The Islamic State’s PR machine is stronger than ever and expanding its reach: New study

4 October 2017

  • New analysis shows that Islamic State’s magazine functions as a form of press release to justify its actions and its religious authenticity to a broader Muslim audience
  • Islamic State’s magazine emphasises its state building project, but turns its focus to the need to battle in the West
  • The magazines are accessed by a huge number of people across the world, and are the key way IS engages and influences vulnerable members of the community

A new study published in the Australian Journal of International Affairs has argued the Islamic State’s PR machine is stronger than ever and pushing out to more and more countries through its main form of communications activity, its online magazine.

Since losing the territory of Dabiq, Islamic State has begun to produce a new English language magazine called Rumiyah which continues to emphasise the religious justification for IS’ state building project, but that also turns its focus to the need to battle outside IS’ borders.

Dr Julian Droogan, leading expert in counter-terrorism who authored the analysis study of IS’ magazines, primarily Dabiq, found IS has moved away from pushing the legitimacy of the Islamic State and perhaps unsurprisingly towards calling for attacks against the West.

This is a fundamental shift for IS as it loses its territories in Iraq and Syria and turns increasingly to wider conflicts in places such as Egypt and the Philippines, and terrorist attacks in Europe.

“The Islamic state-building prospect is going to fail but when it does it will not be the end of the ideas espoused in their magazine, and indeed this – or new forms of media similar to it – will remain a tool to continue to fortify similar ideas in more countries. IS has been pushed off Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and so they push their agenda through their magazine via online links in chat rooms and encrypted sites such as Telegram Messenger,” said Dr Droogan from the Department of Security Studies and Criminology.

The magazine seeks to position the Islamic State at the vanguard of a global Islamist revolution, to provide religious legitimacy and justification to the group’s actions, to pacify would-be challengers, to communicate with existing supporters, and to attract attention and reporting from mainstream Western media outlets.

“Analysis shows that the magazine appears to function more as a form of press release and provides the Islamic State with an opportunity to justify its actions and its religious authenticity to a broader Muslim audience and taunt its enemies,” said Dr Droogan.

There is a potential audience of thousands in Australia and potentially hundreds of thousands viewing this material around the world.

“These magazines are accessed by a huge number of people across the world, and are the key way IS engages and influences vulnerable members of our community. Understanding what these magazines say and why they say it is important if we are to understand the nature of these future terrorist movements and how best to counter their perverted and violent ideas,” concluded Dr Droogan.

Droogan J and Peattie S. Mapping the thematic landscape of Dabiq magazine. Australian Journal of International Affairs. August 2017. doi: 10.1080/10357718.2017.1303443

 

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