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Islamic State’s Media Violence May Hurt the Group


Islamic State militants lead what are said to be Ethiopian Christians along a beach in Wilayat Barqa, in this still image from an undated video made available on a social media website on April 19, 2015. (REUTERS/Social Media Website via Reuters TV)

Islamic State militants lead what are said to be Ethiopian Christians along a beach in Wilayat Barqa, in this still image from an undated video made available on a social media website on April 19, 2015. (REUTERS/Social Media Website via Reuters TV)

The group calling itself the Islamic State uses videos to publicize its activities. The terrorist group’s media team has made its most horrible acts into big news stories. Some observers blame television stations and newspapers for publicizing the violence. They say traditional media have strengthened the public image of the group. Other observers say the Islamic State’s media war has reached a turning point. They say the bloody videos are starting to ruin the group’s image.

Most major media companies have policies in place that limit the violence they will show in pictures or videos. They usually refuse to show the act of murder in Islamic State videos. But they do show other parts of the videos.

Daniel Wagner is the head of Country Risk Solutions, a private service that offers advice on cross-border risks. He believes media companies should reconsider their policies, especially when reporting on the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

“If I had my way, they would be more judicious in what they choose to broadcast related to ISIS -- for example, they wouldn’t be referencing beheading videos and they wouldn’t be talking about the latest outrageous act that the Islamic State has accomplished.”

Mr. Wagner blames the news business and people’s reaction to sensational reporting for the problem. He says the media helps ISIS both strengthen its public image and win new followers.

Islamic State videos showing murders have been published on many social media sites and in the news media. But some observers say ISIS has produced so many videos showing violence that they are starting to harm the group.

Max Abrahms is one of those observers. He teaches political science at Northeastern University in the United States. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a non-profit group.

“Every targeted country that the Islamic State brags about becomes more resolved to take on (the) Islamic State. While it’s true that bragging about the violence over social media can be beneficial in terms of having a recruitment effect, there’s also a very substantial attrition effect.”

Professor Abrahms says there is evidence that the Islamic State recognizes its media efforts are harming the group. He says the terrorist group’s leaders may now be urging members to stop talking so much about their violent acts. He says this ability to change its policies and practices is part of the reason the group has grown so large and so quickly.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

VOA's Heather Murdock reported this story from Egypt. George Grow adapted it for Learning English. Christopher Jones-Cruise was the editor.

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Words in This Story

judicious – adj. showing or having good judgment

beheading – n. an execution in which the person’s head is cut off

outrageous – adj. shocking or surprising in a very bad way

accomplished – adj. very skillful or successful

brag(s) – v. to speak very highly of yourself or your successes

recruitment – n. the process of adding new members to a group

attrition – n. the process or act of weakening; a reduction in the number of members or supporters

Do you believe the Islamic State’s media violence is hurting the group? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the comments section.

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