Credit: Wikimedia Commons
We are all horrified and reeling from the beheading of journalist James Foley at the hands of that hellish terrorist group ISIS. Their actions are unspeakable—from the systemic slaughtering of minority groups, to their destruction of cities, to mass rape, to burying people alive—and now to murdering our journalists and threatening to “drown us all in blood.” Worrisomely, the organization is also learning how to govern effectively—which only makes them an even more formidable global threat.
As we all attempt to wrap our minds around their genocidal brutality, feeling helpless to combat this global scourge of an organization Obama said “has no ideology of any value to human beings,” there is something we can do: stop sharing their propaganda.
Since Tuesday night, when reports of James Foley’s murder went viral, we’ve been inundated with violent images of his final moments. Despicably, both the New York Post and New York Daily News ran images of him with a knife to his throat on their front pages. Not only this is indefensibly insensitive, it’s also just what ISIS wants.
It seems unfathomable that this terrifying, murderous group is skilled at anything other than death and destruction, but their PR strategy has been incredibly effective and elaborate for months—it’s been a key part of their massive rise to global infamy. Like when they co-opted soccer-related trending hashtags during the World Cup in order to infiltrate global social media and spread their bloody messages.
And when Twitter or YouTube shuts down accounts, they jump to other platforms and spread their grisly propaganda Hydra-style to other accounts. It would all be brilliant if it didn't stem from the most horrendous terrorist group in the world.
The point? ISIS has invested a ton of time and energy to produce well-constructed videos and infiltrate any and all social media avenues. Why would they be doing this if they didn’t want us all to see?
They seek to terrify and demoralize us—and they seek to recruit.
Not only should we be remembering James Foley as the brave, skilled photojournalist that he was (it’s sad that his sister has had to step in and ask that pictures of her brother's death not be circulated—c’mon, America), but we should do whatever it is that we can to stop the spread of their violent, viral propaganda.
And we’d do well to listen to those in the Middle East—you know, the ones who’ve been in ISIS’s direct and deadly path for months. We’ve suffered the devastating loss of a journalist. Those in the Middle East have lost whole families, communities, cities.
Hence, activists in the region are calling for action concerning ISIS’s disturbing and dangerous propaganda. Prominent Libyan activist Hend started trending #ISISMediaBlackout, saying:
What action does she promote instead?
And her message is resonating—so far the hashtag has been used over 11,000 times globally.
Another reason not to circulate violent, visual propaganda? A devastating reminder from Iraqi analyst Sajad Jiyad: "In Iraq our children became desensitized to images of killings because it's always shown. Don't let that happen elsewhere." Read: Let's not allow ISIS's violence to become normalized.
So by all means, report on, tweet about, share information about, and discuss ISIS. As many eyes and hearts as possible should be paying attention—but let’s do it without spreading their heinous propaganda and buoying their cause.