Take two: Daesh's scripted propaganda machine

Published November 23rd, 2015 - 12:35 GMT

The devastation caused by Daesh (ISIS) has shocked the world in its scale and brutality, extending past Iraq and Syria, the intended territory of its proposed caliphate, into the Middle East and the Western world. This month's bombings in Beirut and Paris resulted in hundreds of casualties, forcing governments inside and outside the region to re-examine their security situation.

Furthermore, accounts given by residents in territories controlled by Daesh have given glimpses into the militant group's backwards system of governing. The havoc caused by Daesh has garnered international consensus on the need to destroy and eradicate it. 

However, while the threat and devastation caused by Daesh is real, other aspects of the group are less so. A report by the Washington Post details the extensive propaganda that Daesh uses, including scripted scenes, multiple takes, and highly edited films, in its media campaign. While the militant group is most known for its barbaric massacres, its media presence has also captured attention as being among the most extensive propaganda machine of any militant group. With an active social media presence, and even a help desk for aspiring jihadists, Daesh relies heavily on its propaganda to increase its recruitment and encourage current members in the group to continue fighting. 

In September 2014, Daesh released a film titled Flames of War, a highly edited film documenting and romanticizing the life of fighters in Daesh. The film was specifically targeted at young men, and included intense action shots and scenes of Daesh forces fighting winning battles, calling for the young Muslim men to participate in the war against "the defender of the cross", one of the monikers it uses for the US. The release of this film shows some of the capabilities of the media sector of Daesh filled with former employees of media agencies like news stations and camera crews. 

In the report, former members of Daesh decribe how cameramen set the scene for filming, directing lighting, the tone of voice that participants used, and even contributing to discussions on "strategy and territory" in which the filming will take place. Interviewees described the large influence of the media division within the militant group, detailing how its senior members have a higher status than fighters, receiving better salaries and better cars. The underlying importance of Daesh's media sector goes beyond the publc image of the group, as its videos adn magazine  instruct jihadists to undertake independent attacks if they are not able to join the group in Syria. For instance, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind behind the Paris bombings, not only appeared in recruiting materials of the militant group, but was part of a "floating population of Islamic State followers" connected to the group through online channels. 

According to a report cited by NBC, Daesh publishes around 900 articles per month, and the official magazine of the group includes tips on how to navigate online channels without being detected by security officials. Recognizing the media impact that Daesh has, the US has mounted its own media campaign to combat the group's influence. The Department of State has published over 300 videos on its Youtube channel attempting to counter the group. 

There has also been an intenational effort in the broader fight against Daesh. Just this week, France pushed through a resolution in the UN Security Council to take "all necessary measures" to fight the militant group. Furrthermore, countries like the US, France, Jordan, and Turkey have created a coalition undertaking airstrikes, displaying an internatioal front that includes countries inside and outside of the region. However, there is still a need for a more coordinated, unified strategy to defeat the group.

By Adaeze Eze

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