Is ISIS losing ground in the propaganda realm?

As it seems that ISIS has lost several of its leading propaganda experts and the group is also losing territory what kind of impact it may have on the ability of ISIS to spread its message and attract new recruits? Read few comments.

Arturo Varvelli, Head of Terrorism Research Program, ISPI (Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale)

Over the last two years, IS has undergone severe losses in terms of both human capital and territory, especially in Syria and Iraq, the cornerstone countries for the Islamic State’s project. Undoubtedly, it has been gradually declining, and with it its capacities in many fields.

However, I would not say that such losses and decline directly impact on the abilities of IS in producing high-quality propaganda and attracting new recruits much beyond the Middle Eastern region. The last editions of IS magazines are still high-quality products, and the risk of radicalization on the web is not decreasing at all. The point is different. The decline of IS does not challenge the technical abilities of the group in spreading its message, but the narrative itself that the group wants to spread. Three years ago, when IS was on its rise, the largest part of the jihadi media production concerned the dream (or better the utopia) of the establishment of a real state, something that fascinated and seduced thousands of people, especially among the youths. Today, with the clear failure of IS’ state-ambitions (and the leadership of the Caliphate at its minimal), the narrative of an “Islamic State” to embrace the entire umma is no longer credible.

Jade ParkerSenior Research Associate, VNSA Cybersecurity and Use of the Internet, Terror Asymmetrics Project on Strategy, Tactics and Radical Ideology (TAPSTRI)

The impact of Coalition efforts to eliminate IS media personnel is already having noticeable effects on the output of the Islamic State’s officially produced propaganda, which have been on an increasingly steep downward trajectory in terms of quantity. However, that decline doesn’t include unofficial propaganda made by IS members and supporters outside of Iraq and Syria nor does it include official Islamic State propaganda produced in other IS-controlled territory, such as Khurasan Province located in Afghanistan and Pakistan. To that end, Coalition gains on the ground are complemented online by the increasing crackdowns by social media and web hosting companies on terroristic propaganda, which have hampered the reach of unofficial pro-IS media projects distributed by IS supporters. Unfortunately, despite the dwindling propaganda operations, the influence of the group in terms of recruitment and incitement is largely dependent on the socio-ideological objectives of the Islamic State, not their marketing. Without diminishing the attraction of IS’s virulent strain of violent Islamist extremism in the eyes of its potential adherents, the messaging materials produced and spread by its global network of propagandists is unlikely to fully subside.

Michael S. Smith II, Terrorism Analyst, Co-founder of Kronos Advisory

There is no indication that either the loss of propagandists killed during the past year, or the loss of territory in Iraq and Syria has significantly diminished Islamic State’s capabilities to recruit and incite violence on a global scale.



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