News / USA

State Dept. Uses IS Propaganda to Fight Militants

Islamic State's own propaganda has been repackaged by the U.S. State Department in an effort to dissuade would-be jihadists from traveling to Syria or Iraq.
Islamic State's own propaganda has been repackaged by the U.S. State Department in an effort to dissuade would-be jihadists from traveling to Syria or Iraq.

Related Articles

Britain May Strip Suspected Islamist Fighters of Passports

British PM announces plan to give police powers to temporarily seize a suspect's passport at the border to give authorities time to investigate them

African Summit to Focus on Terrorist Threat

AU's top official for counter-terrorism Madeira says group will determine ways nations can combat militant extremists, share information

Should Terror Groups Be Paid Ransoms?

Beheadings of US journalists James Foley, Steven Sotloff have sparked debate over whether extremists should be compensated for hostages

Mutilated corpses hang crucified in a public square. Dozens of men kneel blindfolded before being shot execution style. Bodies are casually tossed into a pit.

Ominous music plays in the background as the words “run, do not walk to ISIS land” scroll across the screen.

But this video is not another slickly produced campaign pumped out as a recruiting tool by Islamic State (IS) militants

This video was instead produced by the U.S. State Department. It appears to be part of an effort to turn up the volume of State’s “Think Again, Turn Away” campaign aimed at exposing “the facts about terrorists and their propaganda,” according to its Facebook page.

“Think again, Turn Away” operates as part of the State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC), which “openly engages in Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, and Somali to counter terrorist propaganda and misinformation about the United States across a wide variety of interactive digital environments that had previously been ceded to extremists,” according to its website.

More recently, the center began activities in English, maintaining accounts on on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social media platforms.

The CSCC has been around since 2011, but the gruesome video marks a new approach in cyber engagement, particularly in English.

"CSCC’s linking to or citing of ISIL videos and other content is not a departure, but rather a practice CSCC has been using effectively for several years, particularly in Arabic,” said a senior State Department official. “CSCC uses brief clips of terrorist propaganda in much of its messaging across various languages in order to contrast the gap that exists between ISIL rhetoric and reality.

“It serves to clearly demonstrate the hypocrisy of an organization claiming to defend Muslims, yet at the same time slaughtering Muslims, destroying their cultural patrimony, and depleting their economic wealth," the official said.  

Jytte Klausen, a Brandeis University professor and founder of the Western Jihadism Project, which focuses on jihadi activities in the West, said there has been a change in how State is using the violent videos in English.

“It’s fair to say that there’s a new focus on Westerners,” she said, referring to would-be jihadists thinking about going to Syria or Iraq. “They’re trying to peel off this whole jihad tourist contingent.”

Klausen said State’s previous “softball approach appealing to ‘true’ Islam has not had much effect,” against IS’s successful media push “depicting a cozy life in the new caliphate.”

Erin Saltman of the London-based Quilliam Foundation, a counterterrorism think tank, said State’s new tactic represents the recognition of the threat of homegrown extremists, a fear stoked by recent revelations of Americans and Europeans traveling to Syria to fight alongside extremists.

Saltman said the video uses “shock treatment” to turn people away from IS.

“They are in essence fighting fire with fire which is something we do not see any other Western democracy actively doing at the moment,” Saltman said.

The Internet may be one of most effective places to counter extremist messaging.

“One cannot imagine the rise of the jihad movement without the Internet,” said Yigal Carmon founder and president of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). “You can only fight them on the Internet, and show them that it leads to the killing of Muslims.”

In a March 2014 interview with VOA, Ambassador Alberto Fernandez, who runs the CSCC, said “the rise of the Internet has been a boon for extremists” and that it was important to “push back against this poison al-Qaida seeks to propagate throughout the world.”

Counterterrorism experts say that until recently, the U.S. had ceded the cyberspace conversation to extremists, opting instead to lurk or disrupt extremists’ online activities.

The video “makes real the kind of carnage they impose and takes the varnish off their message,” said William Braniff, the executive director of the University of Maryland’s center for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.

Still, Saltman said State’s efforts will not likely have any effect on someone who has already been radicalized, but that it could possibly be effective on someone who is still on the fence.

Experts say that measuring the effectiveness of the video campaign will be difficult.

Saltman also said that some of the images State is putting out could “play into Islamist extremist propaganda.”

Another possible pitfall is possibly causing more anger.

But “to not highlight the bankruptcy of what [IS is] doing would be a greater mistake,” Braniff said.

VOA's State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns contributed to this report.

 

You May Like

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Mark from: Virginia
September 04, 2014 1:26 PM
So, let us stoop to their level now, is that it? Isn't there enough footage of such bloodshed being shown on the internet already? When you fight fire with fire, hands get burned twice as much.

I thought we were on a higher moral plain than that. I have thought wrong, apparently.
In Response

by: Neil Kuchinsky from: Colonial Heights
September 07, 2014 9:55 AM
Of course we have to "stoop to their level"! If potential jihadists appreciated our fine Western cultural standards, they wouldn't be considering jihad to begin with. We must speak to them with the language and images that depict the brutal reality of choosing badly.

by: bob van riezen from: grimsby ontario
September 03, 2014 6:03 PM
Please do not call these groups Islamic extremists, radicals, jihadists or any other name other than murdering thugs. These are not actions of normal people but the actions of severely depraved sick individuals.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs