Introduction — Feb 27, 2015
The motto on an Isis social media reads, “Media is half jihad,” suggesting a degree of media savvy targeted not so much at devout Muslims but Westerners.
But why should that be the case? Especially when Isis is purportedly fighting to establish an Islamic Caliphate in what is now Syria and Iraq?
So why are they so focused on addressing secular Westerners? After all the language and the overall message seems deliberately aimed at stoking fear in the West.
Whoever is really behind Islamic State seems adept at media manipulation and the subtle intrigues of psychological warfare. To such an extent that it almost seems like the handiwork of Western intelligence, working covertly to foment fear and apprehension in the domestic population.
Is that why the videos and executions seem marketed for a Western audience? “Jihadi John’s” videos certainly seem staged, with even retired surgeons questioning their authenticity.
Moreover he seems to have been selected specifically to engage Western fears. But why should that be when the battle ground is in Iraq and Syria?
Could it be that Jihadi John is really a covert creation of Western intelligence? Marketed for a Western audience to elicit fear and thereby manipulate them? Thus preparing the Western population psychologically for further military intervention in the Middle East
‘Jihadi John’: Reaction to the unmasking of Emwazi confirms his PR value
Patrick Cockburn — The Independent Feb 27, 2015
The self-proclaimed “Islamic State” likes to dominate the news agenda and knows how to do so. It also likes to project power at moments of weakness. Thus most of the world knows that Isis burned a Jordanian pilot to death in a cage but few recall that at the same time the movement was losing the battle for the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani. A motto occasionally seen on Isis social media reads: “Media is half jihad.”
The choice by Isis of “Jihadi John” – Mohammed Emwazi – as its English-speaking executioner has everything to do with media impact and the reaction to his apparent unmasking shows that this simple PR ploy is very effective. Similar attention-grabbing stunts in the past include the demand for a $200m ransom for two Japanese hostages (if the demand had been a more prosaic $2m would media interest have been so intent?) and the burning of the Jordanian pilot because decapitation had lost its shock impact.
Isis likes to project power and create fear through highly publicised atrocities. The consequent terror has demonstrable military advantages, helping to so terrify and demoralise the Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga last year that they fled almost without fighting. Such ruthless PR techniques are often seen as being the product of advanced societies but Isis – for all its savagery – has shown skill in manipulating its image. Generally, it tries to think up something new, which probably means that Emwazi has had his day as executioner-celebrity.