In an April 18 post, one of my classmates details the media and publication arm of ISIS, an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organization. My classmate points out that the employees of the ISIS arm are some of the most well compensated in the organization. I’d like to extend on his post to talk about the relationship between Daesh “journalists” and their western counterparts.
The cruel irony of the ISIS media arm is that while they reward their own media professionals handsomely, they’ve made Western journalists one of their most sensational pawns in their propaganda war. In a Feb. 2015 Longform Podcast, Rukmini Callimachi, who covers ISIS for the NY Times, said that ISIS has realized that journalists are “the creme de la creme for targets in their propaganda videos”. A NY Times graphic, also published in Feb 2015, showed that 11 out of the 23 foreigners held in the same ISIS prison were journalists and photojournalists. The other prisoners were aid workers from Europe and the United States.
Everyone remembers seeing the freelance journalist James Foley kneeling in front of a DAESH caliphate in a desert, dressed in an orange jumpsuit. His beheadding by
ISIS fighter “Jihadi John” was the first in a series of journalist killings by ISIS. Another American journalist, Stephen Sotloff, was executed a month later.
“We have never been prouder of our son Jim,” Foley’s mother, Diane, said in a Facebook post days after his death. “He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.”
Diane Foley’s remarks hint at why Western journalists are such a threat to ISIS. My classmate writes on his blog that “Under Daesh’s propaganda model, benevolent broadcasts are utilized to lure the in-group into new membership, with battle scenes serving to further alienate the out-group.” In their quest to reveal the suffering of Syrians, Western journalists have interests that are at diametric odds with the ISIS media strategists. They therefore have the most power to destroy the work of the ISIS media arm, making them prime targets for ISIS combatants.