A fine line between journalistic analysis and the “Islamic State” group’ propaganda



By Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai –

The self declared “Islamic State” is producing daily propaganda material for various reasons, above all to misguide non-combatant followers and overseas watchers in order to promote itself as a “state”, to recruit, and  also to hide defeats in the battle field.

Media and analysts, who have little presence on the ground, depend on war correspondents covering the ongoing war in the Middle East, on informants and also on social media information. Widespread animosity for some belligerents is pushing media to abandon its unbiased conduct and take sides. Inevitably, almost no one is unbiased. None the less, some analysts, unaware, fall into the category of supporting terrorist groups as they simply take a position against a given opponent. In Iraq favourite targets are mainly al Hashd al-Sha’bi (or Popular Mobilisation Units made of Shia, Sunni and Iraqi minorities) and Iran’s support of it, and in Syria, Bashar al-Assad and more recently Russian intervention. This biased reporting omits to often ISIS that is mentioned en passant. To the point that, ISIS and Al-Qaeda (Jabhat al-Nusra) are no longer terrorist groups but, for many, too simply “the products of Assad and either Saddam Hussein or (the ex-Prime Minister Nuri) al-Maliki”.

Analysts who spend their time translating FB or Twitter material are doing a fairly good job. These also can bring some beneficial information to the lot, no doubt. Nevertheless, fighting   “Islamic State” (ISIS) group propaganda requires maturity and awareness.

Desktop analysts need to investigate the consequences of what they publish before casting out information on the web that directly or indirectly support ISIS propaganda. It is important to think about how beneficial, how harmful this is to ISIS propaganda and the extend to which it is supporting decision makers of the danger of terrorism.

ISIS propaganda is powerful, within anybody’s reach, this is not due to its own network but to its manipulation of analysts and media. Without their reporting, who would know what ISIS is doing? The questions are:  Do we have a self censored attitude to using ISIS material? Are we just putting our head in the sand as we want to show our knowledge of ISIS material?

ISIS is feeding the web by the minute with propaganda material, genuine and false claims. ISIS accounts almost never speak of “defeat” but they propagate documents and information showing firing here and there, few suicide attacks, the social and Hisbah (police) activities, zakat…

Any analysed information which circumvents the fact that ISIS must be dismantled may need to be looked upon as potentially  playing into  ISIS propaganda machine and therefore inadvertently supporting the terrorist group. Media may need to develop new means to counter-act ISIS manipulative game.

There was no need, for analyst[1], to naively and secretly pretend to declare Ba’ya (loyalty) to ISIS fanboys – those who are living away from ISIS controlled land – in order  to gather information on the group that is readily available. Surely this is the job of intelligence service not analysts. Although a stupid and foolish move, it may well have been all about the pleasure of feeling the “love in Din al- Islam” [1] no more .

There is no need for analysts to be indirectly at the service of ISIS. For example: ISIS propaganda machine likes to portray institution’s as part of the constructions of “its” states. In effect it is only using institutions that were already in place before ISIS control by  keeping employees in place, in Iraq and Syria, and appointing its own trusted key people on top. A method long used by colonialists! When analysts spread documents saying “ISIS has many institutions and is  State-like”, they are just been fooled by the group, contributing in showing to  thousands of naive ISIS fans the-so-called-grandeur of ISIS. Aren’t these analysts naively becoming free of charge translators for ISIS?

There is no need to be impressed. Another example, ISIS’ booklet about “managing slavery according to the Islamic Sharia”: it refers back to the same study of Sheikh Ahmad Ibin Hanbal of the 9th century’s,  ISIS main reference in the topic as for many other religious issues. If one is interested in acquiring in-depth understanding of the ideology of non-state violent extremist religious organisations,  basic theological knowledge is required. No magic here. ISIS is not reinventing the wheel. It is blindly applying middle ages principles!

In short, it is indispensable that awareness and clear modus vivendi are defined to counter the ISIS propaganda machine. By sticking to facts, knowledgeable facts, it is possible to show that ISIS grandeur is mere fantasy.

[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/tamimi-2014-7?IR=T


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