The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has been using a variety of videos, images, and symbols as forms of propaganda to persuade youth to join, encourage, and support their extremist views. Videos of beheadings and ISIS fighters marching through towns can be found throughout the Internet. Also, the black and white flag associated with ISIS appears in everything they display and has become a symbol for what they represent.
The US has combatted ISIS propaganda by creating a social media campaign called Think Again Turn Away. This campaign engages ISIS supporters on social media sites such as Twitter and provides anti-extremist videos on YouTube. Think Again Turn Away is aimed at dissuading Muslim youth from joining ISIS and other jihadist groups. Think Again Turn Away has come under heavy scrutiny from the general public and from Shahed Amanullah, a former State Department official. Shahed Amanullah called the United States’ attempt to engage online with ISIS a tragedy. Shahed Amanullah believes engaging with ISIS supporters online gives extremists the proof they are just as powerful as the government.
In my opinion the US government and ISIS have engaged in a propaganda war. Both are using propaganda techniques to persuade people to adopt a particular ethos or worldview. ISIS videos encourage an ethos of violence towards disbelievers of Islam and to less extreme Muslims. ISIS believes that Allah supports their gruesome acts and that they are doing nothing wrong. The US on the other hand is using propaganda to encourage an anti-extremist or anti-terrorist ethos.
I support the US trying to combat ISIS online. Although the current campaign may not be the most effective, I think it is important for governments to counter any extremist views wherever they occur. If ISIS is able to troll the Internet, spreading its propaganda without any opposition, their influence on Internet-browsing youth will increase. Engaging ISIS supporters shows that the US will not be bullied by terrorists and that they take terrorist activity very seriously.
I believe the US is using propaganda in a positive way to counter ISIS. Think Again Turn Away can help internet-fluent youths realize the dangers of jihadist groups like ISIS. Seeing the government take a proactive response online can help encourage an ethos of anti-terrorism and decrease the number of people who are leaving their homes to join ISIS. Political leaders throughout the world should analyze ISIS propaganda and then do what is necessary to combat it. This is one way that countries can begin the process of dismantling dangerous extremist views.
The propaganda war between the US and ISIS is one example of the interaction between religion and politics. It demonstrates the effects of what can happen when religion and state disagree, and how that disagreement ultimately leads to conflict or tension.
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