It's not just airstrikes. The US State Department has recently launched an internet-based propaganda strategy as part of its "Think Again Turn Away" psyops campaign targeting young Muslim recruits for ISIS. As WaPo reports, the US government-made video titled "Welcome To ISIL-Land" and others like it aim to counter militant propaganda using their own graphic images against them. "The point, obviously, of this is to target potential recruits, potential sympathizers, to show the brutality" of IS, said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, "to point out the fallacies, point out the inconsistencies." However, critics note this could backfire...
The stunning rise of the Islamic State militant group as both a battlefield force and an Internet juggernaut over the summer has given new urgency to a State Department effort to counter online militant propaganda with a U.S. messaging campaign.
A U.S.-government-made video that recently made the rounds on social media — with graphic images of Islamic State executions and a beheaded body — is the best-known example of the attempt to expose the brutality of the Islamist group and undermine its online recruitment appeals.
The short video titled “Welcome to ISIL-Land” and others like it aim to counter militant propaganda by producing eye-catching online material that uses the militants’ own words or images against them.
That’s a tricky line to walk, since by repurposing provocative or grisly images to discredit the groups behind them, the State Department also gives them wider distribution.
The US Government's Anti-ISIS campaign video... (warning extremely graphic)
But, as RT notes, using the militant group’s own words against them, to discredit and mock its mission in Syria, Iraq, and beyond, is dicey, critics say, considering the explicit source of the message is the despised US government, and that violence can appeal to potential recruits.
“Someone at the State Department has failed to recognize that most of the Westerners trying to join ISIS are actually enthused by videos of executions and suicide bombings, not deterred by them,” said Evan F. Kohlmann, chief information officer of Flashpoint Global Partners, a security consulting firm that tracks militants online, according to the Post.
Kohlmann added that messaging that reaches true sympathizers is often quite difficult to achieve.
“The problem with this video is the same problem that seems to happen over and over again with these type of initiatives,” he said. “They don’t seem to have a clear picture of what audience they are trying to reach, or how to influence them.”
The State Department is aware of the limitations of their campaign, and that recruitment for IS is tied to a long history of grievance in the region, a senior State official told the Post.
“So we poke holes in their narrative, try to turn the tables,” the official said. “You’re not going to get a knockout blow.”
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