Monday, November 30, 2015
The Recruitment Priority at ISIS
From the glossy pages of ISIS numerous periodicals (see above), including an English-language version that seems to mirror the format and presentation of The Economist or Time Magazine, to the local presenters, reporters and personalities on radio and television productions emanating from production facilities in captured towns, to the ubiquitous reports and audio-visual footage traveling across social media and into slick, dedicated Websites catering to disenfranchised Muslims everywhere, ISIS clearly values their propaganda arms as much as they do their military prowess.
With a heavy participation of “foreign fighters” from all over the world, including lots of people with prior experience in mainstream media, ISIS considers its media division to be an essential part of their global conquest agenda. Cameramen, field producers, reporters and their coordinating bosses are accorded senior military ranks that mark their power and prestige within the overall hierarchy.
“Senior media operatives are treated as ‘emirs’ of equal rank to their military counterparts. They are directly involved in decisions on strategy and territory. They preside over hundreds of videographers, producers and editors who form a privileged, professional class with status, salaries and living arrangements that are the envy of ordinary fighters.
“‘It is a whole army of media personnel,’ said Abu Abdullah al Maghribi, a… defector who served in the Islamic State’s security ranks but had extensive involvement with its propaganda teams… ‘The media people are more important than the soldiers,’ he said. ‘Their monthly income is higher. They have better cars. They have the power to encourage those inside to fight and the power to bring more recruits to the Islamic State.’” Washington Post, November 20th.
In addition to entice recruits, ISIS media efforts also engage in spreading fear to their enemies, making threats and showing graphic evidence of their clear intentions. The Post provides one example of how this mass of video is secured. The necessary production personnel are “assigned” a story and off they go. “The assignments arrive on slips of paper, each bearing the black flag of the Islamic State, the seal of the terrorist group’s media emir, and the site of that day’s shoot.
“‘The paper just gives you the location,’ never the details, said Abu Hajer al Maghribi, who spent nearly a year as a cameraman for the Islamic State. Sometimes the job was to film prayers at a mosque, he said, or militants exchanging fire. But, inevitably, a slip would come with the coordinates to an unfolding bloodbath.
“For Abu Hajer [now in a Moroccan prison], that card told him to drive two hours southwest of the Syrian city of Raqqa, the capital of the caliphate, or Islamic realm, declared by the militant group. There, he discovered that he was among 10 cameramen sent to record the final hours of more than 160 Syrian soldiers captured in 2014.
“‘I held my Canon camera,’ he said, as the soldiers were stripped to their underwear, marched into the desert, forced to their knees and massacred with automatic rifles… His footage quickly found a global audience, released online in an Islamic State video that spread on social media and appeared in mainstream news coverage on Al Jazeera and other networks…
“Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged architect of the attacks who was killed in a raid in France, ad appeared repeatedly in Islamic State recruiting materials. The barrage of videos and statements released afterward made clear that the overriding goal of the Islamic State is not merely to inflict terror on an adversary but also to command a global audience.”
If the field video is not enough, ISIS recruiters have plenty of footage culled from Western networks showing most of the Republican presidential candidates making one anti-Islamic statement after another. With virulent GOP opposition to taking Syrian refugees (except perhaps the Christians) and Donald Trump’s endorsement of creating a database to track each and every Muslim in the United States, ISIS media moguls are giddy with the richness of such recruitment-friendly material.
Further, Western efforts to curb the reach of ISIS media have been an abysmal failure: “The United States and its allies have found no meaningful answer to this propaganda avalanche. A State Department program to counter the caliphate’s messaging has cycled through a series of initiatives with minimal effect. Islamic State supporters online have repeatedly slipped around efforts to block them on Twitter and Facebook.” The Post.
Indeed, as governments struggle against this ISIS media machine, the private loose network of cyber hacker/vigilantes, operating under the name “Anonymous” with diabolically masked spokespeople, have stepped into the fray to take down as much of ISIS media as they can get their cyber claws into. “Anonymous posted a video to YouTube on [November 14th]. In the video, a person wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, who claims to represent Anonymous, said the group intends to hunt down the members of ISIS, adding ‘we will find you, and we will not let you go.’
“‘We will launch the biggest operation ever against you,’ Anonymous said. ‘Expect massive cyber attacks.’” TechInsider, November 16th. HuffingtonWord.com (November 16th) tells us that one element of Anonymous has been reasonably successful in this regard: “#OpParis has taken down more than 2,000 pro-ISIS accounts so far, the hactivist collective said [November 15th].”
None of our anti-ISIS efforts are going to be easy. We’ve never faced a media/tech savvy effort at this level from any prior jihadist terrorists, and we have a long way to go to silence these rather effective communications that continue to recruit fighters from all over the world. It might help if, somehow, we could stop our own politicians from creating that recruitment video for them!
I’m Peter Dekom, and you really have to wonder how U.S. presidential candidates are going to defeat ISIS when their very words and deeds are the very basis for some of ISIS’ most successful recruitment videos.