The U.S. State Department released a video to counter the numerous propaganda videos from the Islamic State (IS), also known as ISIS. The department’s “Think Again, Turn Away” campaign developed the video with graphic images of the Islamic State murdering people in the streets and beheading bodies. It is meant to dissuade future jihadists from joining the terror group.
The Islamic State video is set up as a fake recruiting ad. Titled “Welcome to ISIL-Land,” it tells recruits to run, not walk, to ISIS, where they can learn new skills such as “blowing up mosques,” murdering Muslims, and “plundering” resources.
“Think Again, Turn Away” is part of the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications department at the State Department. Launched in 2011, it employs 50 people to specifically counter terrorism activity on social media. The YouTube channel was only developed in July after IS conquered Mosul, Iraq.
Despite the money spent on them, these videos, compared to IS propaganda videos, often fail; firms that track terrorism videos criticize the videos from the State Department.
“The problem with this video is the same problem that seems to happen over and over again with these type of initiatives,” said Evan F. Kohlmann, chief information officer of Flashpoint Global Partners. “They don’t seem to have a clear picture of what audience they are trying to reach, or how to influence them.”
According to Kohlmann, the State Department forgets “most of the Westerners trying to join ISIS are actually enthused by videos of executions and suicide bombings, not deterred by them.”
The Islamic State includes pictures and videos of deaths on social media. They clearly reveal to recruits that they murder Muslims who, in their eyes, betray the Islam faith. Khaled Sharrouf took a picture of his son holding a decapitated head in Raqqa, Syria. Sharrouf posted the picture on Twitter and said, “That’s my boy!”
The proof is also in the numbers. Sky News said 60,000 pro-IS accounts were created since May, but almost 30,000 were created after IS posted the video of American journalist James Foley’s beheading on August 20. Additionally, over 10% of the social media responses to the video of the beheading of American journalist Steve Sotloff’s were positive. One teenager said he started a Twitter account just to support the Islamic State.