” clones are falling through space:

Others used the hashtag to express that the the Japanese share common ground with Muslims:


Some of the images shared under the hashtag can be seen as a subversion of a trend popular among IS supporters on social media — that of using Photoshop to create an imaginary and fantastical world in which IS militants and ideology are dominant.

Islamic State supporters have shared photoshopped images that show militants from the extremist group destroying key Western landmarks such as London’s Big Ben and riding victorious on white steeds.

In one image mocking this genre, IS militants — including “Jihadi John” — are photoshopped invading a city in spacecraft. One militant laughs as he holds aloft an IS flag:

ISIS meme

While it is the largest and most popular phenomenon to date of using humor as a counter to the Islamic State group’s propaganda, the Japanese “Photoshop grand prix” is not the first case of its type.

A group of anonymous Russian Internet users have been mocking the Islamic State group — and Russian-speaking militants in Syria and Russia in general — for months via a parody group known as TV Jihad, which claims to be a “joint project of Kavkaz Center (the media wing of the North Caucasus militant group the Caucasus Emirate) and TV Rain (a liberal Russian TV channel).”

“We fight against infidels, apostates, polytheists, Shabiha (pro-Assad militia), harbis (non-Muslims who do not live under the conditions of the dhimma, i.e. those who have not surrendered by treaty to Muslim rule), hypocrites, and rafidis (a term used by Sunni militants to refer to Shi’ite Muslims),” the Twitter account says, parodying terms used frequently by Russian-speaking Islamic State and Caucasus Emirate militants.

This tweet shows an image of IS military commander Umar al-Shishani in the snow and asks, “Motorola?” — a reference to Arseny Pavlov, a pro-Russian separatist in the Donbas:


Not everyone has appreciated the efforts of TV Jihad to mock militants, however. Last year, the group was banned from the Russian social networking site VKontakte, where it had a large following.

Also from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

This article originally appeared at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Copyright 2014.

Copyright (c) 2014. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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