Nico Prucha’s interview on IS propaganda and recruitment

VOX-Pol Research Fellow Dr. Nico Prucha is quoted extensively in a piece entitled ‘Fighting ISIS Online’ published yesterday (30 Sept. 2015) by MIT Technology Review. The article’s author, David Talbot, describes how the Islamic State (IS) has mastered the use of online propaganda and recruitment via the internet.

Dr. Prucha explains in the piece how IS differs from other radical Islamic movements such as Al-Qaeda in terms of territorial control and propaganda methods. First, he says, IS forged important alliances to capture territory. After merging al-Qaeda factions with elements of Saddam ­Hussein’s military and intelligence agencies, it seized two major cities, Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq—a region with more than six million inhabitants (at least before the latest mass migrations), substantial resources of oil, water, and wheat, and institutions such as universities. Al-Qaeda, in contrast, never controlled more than a few pockets of territory in such places as Somalia and Yemen. “Never before had a jihadist movement gained the kind of territory and wealth that might allow them to function like states and run public relations campaigns, ” Dr. Prucha is quoted as saying.

Nico further explains that IS propaganda consists of more than graphic videos; it adroitly addresses national, local, and tribal grievances. For example, on 3 February 2015, videos surfaced of ISIS soldiers forcing a captured Jordanian fighter pilot, Moaz al-Kasasbeh, into a metal cage—and then burning him to death. Western media reports focused on the deed’s barbarity, but the fire starts 18 minutes into the video. The bulk of it lays out a detailed argument for the act, making connections between President Obama and Jordanian leaders; between American-made armaments and Jordanian air strikes on ISIS; and between those air strikes and the dead and bloodied on the ground in Raqqa. Under the logic of “an eye for an eye,” IS had a justification for the fighter pilot’s execution, and the act had a clear political goal as well. It was designed to drive a wedge between King Abdullah of Jordan, who is close to al-Kasasbeh’s uncle, and the many refugees from such airstrikes who are living in the country. For good measure, Dr. Prucha points out, the text was translated into French, English, and Russian.


For the full article, click here.

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