Juan Cole - Daesh (ISIS, ISIL), is a weird cult with almost no popular support. It probably rules over about 3 million people in the far east of the Arab world, having kidnapped them at gunpoint or having convinced them that the alternative is worse. Western journalism has been snookered by this small mafia of some 25,000 fighters into thinking they are important and will remain so. Nope. Flash in the pan. Muslim version of People’s Temple.
Daesh has made some of its biggest splashes with a smartphone camera and some petty thuggery. (Grabbing someone and killing him is not that hard, and illiterate teenagers in American inner cities do it every day). In a day of news as infotainment, per-minute payments for advertisements, and social media, a single beheading can create an impression. But like 15,000 people a year are murdered in the United States and since most of those murders are committed by gunmen, we’re not allowed to talk about those.
When Daesh took the province of Raqqa in Syria, population 800,000, at least 400,000 or 500,000 people promptly ran away from them. When they took Mosul, a metropolitan area of 2 million, again about half the population fled. Journalists talk about Daesh ruling 9 million people, not taking into account this very substantial voting with the feet.