(This is the second part of an analysis on Jihadist propaganda efforts. Part 1 can be found here).
Jihadist propaganda can be found everywhere on the internet – Twitter accounts, YouTube videos, discussion forums, etc. Catching a glimpse of suicide bombers attacking a military convoy while the voice of an off-screen narrator chants the praise of these new “martyrs” is fairly easy, and it’s precisely the point. These videos are broadcast to a variety of target audiences – the Western public, Western soldiers and, of course, young Muslims who are encouraged to join God’s fight against evil. Quite frankly, it’s a familiar narrative that isn’t exclusive to Muslim extremists.
So, these videos have been circulating around for years now, relayed through DVDs sold in bazaars, online discussion forums and since 2009, Twitter. The Taliban have proven quite proficient with social media, disseminating “information” through their website, Shahamat-english.com and the Twitter account of Abdulqahar Bakhi, The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s “Community manager.” But recently, another group learned to harness and master the power of social media, one I dubbed the “Capliphate 2.0” due do its use of information technology, as well as its virtual nature.
I’m talking about the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL, or ISIS, if you trade “Levant” for “Syria”).
I discussed their information operations tactics, including a sleek weekly magazine and the fact that Twitter recently shut down their accounts in a past article. Yet, they managed to take Jihadist propaganda to another level.
Remember all those grainy videos with an al-Qaeda logo in the corner and considerably low production values?
This is an excerpt from the Islamic State’s “Clash of the Swords”, a Hollywood-style video showing fighters attacking convoys, setting up fake checkpoints disguised as soldiers to kidnap their targets, murdering suspected traitors and hunting down enemies to the organization:
As you can see, the sequence of images almost feels like there’s a story, a narrative, enhanced with actual video editing techniques. Hollywood-style patterns are also used, heavily borrowing visuals and camera angles from war movies produced in the US, such as The Hurt Locker, only this time, no special effects are involved. And no grainy shots there – some of the video looks like they were filmed in HD with Michael Bay as creative consultant.
Now, who’s the target audience. It seems to be multiple. The high-quality production values indicate that the group is obviously well-funded, because it takes money and resources to produce such a film, and the Hollywood-style editing makes it very attractive to potential recruits. The actions depicted are used as a show of force and a deterrent to anyone wishing to oppose them.
ISIL might want to be taken seriously as they just founded a “caliphate”, and such a video is one way to achieve this goal. After all, it’s a notch above what we’re used to seeing in terms of Jihadist propaganda.
Let’s just hope there won’t be a sequel.
(Featured Image Courtesy: The Spectator)