Understanding ISIS's media strategy

Lawfare's Charlie Winter got ahold of a copy of Media Operative, ISIS's long-rumored, three-party guide to media strategy for jihadis; his fascinating account of the organization's media strategy is important reading, if only to see how ISIS views its own operations.

The first principle is that Muslims are "waiting for you to lead it by its hands to the sharia and rid it of the inferiority and injustice from which it suffers" — that is, if you tell the story that the adversary's media will not tell, they will be won over to you. This principle puts emphasis on describing the services and justice that jihadis provide in the territory they control ("grazing livestock, bustling markets, and sunsets, to dentistry clinics, mosques, and public amputations").

The second principle is to demoralize ISIS's opponents by producing propaganda that "exposes the deviances of secularists and hypocrites, responding to those who dishearten, alarm or discourage the Muslims [and] call for tolerance and coexistence with the unbelievers."

The final, most interesting principle is to weaponize narrative by creating "media projectiles" that can "actually be more potent than atomic bombs."

To this end, the Islamic State uses offensive information warfare to attack not only military targets, but civilian ones, too. After all, in its eyes, there is no such thing as civilian status beyond the caliphate's boundaries. Thus, its media "missiles"—be they video executions or mass-mediated terrorist attacks—are calibrated to strike disengaged publics as much as they are towards hitting engaged militaries.

This form of propaganda has emerged as one of the most important components of the Islamic State's asymmetric arsenal and, through it, portions of the global media and even some within the analyst and academic community unwittingly end up being co-opted as conduits for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's media puppeteers.

What I Learned from Reading the Islamic State's Propaganda Instruction Manual

[Charlie Winter/Lawfare]

(via The Gruqg)