An analysis of the Islamic State shows that their strategic propaganda uses social media in order to manipulate the public. Ultimately, such use of electronic propaganda suggests a new form of modern day warfare.
One of the simplest, yet precise forms of propaganda are within their own name. By calling them ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham) we are legitimizing them. They are not yet a state, though they do seem to operate like one. Referencing them as ISIS, or simply the Islamic State, is our own authorization of their authority.
To counter this, figure heads and spokesman have begun calling them Daesh. Literally speaking, D.A.E.S.H. is the acronym for the group’s name in their native language of Arabic. The translation is “al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham”. This is seemingly innocent but the term is a huge insult to the terrorist group. “Daesh” in Arabic can mean two things; ‘to trample down and crush’ or ‘a bigot who imposes his view on others.’
The use of this term is spreading rapidly. French president, Francois Hollande, defiantly referenced them after the attacks in Paris last November. Obama and other powerful authorities have followed suit. However, ‘Daesh’ threatens severe punishments, including tongue amputation, for anyone who uses the term.
The Islamic State uses platforms such as Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Soundcloud to reach an audience of hundreds of thousands of people. They spam Twitter with enticing claims of a utopian Islamic society, free of persecution. One of their original hashtags, #jihad, has been trending off an on for months.
ISIS gained media attention with more and more victories. They have been called the most successful terrorist organization in history. This is likely because they are already operating as an official state. They collect taxes from citizens and businesses and even have local police. One of the purest form of their propaganda is actually taught in their lower level schools. Cities that have been successfully claimed by ISIS have schools for their young children. Here, the kids are taught how to follow Sharia law in the extremes and will likely later graduate to a military based education. They will be conditioned to become a new generation of fighters. When they advance into a military academy, they will be molded into the perfect Muslim soldier. [There, they are known as ‘cubs.’]
The war of the Islamic State is not entirely military based. They rely heavily on their media outreach. Their media department has over a hundred members and acts as an actual branch in their terrorist group. Within the department are operatives such as writers, producers, editors, videographers, and experts on sound and visual effects.” Their members are often referred to as “keyboard warriors.” The highest authorities within the branch even have a say in military strategies. This emphasizes their importance.
Their modern marketing form of propaganda is disturbingly advanced. They target the exceptionally impressionable Muslims, particularly the youth. However, they are also targetting non-Muslim Western boys. They reach out to them and shower them with glorified ideas and projections of a society in which they will finally be valued.
The propaganda department posts photos and posters, but their most popular is that of outreach films. Films range anywhere from a few minutes to the span of an entire feature film. The most common of these videos include ones that project the ultimate Islamic brotherhood. These show happy families walking freely in abundant marketplaces and saying how happy they are. Others include foreigners pledging their allegiance to the group. Many of the cameras that they use to film cost upwards of $10,000.
The most popular videos are that of military warfare and violence. These show rapid gunfire battles, suicide bombers, and fighters launching warheads at the enemy. These projections are disturbing to most, but for the rest, the savagery is captivating. One of their most well known “stars” of the execution videos is a man known as Jihadi John, a recruit from the UK. These brutal and gory videos of beheadings and death by fire are usually accompanied with an acapella version of verses from the Quran.
The hosts of the videos often describe their duty and obedience to Allah, the lord, and urge others to do the same. Almost every video now posts the logo of their media department at the beginning or end, as a way to try to prove their professionalism.
The US and other Western countries have tried to counter the Islamic State with their own attack videos but they dwarf in comparison. Daesh goes for the shock effect and has been seriously successful. Their cruelty and barbarism could be shown in one video, with a harmonious familial environment in the next. Their production skills advance daily and they are racking up hundreds of thousands of views. Daesh wants to appear as if their coordinated so called “empire” is growing successfully. In fact, their slogan is “Baqiya wa Tatamaddad”, which means remaining and expanding. As of now, this is true.
Daesh now controls a territory that is larger than the UK. This is proof of how their modernized tactics bring a new ferocity to today’s terrorism. This kind of success could not have been possible ten years ago. Al Qaeda, for example, only produced videos in grainy quality, usually featuring a man with a gun speaking rapid Arabic. Al Qaeda’s publicity is pitiful in comparison to that of Daesh. Their organization is helping their word spread faster than ever before. This form of contemporary terrorism is severely dangerous and poisonous, and they are not even close to done.