Major Essay 1: Resources / Notes

Course Title / Context: Global Media, War & Peace

Critically examine the nature and logic of EITHER Boko Haram’s OR ‘The Islamic State’s’ media strategy and how – if at all – it can this be seen as an evolution from older non-state armed actors such as Hezbollah, the Zapatistas, or the early Al Qaeda generation under Osama Bin Laden.

Student comments: Globalisation and technological innovation advanced significantly between the older non-state armed actors and the advent of newer ones. It’s likely that “older” non-state armed actor’s video media and propaganda fulfilled internal demands and functioning; while groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram have also employed a range of media and production techniques to truly win over the “hearts & minds” of their forces, and to make legitimate their claims of being a functioning state and actor. ISIS has a media campaign spread over thousands of social media accounts with global reach to help foster the radicalization of individuals who may never have any real affiliation or contact with the group itself etc. ????

Relevant Resources:

Tim Aistrope, “Social Media and Counterterrorism Strategy” Australian Journal of International Affairs, 70 (2) 2016, 121-138

Kilcullen, D., (2015). “Blood Year: Terror and the Islamic State”

“Through outlets like Inspire, AQAP’s English-language online magazine, terrorist networks could publish target lists, issue planning advice, discuss lessons learnt, warn supporters of counterterrorism measures and offer how-to guides to anyone with an internet connection. Email, YouTube and Twitter let figures like al-Awlaki contact recruitable individuals anywhere in the world, offer support and develop attacks without ever meeting them. Secure messaging made such communication hard to spot in a vast flow of innocuous messages. An explosion of electronic connectivity had shifted the threat from formal organisations like al-Qaeda towards ad hoc networks of radicalised individuals connected on social media.” – (David Kilcullen, 2015; pg 40)

The Spirit of Terrorism in Islamic State Media

Richards, Imogen

International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, Jul 2016, Vol.13(2), p.1

Tim Aistrope., (2015) Social Media and counterterrorism strategy. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 70(2):121-138.

Gone viral – Islamic State’s evolving media strategy

Khalil, Ezzeldeen;

Jane’s Intelligence Review, Oct 1, 2014, Vol.26(10)

Rid, T. and M. Hecker War 2.0: Irregular Warfare in the Information Age Westport. (Pages: 124-207).

The 21st century has been characterized by growing threats and global influences of Jihadist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The group has advanced significantly in ideological, military, financial, and operational capabilities, increasing its threat to the people and governments. Observers across the board suggest that the influence and model of ISIS are spreading even in countries where the terror group has no strong presence. The success of ISIS in Syria and Iraq and influence to other parts of the world shows the strategic engagement on various grounds such as communication. Victoroff (2005) alludes that terror activists have changed tactics, and this can be attributed to the factors of globalization and availability of advanced information technologies. According to Jenkins (2006), terrorism is not monolithic, and the approach employed by ISIS can be different from those used by other groups such as Al Qaeda. Furthermore, terror organizations such as Al Qaeda and ISIS are made up of individuals who are professionals in their own rights. The fact that ISIS has been able to take control of state resources in countries such as Iraq and Syria, as well as receiving financial aid from sympathizers, they have been able to acquire and manage systems that facilitate achievements of their organizational goals. Waging global campaigns and coordination of operations within the terror group is reliant on effective communication strategies (Mannik 2007). The intent of this paper is to offer a critical examination of the nature and logic of ISIS media strategy, and how it is an evolution from Al Qaeda.

A growing body of evidence shows that the success of ISIS can be attributed to the unique projection of its strength that has been effectively propagated through persistent and diversified media strategies. Khawaja and Khan (2015) review that in the modern day, media has become an important tool in both warfare and diplomacy because it bridges the gap in communication between governments, groups, and individuals. In this light, ISIS has changed the narrative of traditional Jihadist movements of weakness and oppression of Muslims by Western powers, with that of strength and victory as relayed by not only their media, but also through mainstream media. These sentiments are supported by various authors who show consensus on the fact that the media strategy employed by ISIS is different from other terror organizations (Hashem 2014; Farwell 2014; Aistrope 2016). In this context, ISIS is louder, consistent, diverse, and utilization of modern equipment (Hashem 2014b). The tactics used ranges from framing news, developing training manuals, using social media, and mainstream channels. Subsequently, these activities have led to high-quality propaganda that has contributed to the sustainable expansion of the group.

In the recent past, the group has added a new approach to its propaganda wing, which is known as the al-Hayat Media Centre. Through this media strategy, the group is able to relay videos and accompanying content with high levels of production. The group is taking photographs and adding filters as well as adding layers to the photos for them to appeal to the audience (Becker 2014). Commentators suggest that the skills used in these visual products are professional, unlike the low-quality content that was developed by Al Qaeda under Osama Bin Laden. From this perspective, ISIS media operators take some time in the post-production process to animate, add filters, and other effects on videos and pictures. Additionally, this shows that the group is focused and communicates purposefully to a target audience (Wallace 2014). The way the content is choreographed shows that the group is working with people who have experience in media production and strategies. The videos show Jihadists playing with kids and giving them candy and business men talking about how good things are under the organization’s rule…

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