It’s time to stop comparing ISIS to Hollywood

Yes, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has succeeded at instilling fear in us. The continuous scenes of their displays of power in areas they control in Iraq and footage of decapitations, explosions and assassinations, as well as videos of mass executions and photos of recruiting children and forcing them to attend executions are enough to make us quiver and admit that the organization takes the lead in practicing violence.

The word “ISIS” has become a trademark in the world of murder and violence.

But the truth is, this bloodshed is nothing new. We’ve witnessed similar bloodiness during the last decade in Iraq, and there are also violent videos that mark three years of horrifying violations the Syrian regime has committed and continues to commit. The region’s, and the world’s, history is also full of such violence and murder, and some of it is documented in audio and video formats. But what distinguishes the ISIS, in addition to its capability to control and expand in a dangerous zone in Iraq, is its media efficiency. Western parties have been occupied in following-up and analyzing this organization’s energy and capability to shoot and broadcast videos and to spread via social networking websites. For example, the ISIS has many pages on Twitter. There is, for example, a page for “the state of Mosul” and “the state of Nineveh.” The organization has also begun to issue Apps to broadcast its news such as the Al-Fagr App. This is in addition to videos of chants, of murder scenes or of distributing aid to people.

What distinguishes the ISIS... is its media efficiency

Diana Moukalled

This proves that what the ISIS is doing is a strategic work of media. The organization’s dedication to take footage of its violations makes us feel like this murder and violence would not occur if there’s no camera that records it and broadcasts it to us!

Western preoccupation

The discussion here is not the organization’s capability to keep up with the media -though this has already happened - but it’s about this Western preoccupation with it. The Western media has fallen in the trap of the attractiveness of violence which ISIS murderers commit. It’s begun to broadcast the group’s bloody videos in a manner that violates the commitment standards which particularly distinguish the American media. For example, CNN went as far as comparing a recently published ISIS video and a famous Hollywood movie on pursuing Osama Bin Laden. They carried out many comparisons between the scenes of real murder - such as comparisons between ISIS explosions and Hollywood fantasy as displayed in action movies. Comparing with Hollywood signifies some sort of admiration. The risk is posed when such a model of comparison is generalized. Yes, we do need to understand how this organization was established and why it managed to impose its control as such. However, we also need to reconsider how to deal with this fatal media material its throws our way every second.

Yes, terror is an effective means of propaganda that under different justifications attracts those in dire circumstances. So, what do we have to do? Prohibiting and banning are not a successful means to control this media insanity. Here’s the ISIS teaching us a harsh lesson about misleading propaganda - especially when it’s associated with delusions of power. We - as individuals, media and states - are thus faced with challenges to confront the violent rhetoric. He who’s occupied with the spread of the ISIS propaganda and style must not only settle with negatively watching these videos and getting scared. There’s a desperate need for a smart media policy that exposes this rhetoric and that does not picture it as a Hollywood miracle when it is actually based on real-life murder.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on June 25, 2014.

Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.

 

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 13:53 - GMT 10:53
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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