Just in case you wondered if media matters to bloodthirsty, violent revolutionaries, it does – in a very big way. Now that The Islamic State has taken over a vast territory, they have the challenge of winning the hearts and minds of these captured communities. To do that, the terrorist group is launching a massive propaganda campaign to pitch its idea of a utopian state for the Muslim world. Up to this point, it’s media machine has been focused on inciting terror into it’s viewers. Showing uncensored beheadings and other executions, it was designed to create fear.
But now, it’s a different story. As they attempt to take over schools, build local governments, and lead communities they have to make an about face and show the “softer and gentler” side of their vision.
To show the change, The Wall Street Journal reported, “During a single month this summer, from mid-July to mid-August, Islamic State produced nearly 900 pieces of Arab-language propaganda, including radio broadcasts, public-service announcements, pamphlets and religious decrees. More than half of this output—52%—focused on quality-of-life issues like food, utilities and schools, while 37% was devoted to military themes. Scenes of brutality, like execution videos, comprised 2%.”
Obviously, it’s a turning point in their messaging. How is the change monitored? By tracking Islamic State’s official Arab-language media outlets – radio, TV, print, and daily Arab-language social-media hashtag campaigns.
It’s worth noting that since most communities are left devastated in the wake of ISIS attacks, few of those left still have TV sets or computers. So much of this campaign is run from trucks with loud-speakers attached to the roof, print campaigns, or publicly placed TV screens. But the key outlet is now mobile devices since millions of Arab speaking people carry the devices.
The bottom line? Messages matter, and when it comes to getting that message out there, even ruthless, violent revolutionaries need media platforms.
We all recognize it as classic propaganda. But will this new campaign work? It’s difficult to say, but there’s no question that storytelling is one of the most powerful forces known to man.
Even in the most violent hands.