ISIS craves prominent news coverage, and they crave momentum behind their desire to spread terror. This week their heinous images spread quickly online – propaganda meant to both shock the West and recruit new devotees. It raised a sensitive issue for news outlets again. Should they show the images, after all just one click away for anyone online or refrain? There is a wider question surrounding the impact on blocking them when those willing or curious enough can find the images in seconds. But wouldn’t it be better to block the barbaric films? Surely it would be more effective to remain silent?
Because in addition to being one of the most brutal militant groups ISIS might just also have the most elaborate public relations strategy.
I would argue the West has not been smart enough to match this horrific genius. ISIS is winning the propaganda war with strikingly high production quality videos shot in HD with sophisticated graphics and logos. Most of the content is in English, suggesting that they are specifically designed as a recruitment tool for Western audiences.
So how do we usurp a cruel purposeful barbaric force? It’s pointless to rush to social media censorship; however how do the powers work with the likes of YouTube, Google, Twitter to cleverly disrupt these forces to counter the efforts?
It must be a balance. Telling the world what matters, against the unnecessary hyping and legitimacy that can often find its way into the story.
News outlets must find a way to inform their views and listeners whilst not advancing the ISIS agenda.
Not easy, but necessary.