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

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora