Propaganda is an ideological concept that is organized using specific communication techniques to manipulate people. Since its conception during World War I by the British, the usage of propaganda is constantly changing. Propaganda is not just limited to history, it but it is a doctrine that is used in present times that permeates every aspect of society. (Hexham, 2014)
The article written by Steve Rose discusses The Islamic State of Iraq and Levant’s (Isis) usage of social media to carry out recruitment of members outside the Middle East. The article begins with the discussion of how the US government commissioned Hollywood director Frank Capra in 1941 to create propagandist films for the war effort against the Nazi’s. Rose examines how Capra used the Nazi’s technique of film against them when he created his seven-film documentary series, Why We Fight. The document informed American soldiers what they were up against. Rose states that as Capra used the Nazis techniques against the Nazi, so is Isis “using the west’s media tools and techniques against it [west]. Isis has proven fluent in YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Internet memes and other social media” (Rose, 2014).
Harold Lasswell mentions the purpose of propaganda is to inform society about what the propagandist(s) are defending and who the real enemy is (Hexham, 2014). Isis seems to have taken up these methodological concepts in relation to their cause. In terms of presenting the enemy, Isis clearly states their rejection of democracy and anyone who is not Muslim. Isis portrays its cause as being a defender of the authentic Islamic State. They use their hostages to condemn the US government’s criminality by portraying the US government and the west as being the bad guys and place any wrong doing on them. Since we have contemplated Lasswell’s concept of propaganda, we must understand who the propaganda is targeted towards.
Isis’s social media is specifically aimed at the younger generation who they can convert into their ideology. They recruit members by illustrating the justness of their cause and the greatness of the Khilafah by utilizing diverse approaches. This is done by displaying a gentle side of Isis from soldiers comforting the wounded to handing out ice cream to children. At the same time they utilize gruesome propaganda. The Flame of the War, a documentary about Isis heroic militarism includes graphic combat footage, genuine roadside bombings, gun battles, executions and other gory details. I find the diversity in the types of propaganda used interesting. Typically when it comes to propaganda, we see the propagandist use images that show the best characteristic of their ideologies. Here we have the opposite; Isis is not hiding the disturbing images but rather seems to be flaunting them. I acknowledge that Isis does not show every brutality in their regime such as the rape and lashing of women, the cruelty towards individuals who do not adhere to their extreme interpretations and other horrific punishments. Nonetheless they are displaying an extremely violent side of themselves. As mentioned in the article, Isis is using society’s obsession with gore and depravity to push their agenda by exploiting Hollywood’s violent scenes. Isis’s version of Grand Theft Auto as a recruitment method demonstrates the every changing approaches towards propaganda. Propaganda is not a method that has one formula but is diverse in its techniques.
Hexham, I. (Professor) (2014, October 6). Propaganda. Rels 349. Lecture conducted from University of Calgary, Calgary.