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

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' 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.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid