Bioethics Blogs

The Isis Propaganda War and its Moral Consequences

Islamic State (Isis) is using a variety of social media tools to spread their jihadist message across the globe. While some are rather odd, such as the internet meme of #catsofjihad, which combines cats with weapons, others are highly sophisticated, as Steve Ross details in his comprehensive article on the media tools Isis is using. Isis is distributing documentary-style videos in several languages which come with their own Hollywood-like trailers, propaganda tweets that detail the supposedly good Isis is doing, and footage of gruesome combat actions which at times is intertwined with video game footage. But nothing attracted more media attention than the videos of hostage killings such as the latest of the beheading of Alan Henning. While all the other parts of the Isis propaganda make sense to me, I had a hard time understanding why publish such horrific videos: How could such appalling videos help recruitment?

Ross concludes in his article about the video of Alan Henning’s killing: “In propaganda terms, it was a colossal own-goal.” And I had the same sentiment for a long time. Releasing the videos does not help to get ransom from either the British or the American government – one of the main goals of taking hostages – nor does it seem to help convince potential recruits to that Isis is fighting the good cause. Rather the absolute opposite. Ross expresses a similar sentiment when stating that the release of the video “has exposed them as both inhumane and un-Islamic.” And on top of it, it might have swayed the emotions of the American, British, and Western people to support an intervention in Iraq.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.