Mass media – as a public belief constructor - play an important role in both informing people about what goes on across the globe and shaping their mindsets and belief systems. In the meanwhile, mainstream media have been utilized by different systems to influence people's attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors throughout the history. The Nazi and Communist propaganda exercises epitomize this media role. After the rise of ISIL as a terrorist group in the Middle East, its activities have received widespread attention in the mainstream media. Moreover, this terrorist group’s use of media has become an important focus of concern particularly after it released videos and images of beheadings and mass killings. An exclusive, thought-provoking documentary, Press TV’s “Blades on the Storyline” deeply analyzes ISIL’s media war which is particularly aimed at fulfilling its callous objective, i.e. to creep into the minds of households and political circles throughout the world. Leading figures in documentary making and media analysis are solicited to tap into ISIL’s agenda of media strategies and to see how this Takfiri, terrorist group’s propaganda machine can be compared with its Nazi or Communist counterparts. In the end, the documentary comes to the conclusion that, although a relatively small and intricate industry, today’s mass media continues to allow this barbaric group to get its message out, hence permitting its propaganda machine to flourish.
TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00
SOUNDBITE [English] Voice: “Today, we’re slaughtering the soldiers of Bashar. And tomorrow, we will slaughter your soldiers. And the Islamic State will soon like your puppet David Cameron said, will begin to slaughter your people on your streets.”
Narration: Many wars have been borne out of fear. Fear coupled with ignorance, fear coupled with greed, or fear coupled with uncertainty. And fear itself has multiple dimensions. From an eerie unease to panic and alarm and on through to outright terror or crippling horror, fear has as broad a spectrum as color. Now some of you may find this documentary educational or perhaps disturbing. But scarier than the content of decapitations and execution style shootings, is how a group of 20 to 30 thousand militants can generate enough panic to petrify an entire world.
Narration: In order to analyze how ISIL utilizes the media, we need to delve into the past a bit more.
In the beginning of the twentieth century, mankind found the deadliest weapon in history, and we don’t mean the atomic bomb, but what played out after the arrival of a train at the station.
To record daily life on negatives gave human beings a sense of immortality, something we have been searching for since the beginning of our existence. Many kings and emperors, much like Napoléon Bonaparte himself, strived to distort reality to show themselves and their accomplishments bigger and more glorious than they actually were. And with the advent of film and cinema, many realized the value in the manipulation of truth through this medium. Soon thereafter, it became a complex form of art. Post First World War soviets would insert subliminal messages between frames, promoting their ideology through images the audience would unknowingly be registering in their sub conscience… Then the Nazis followed suit in utilizing the media, where they would display epic images of their war machine to glorify their military and might, all without showing or showcasing the death, carnage, or destruction they were wreaking.
This process still goes on today with thousands of news channels and mass media pushing their interpretation of the truth onto their respective viewers.
TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00
Narration: Nowadays to make a good horror flick you don’t need a dark theatre and a blood bath on screen. In the 1950s Alfred Hitchcock’s audience in psycho and birds would run out of movie theatres frantic. Just as we mentioned earlier in this documentary how a foreign phenomena to an audience, such as watching a train arrive at a station for the first time, may move the crowd out of their comfort zone and into the realm of hysteria. It may seem funny to today’s audience. Because everything in media, as in all art, is relative. Scenes that horrify one day bring out yawns the next. During the second world war, the German language was characterized as rough and violent, the media was able to demonize it through its association with a brutal regime. Leading many to forget eloquent and romantic poems of Goethe. The manufacturing of fear and loathing through propaganda only evolved through time, a fear utilized by many parties during the cold war era, a fear which is serving western interests in the middle east today to mobilize and control movements and ultimately to influence or overthrow certain governments.
SOUNDBITE [English] Steve Rose, Film Critic: “On one level you could say it’s different to propaganda as we historically know it. If you think about Soviet propaganda during the cold war or Nazi propaganda or even America and allies propaganda during the war, most of that had a large state apparatus behind it.”
Narration: In the beginning of his detailed article, titled “The ISIS propaganda war: ‘a hi-tech media jihad’, Steve rose compares Second World War propaganda with that which ISIL uses today.
SOUNDBITE [English] Steve Rose, Film Critic: “It was made for the state, it was financed by the state, it was usually heavily resourced; if you look at Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will which is considered that sort of milestone of propaganda filmmaking you could say she had vast resources – there were 30 cameras filming the Nurenberg rallies - hundreds of thousands of troops, it was a massive display of national power; so in a way, Islamic State, I suppose can claim to be a nation state and therefore similar in that way but doesn’t have nearly the amount of resources behind it.”
Narration: Joseph Goebbels and Leni Riefenstahl pioneered a series of propaganda films for Nazi Germany. One of the most influential of these films was ‘Triumph of the Will’. In seeing the impact and success of the Germans, American filmmaker Frank Capra released a series of U.S. propaganda films called ‘Why We fight’. He practically used identical shots and imagery as the Germans with a varied narration.
Capra later said. “It fired no gun, dropped no bombs, but as a psychological weapon aimed at destroying the will to resist, it was just as lethal.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Steve Rose, Film Critic: “In another way, propaganda often appeals to emotion rather than reason, and so in that way I think a lot of Islamic State’s propaganda qualifies as propaganda because it’s not necessarily a rational argument usually employing shock value impact.”
Narration: Along these lines, Steve Rose’s claims that ISIL’s videos are in reaction to the Islamaphopic films coming out of Hollywood. There are a number of technical aspects and relevant content to prove this theory. For example, the movie Hurt Locker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow in 2008, has an influence on ISIL videos. The editing, cinematography as in the slow motion scenes, and directing can be seen utilized by ISIL in their ‘Flames of War’ production released on Youtube in 2014.
The media uses a range of words for ISIL’s shocking productions like propaganda documentaries and Hollywood productions. ISIL itself releases videos made in town after town and launched via the internet as ‘films’, which we may simply refer to as ISIL’s videos in this documentary.
Although no one will ever give ISIL an Oscar for their videos, but perhaps if anyone was to give ISIL an award for their productions, it would be Fox news.
SOUNDBITE [English] Anchor, Fox News: “And it’s building in drama; and then the screen goes to black. And not just for that long, but for a few seconds. And the next image is that of the same uniformed man I described earlier holding the same torch. We hear the sound effect of a lighter and the torch is lit. Then there’s some special effects, and the torch is moved from high to low, from this area to reach down and touch the trail of something that is clearly flammable on the ground.”
Narration: After capturing Iraq’s second largest city Mosul, in June 2014, ISIL, the new diabolic Takfiri group was introduced to the world by mainstream media. Black flags, militants with covered faces brandishing assault rifles, and an endless abundance of images of beheadings and mass killings taken with high speed professional cameras. News agencies constantly broadcasting ISIL’s conquests and videos, the image familiar and iconic, militants chanting ‘god is great’ and carrying out a number of villainous acts under the name of Islam.
And you have ISIL projecting itself as a dangerous and vicious group, establishing a so-called Islamic State in the Middle East which cuts through a number of countries. Shooting, beheading, and burning enemies. Carrying out mass killings and posting every move and step of destruction online utilizing certain social networking sites. They would even have dialogue with their fans on twitter and Facebook to discuss future methods and tactics of death, destruction, and conquest.
When we start to analyze ISIL’s media strategy we notice their rather paradoxical approach. In one breath they lay emphasis on Early Islam and ancient cultures. They use maps and recognize names and places which haven’t existed for centuries. The group claims to employ a view of Islam and the Middle East that goes back ages. And on the other hand, it relies heavily on technology to promote their cause. Social networking, mainstream media, broadcast, and print, and the internet in general, are all tools utilized by the group in their claim on how old and pure their form of lifestyle is. Yet the group has also exhausted much effort in wiping out ancient history as witnessed in their destruction of many historical sites like the Nineveh Wall, Assyrian artifacts, churches and shrines, Shia Islam mosques and artifacts, Turkish artifacts and cultural sites, and the list goes on.
ISIL believe their ideology is derived from Ibn Taymiyyah, a thirteenth century Islamic scholar who promoted a brand of Islam that was primitive for that time so that Sunni Muslims would unite and stand against the mongol empire.He is considered one of the founding fathers of Takfiri Ideology.
Egyptian researcher Sabra al-Qasemi categorizes and introduces ISIL’s media strategy in his article ‘the Seven Media Wings of ISIS’s Communication Department.
These media centers include Al-Jinad, Al-Furqan, Al-Itesam, Al-Hayat, Makateb Al-Veleyat, radio Al-Bayan, and the Dabiq magazine and internet center.
Mouhamad Al-adnani is the director of these centers, directly appointed by ISIL's chief Abu Bakr al Baghdadi…
ISIL’s budget spent on TV and radio channels ,websites and magazines in more than 12 languages, has been estimated 3 billion dollars, reportedly , an income source this large has come from capturing Iraq’s oil wells and plundering 480 million dollars from Mosul’s financial institutions.
The Al-Hayat center has copied their logo right off of the Al-Jazirah network, to subconsciously convey a familiar image people can identify with.
ISIL puts out a magazine with numerous illustrations called the IS report. Each issue is no more than half a dozen pages or so and is released on the internet. In it, ISIL showcases its victories in Al -Raqqa, Syria and in Mosul, Iraq. It depicts these conquered areas and life within their perimeters as calm and orderly.
Another ISIL monthly is the magazine Dabiq. Released in July of 2014, it has been put out in 4 languages, including English. The city of Dabiq is in Syria near the Turkish border. Although unconfirmed, random Islamic literature points to this site as the place where the last battle between the Romans and Muslims took place.
TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00
Narration: While the area does not offer ISIL any kind of strategic advantage, the terrorist group over ran it, believing this would be where Armageddon would take place. Consequently, the group believes the more havoc and destruction it wreaks, the sooner it can set off the onset of Armageddon.
While our specific documentary team found ISIL’s videos conflicting upon initial inspection, we shared them with colleagues from around the world and asked them for their take on them. Their reaction to this infamous mass beheading is quite normal. Richard was shocked by the sheer magnitude of brutality, and could not watch the entire video.
SOUNDBITE [English] Richard M. Pettigrew, Documentary Filmmaker from US: “I’m not sure I wanna see this part.”
Narration: Kerime Senyucel expected the footage to stop when the blade reached the victims throat. She was shocked to say the least. And Yagout from Egypt was a stuttering mess after viewing the horrific scene.
SOUNDBITE [English] Kerime Senyucel, Documentary Filmmaker from Turkey: “When we look back to the history of documentary, the documentary started with propaganda films, Dziga Vertov after the Soviet revolution, when the Tzar is gone and the Soviet Union started with communism, the films he made which is known as Kino Eye (Cinema Eye) in the world of documentary, started this propaganda and also the new regime in Soviets.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Richard M. Pettigrew, Documentary Filmmaker from US: “My own experience going back a long time, I’ve seen propaganda in the context of many activities, many events, particularly wars.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Ryszard Kaczynki, Documentary Filmmaker from Poland: “When I think about propaganda, let’s say communist propaganda in Poland, I have the impression right now when I think about this after so many years that this was destined for the believers because it was made in such a way that somebody who was anti-communist couldn’t believe a word about this propaganda.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Richard M. Pettigrew, Documentary Filmmaker from US: “I saw propaganda frankly on the side of the Americans who work and try to convince people that they are the saviors of Vietnamese people, saving them from the evil communists.”
Film Narration: “It’s a strange, three-corner struggle. Non-communist Vietnamese fighting communist Vietnamese.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Ryszard Kaczynki, Documentary Filmmaker from Poland: “I think the same thing was about the Nazi propaganda – it was already for the people who wanted to believe – there were some reasons that they wanted to believe that Germany is the best nation in the world and that they had the right to force other people or to kill other people. The problem with this communist propaganda was that they pretended to be just and peaceful and react only to the violence and to the injustice.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Kerime Senyucel, Documentary Filmmaker from Turkey: “I don’t understand what kind of a propaganda it can be. It just frightens people and I think it just turns people against Islam.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Ryszard Kaczynki, Documentary Filmmaker from Poland: “It’s anti-propaganda because if I were commander-in-chief in some country, it will help me to take the decision to bombard this people to defend the society against this sort of people.”
Narration: But then again, these participants were far removed from the ISIL issue so we set off to find someone more familiar with the group.
We found Joseph Lawrence in New York City, best known as Joey L. You can see his photographs of a number of celebrities on his website. He has a distinguished portfolio which extends to advertising work for many well known companies and brands. Joey had recently travelled to Iraq for a photography project and shared his work with us with utmost enthusiasm.
SOUNDBITE [English] Joey L., Photographer and Director: “When we photographed this, actually the Islamic State had been forced away from? and they’re about 15 to 20 kilometers away in the countryside. What the Islamic State does with their propaganda is actually very similar to advertising and what you might call a successful TV commercial because their main goal with them is to engage the audience and get people’s attention, they’re attention seeking with these videos and they’re really good at it and for people not to acknowledge that fact I think is hiding the truth and I think that if you want to really understand your enemy you should know everything about them and you should dissect these videos as if you’re looking at battle tactics because these are social media tactics.”
TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00
Narration: ISIL’s videos can be categorized into two groups. In one series of their work, they depict the associations and bond among the group’s members. They show a strong, unified, fraternity of brothers in arms. In another series of videos, the group highlights its brutality and savagery, hoping to instill crippling fear in its adversaries.
In the fourth issue of Dabiq magazine, English journalist John Cantlie, recounts how he was captured by ISIL in November of 2012. He then explains how his life was spared in exchange for his services to make propaganda material for the group. John lays it all out in an article named the real story behind my videos. Towards the end of his piece, John condemns western governments for their policies in the Middle East.
SOUNDBITE [English] Joey L., Photographer and Director: “Nobody can blame John Cantlie for the things that he’s saying he is being forced at making these videos and who wouldn’t say whatever had to be said or what was forced upon him, you can’t blame him for that, those are probably not his views at all, I think that if you look at John Cantlie’s writings before he was captured, he definitely has some viewpoints that are anti-intervention or some that are criticizing Britain’s involvement in the world.”
Narration: In his first appearance, John is shown as a captive in front of ISIL’s cameras.
SOUNDBITE [English] John Cantlie, British Journalist: “Hello. My name is John Cantlie. I’m a British journalist who used to work for some of the bigger newspapers and magazines.”
Narration: Everyone knew that John Cantlie has been forced to make this video. It is a fact he alludes to himself.
SOUNDBITE [English] John Cantlie, British Journalist: “Now, I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking: He’s only doing this because he is a prisoner. He’s got a gun at his head, and he’s being forced to do this. Right? Well, it’s true. I am a prisoner.”
Narration: He makes it clear to the audience that he is a captive. A familiar technique in theatre used by famous German playwright Berthold Brecht called the distancing effect. It is a tool used to dissuade the audience from getting emotionally involved with the subject. It intends to rather prompt the audience to be more rational and analytical towards the subject. To put it more simply, to make the audience aware that this is a play and that they must acknowledge that fact.
The game Cantlie played with ISIL led to his survival. His destiny in stark contrast to Steven Sotloff and James Foley, both executed after their forced confession videos.
John Cantlie currently works for the al-Hayat and Al-Itisam media centers. He handles quite a bit of propaganda projects for them. He has been tasked with showing the stability and tranquility in areas under ISIL’s control.
SOUNDBITE [English] Joey L., Photographer and Director: “I think they are some of the strangest Islamic State videos because they are trying to pretend that life is all sunny and good under the Kalifah, and you can tell he is being fed lines, he is being forced to do these reports.”
SOUNDBITE [English] John Cantlie, British Journalist: “It’s the absolute heart land of the Kalifah’s; and home to nearly two million people from every word of life.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Joey L., Photographer and Director: “His tone of voice I think is actually funny in some of the videos and he might be over exaggerating things a little bit to show us that he’s being forced.”
Narration: Here you can see John screaming at so called coalition jets to drop bombs on him, playing into the accusation against the U.S. coalition airstrikes that they have been dropping bombs on unsuspecting civilians.
SOUNDBITE [English] Joey L., Photographer and Director: “Even some of his family members spoke out and said that some of the things he would believe in, but as far as the ridiculous videos with him going around and showing the daily life in the Islamic State it’s 100% not true.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Steve Rose, Film Critic at The Guardian: “It’s easy to underestimate how easy it is to make this kind of video output that looks quite professional; the quality is actually quite achievable just with one person and a laptop these days; the access to sophisticated equipment; you can make a video on your phone that looks broadcast quality these days; so I think the public perception hasn’t quite caught up with how easy it is to make things look professional.”
Narration: Then rumors surfaced regarding the budget ISIL was spending on its videos which only added to the groups allure. Especially when mainstream media started theorizing there may be a renowned director behind the productions. Shortly afterwards, another rumor emerged that a prominent Portuguese production crew was handling all the groups effects.
TIME CODE: 25:00_30:00
SOUNDBITE [English] Joey L., Photographer and Director: “I’ve seen Fox news where they say: You need two hundred thousand dollars to make this thing! It’s totally not true; if you look at young kids today with a camera and editing software, they can make videos like this with a DSLR with next to nothing; so those reports of these videos costing two hundred thousand dollars are ridiculous. Even the fact that they have different media wings, Islamic State has Al-Hayat media, and Al-Fucra or whatever, even the fact that they have these media wings, it’s not like you’re going into an office and there’s a hundred people working there, it’s a very talented kid with a DSLR filming this kind of videos, and he probably had some people that go out on site to film the battles and he probably edits them so they have this illusion in the same way that a young man starting a business in this country would not call himself by his name, he’d make a production company, that’s exactly what they’re doing.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Steve Rose, Film Critic at The Guardian: “If you’ve had only a modicum of training you can put out something that looks very well, well put together professionally. It doesn’t take a lot of personal; it doesn’t take a lot of money, so I think it’s easy to attribute these things to some sort of more professional organization than there probably is behind it.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Joey L., Photographer and Director: “In my opinion these are videos that a high school student could do and put on YouTube, the difference is that the subject matter is very serious, and when we see these things presented in that light it’s different, so for example there is a lot of Al-Qaeda VHS tapes of super gruesome beheadings but they didn’t quite resonate or scare people because it just looks sloppy and they could be true or could be untrue. These are choreographed and very well thought out and produced for mass audience.”
Narration: This is Williiam Bernbach sharing his ideas in modern advertising in the 1950s: “All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.
SOUNDBITE [English] Rahshan Saglam, Press TV Reporter, Tikrit: “This place was the witness on one of many ISIL atrocities committed against civilian Iraqis in the city of Tikrit.”
Narration: Press TV images showing discovery of Mass grave in Tikrit, Iraq. This footage will remind us of the many massacres that have taken place throughout history. But will extremism and violence in this area be forgotten after ISIL is beaten and driven out?
SOUNDBITE [English] Rahshan Saglam, Press TV Reporter, Tikrit: “This is one of the mass graves found in Salahuddin province after the liberation of the province. Now this grave was found two days after the liberation of Tikrit city from ISIL militants.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Joey L., Photographer and Director: “You can find beheadings, you can find this kind of atrocities in many different groups; the difference with Islamic State is they don’t mind broadcasting it and they don’t mind sharing it as part of their tactic and overall strategy.”
Narration: Beheadings and Executions in general have been commonplace in many governments and religions throughout history. From the ancient Greek to the Mary Antoinette administration and to on to the time of John the Babtist, Public executions were carried out to send a strong message to others. And this tool evolved in and of itself in the 20th century. Perhaps if there were smartphones during the Katyn Massacre we would have a different understanding of that catastrophe. There were accounts of many beheadings during the Russo-Chechen, as well as the Serbian-Bosnian, wars. And around that time, Chechen rebels began using recorded beheadings as a tool to spread fear. One video they produced showed the execution of 6 Russian soldiers in the middle of the forest. Yet the video was much different from the ones ISIL has been putting out. The Russian soldiers squirmed and heaved under duress, trying to break away and escape. ISIL solved this problem with the administration of drugs to calm their captives before their respective execution.
SOUNDBITE [Persian] Mehdi Nouri, Fmr. Militant: “They must have been drugged. Something must have happened. It’s impossible to drag someone to his death place and keep him calm even if he knows that it’s a scam. These videos are to scare away their enemies and normal people like us so they reach their goals.”
Narration: There are also reports that ISIL tells the captives they only want to record a video message to be sent out to their governments, as in Steven Sotlof’s case, and upon the captive’s completion of his statement, he is abruptly beheaded.
SOUNDBITE [English] Steven Sotloff, kidnapped Journalist: “I am Steven Joel Sotloff. I’m sure you know exactly who I am by now, and why I am appearing before you.”
TIME CODE: 30:00_35:00
Narration: We decided to visit a slaughterhouse and ask a professional about ISIL’s beheading techniques. Our encounter turned out to be quite informative as we were walked through the proper method of decapitation.
SOUNDBITE [Persian] Mohammad Rajabi, Slaughterhouse Worker: “I started slaughtering as soon as I started this job.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian] Majid Sharifi, Slaughterhouse Worker:
“-Four or five years ago.
How did you feel?
-Well, for the first time you get a bit excited; now I feel normal.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian] Mohammad Rajabi, Slaughterhouse Worker: “It gives you a sense of power, a sense of superiority when you see your hands covered with blood of a cow.”
Narration: Then it was time to gauge their reactions to ISIL’s handy work. We showed them an ISIL beheading video. One was immediately angered feeling that we were drawing a reference to what he did and what ISIL does.
SOUNDBITE [Persian] Mohammad Rajabi, Slaughterhouse Worker:“If these videos are real, the slayer must be so cruel. You must be a monster to behead another human being.”
Narration: We were also surprised to see Majid, the head of the group who slaughters roughly 12 hundred cows per month, couldn’t stomach watching the ISIL production. He walked out of the interview, despite our attempts to keep him on set.
SOUNDBITE [Persian] Majid Sharifi, Slaughterhouse Worker: “Wait a minute please. It gets on my nerve.
-Don’t you want to watch the video?
Narration: Before ISIL, al-Qaeda began beheading westerners to send a strong message out to their enemies. Their propaganda endeavor began in 2002 when they executed American citizen Daniel Preal on camera in Pakistan. Then shortly afterwards in 2004, they beheaded 10 more captives on camera. The practice became more and more common as terrorists began to realize how effective the shock factor is and the impact it has on their intended audience. They began to modify their techniques and the quality of their productions to trigger an unparalleled sense of terror and repulsion in their audience.
These are some of the beheaded, well known to many due to their nationalities and ISIL’s relentless efforts to extort ransom from their governments for their release. According to UN statistics through march of 2015, 24,000 people in Iraq have been killed by ISIL. But the only ones who seem to matter in the media are the dozen or so westerners. The other 99 plus percent of the group’s victims remained nameless, faceless, and irrelevant according to most western governments and their respective media.
Another contradiction evident in ISIL, is its unorthodox interpretation of the Quran over treatment of captives in Islam. For example, in verse 70 of the Infal within the Holy book, it reads, ‘O prophet, say to those of the captives who are in your hands, “if Allah knows (any) good in your hearts, He will give you (something) better than what was taken from you, and He will forgive you; and Allah, is Forgiving and Merciful”.
SOUNDBITE [English] ISIL Members: “This is the end of their face, Alham- o- lelah val-ezate valmomenin”
SOUNDBITE [English] Ibrahim Abdollahi, Islamic Scholar: “You cannot tell me any reference from the glorious Quran or from the authentic Sunnah of the prophet (peace be upon him) where justice.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Muhammad Al-Asi, Islamic Scholar: “Islamic warfare has none of this in it. There are “Ayat”, and there are “Hadith” of the prophet that forbid this.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Ali Hakim, Islamic Scholar: “It is just a superficial quotation from Quran as according to some of the narrations describing the “Khawarij” during the early period of Islam means it’s just a matter of vocal recitation of Quran.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Muhammad Al-Asi, Islamic Scholar: “For people who have studied their history, the army of “Muaviah” was configured in a Byzantine way. Because Al-Shaam was part of Byzantium and so the first beheading in Islamic history is not attributed to Islamic teachings or Islamic warfare.”
TIME CODE: 35:00_40:00
SOUNDBITE [English] Joey L., Photographer and Director: “What the Islamic State is using is an old Jihadist textbook from Al-Qaeda called “Management of Savagery”. What that text basically says is that you need to create chaos and create a power vacuum and then Jihadist tactics can be successful in that vacuum. If they were to meet the Americans on the battlefield with weaponry and with technology they have no chance so their best tactic is actually called management of savagery.”
“This is the Islamic State’s I think the most gruesome video that was aimed toward the west, and it’s aimed at the west for a few reasons as we have an English speaker, we have Jihadi John, but also if you look at the executioners we have some of them who could represent a foreign fighter from every country of the world; like this guy is from France, they found out his mother recognized him from the video clip; we have some guys who look like Malaysian or perhaps from Indonesia or something like that; so you can tell that I’ve been watching this, they purposely casted these people to be on this video. These fighters might be in a foreign fighter brigade together or they might be casted if you were from different brigades to make this video.”
SOUNDBITE [English] ISIL Member: “So it should not surprise you when operations by the Muslims are executed where it hurts you the most on your very own soil in retaliation to your unprovoked acts of aggression.”
SOUNDBITE [English] ISIL Member: “Come here for one reason alone that Allah Azavajal and Ensha-allah after Sham after Iraq after Jazirah we are going for you Barack Obama.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Steve Rose, Film Critic at The Guardian: “A level of technological sophistication that we hadn’t really seen before that we wouldn’t usually associate with Islamic fundamentalism”
Narration: Jonathon Morgan a data scientist estimates at least 50 thousand Twitter accounts were being used to support ISIL in the autumn of 2014. A substantial number, likely generating more than 200,000 tweets per day. ISIL users are also found on Facebook, but reliable numbers are unavailable.
A key element of the ISIL message online is its projection of strength. Unlike al Qaeda, whose ambitions for a so-called caliphate were firmly framed in the distant future, ISIL claims over and over again that it is already victorious, with its claim to have established a so called caliphate as the centerpiece of that message.
SOUNDBITE [English] ISIL militant “It has been destroyed by Dollat- AL Islamiyeh, as a result from, ….., attack this check point next to the border, you can see all the cars were damaged.”
Narration: This image of success is a primary driver of ISIL's prolific recruitment of foreign fighters.
SOUNDBITE [English] Steve Rose, Film Critic at The Guardian: “They were well produced; It felt like they were directed towards western audience as they were often in English or German or had subtitles so it felt like it was a very different level of media operation to what we’d been used to.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Kerime Senyucel, Documentary Filmmaker- Turkey: “I think in a way all of those fanatical things, it’s happened with a way people were treated in Iraq during the Iraq war in the name of peace.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Muhammad Al-Asi, Islamic Scholar: “If anyone is the product of Hollywood in their mind, they would think that Muslims are the incarnation of the Devil. It’s that simple, and it’s that frank.”
Narration: Nearly twenty thousand foreign fighters are estimated to have gone to Syria. Of these, some 7 thousand are believed to be young people of immigrant descent from European Union countries.
SOUNDBITE [French] ISIL Member: “An evil apostate say. Allah has repelled your plot and you have not achieved anything good.”
Narration: In most EU countries, radical right parties are almost specialized in Islamophobia. Moreover, the voters support them, too. Muslims living in EU countries always have to explain that they have no relation to terrorist groups. At a time when the radical parties of France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany have a new election victory each day, large masses support racist movements such as Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA), which covertly expresses that it is against Islam and racist attacks targeting mosques have increased in the EU.
SOUNDBITE [French] Nikolas Sarkozy, Fmr. President of France: “We cannot accept to see in our country women who are prisoners behind the screen, cut off from all social life and deprived of identity. That is not the idea that the French Republic has of women’s dignity.”
TIME CODE: 40:00_45:00
SOUNDBITE [English] Muhammad Al-Asi, Islamic Scholar: “There was a film that came out – I think it was in 1973 – it was called the exorcist. If you have to go back to the world of 1973, the political terrain of the world the social makeup of the world, there was no Islamic revolutions, no Islamic upheavals, nothing; it was a calm time; in 1973 there was a war that broke out in the Middle East called the 1973 war but that was contained in a couple of weeks and it was all over, it was nothing major going on; when the film Exorcist came out, which is supposed to be dealing with demons and the possession of a soul, and evil,…at the very first beginning of that film which was supposed to be shot in Iraq, there was in the background, the voice of the call to prayer (the Azan); now imagine you are beginning a horror movie that is dealing with demons and Satan and the rest of this that begins with the Azan, the Muslim call to prayer; now isn’t that a very subtle penetration of the subliminal mind?”
Narration: ISIL militants still rely heavily on old methods of recruitment as well, by travelling from town to town and using eloquence and rhetoric to attract youth from impoverished, disenfranchised, and marginalized groups throughout the Middle East.
SOUNDBITE [English] Muhammad Al-Asi, Islamic Scholar: “Some of them may be living in tough economic conditions; they come from broken families or from poor families or from neighborhoods that are similar to ghettos or to slums or these types of things; and in an act of desperation – they’re desperate – the online thing right now is a big thing; the go online and they tune in to certain sites that will be speaking about Jihad, they’ll be quoting some verses from the Quran and some Hadis from the prophet, and these people who are here in front of the computer with their very superficial knowledge of Islam, with the harsh economic conditions they are living in, tuning into this type of thing, they believe in themselves this is the future; this is the way out.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Kerime Senyucel, Documentary Filmmaker- Turkey: “The majority of them, maybe all of them come from lower income classes; they have problems,”
Narration: ISIL’s media escapade is much like a two edged sword. One side is the videos of the beheadings, the mass executions of captives, running amuck in the streets of a newly conquered town, and all their justifications one can come across on social networks and their own periodicals. The other edge of the sword is the media’s reaction to ISIL’s antics. A vicious cycle which incorporates all the key players but ultimately benefits the Takfiri terrorist group the most.
And furthermore, U.S. president Barack Obamas dismay and acknowledgment at the terrorists horrifying video only reinforced their notion that they were reaching their intended audience, thus giving them the sense of further empowerment.
The purpose is of course to sow fear and demonstrate ISIL’s power. It is their effort to shape perceptions," said Barak Mendelsohn, a political scientist at Haverford College who's kept close tabs on ISIL and other terrorist groups.
Still on the screen [English] Barack Mendelsohn: “The purpose is of course to sow fear and demonstrate the ISIL’s power. It is their effort to shape perceptions.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Voice of Hillary Clinton: “And let’s remember here, the people we are fighting today, we funded twenty years ago. And we did it because we were locked in the struggle with the Soviet Union; they invaded Afghanistan, and we did not want to see them control central Asia and we went to work, and it was president Reagan and partnership with the congress, led by democrats, who said: you know what, sound like a pretty good idea, let’s deal with the ISI and the Pakistani millenarian, let’s go recruit these mujahidin, that’s great, let’s get some to come from Saudi Arabia and other places, importing their Wahabi brand of Islam,”
TIME CODE: 45:00_50:13
Narration: The mass media is familiar with this cycle. One diabolic enemy is created after another, with a so called ally group designated and armed to stop it. Look to Syria and the proxy being played out by the west and extremists to overthrow the government of Bashar al Assad. Look to the Taliban in Afghanistan and their war against the Russians. Russia the demon, Taliban the poor farmers fighting for freedom. Now the Taliban are the demon, and an internal mess in the country to conjure up a so-called new ally in the fight to wipe them out.
We can visit 2001 and learn from the nine eleven tragedy. The images of that day and the twin towers have been rebroadcasted nearly a billion times in the last fourteen years. It was cameras that captured it, the medium which allows us to visit it on a regular basis for history. Terrifying was huge plumes of dust rolling through NY streets and engulfing the cameras, and then blackness. Cameras uncovered the injustices in Abu Ghraib prison, the nude bodies laying one atop another, men leashed like animals.
SOUNDBITE [English] Muhammad Al-Asi, Islamic Scholar: “In current productions of Hollywood, there’s a lot of misrepresentation of Muslims and Islam.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Real Time (debate) with Bill Maher - Ben Affleck, Sam Harris,…: “Are you the person who understands the officially codified doctrines of Islam? …You’re saying that Islamophobia is not a real thing…Because it’s the only religion that acts like the mafia…”
-How can more than billion people….Do not punish people..
-Why? They don’t get covered, they don’t get exposed and they are not giving the same word one.. Platform, that we see…”
Because it is the only religion that likes the Mafia”
Narration: Ignorance, the most lethal weapon, is capable of tearing us apart much faster than the blade of any dagger. Over a billion honest and devout Muslims, living peacefully and making contributions to every facet of science, medicine, and technology, are stereotyped by one man’s ignorance.
ISIL continues to make new mass beheading videos to cover their failure in the Middle East. When they failed to capture Kobani in Syria and hold onto Tikrit in Iraq, the group quickly beheaded 21coptic Christians far away in Libya to celebrate the spread of the group to new horizons. It has also proudly boasted through its magazines that many Takfiri groups have pledged their allegiance, attempting to give the illusion that despite the western reports that the group has had setbacks, it is thriving and growing faster than ever.
What takes center stage throughout all of this, isn’t that ISIL videos get produced, but once they do they make their way onto a virtual platform for the masses to witness. Now given, a good number are immediately filtered and removed or edited, yet they still linger enough on certain web sites, in people’s smart phones and tablets, and covered by world news agencies to give the terrorist group the satisfaction of reaching the eyes and minds of the masses. Perhaps in this capacity, our documentary is guilty to an extent as well. In any event, ISIL ultimately fulfills its callous objective, to creep into the minds of households and political circles throughout the world. They are seen, heard, and feared by millions. A relatively small and intricate industry, today’s mass media, continues to allow this barbaric group to get its message out, and thus, permit its propaganda machine, to flourish.