Small Wars Journal

ISIS Media Output Drops as Military Pressure Rises, Report Says

ISIS Media Output Drops as Military Pressure Rises, Report Says by Scott Shane, New York Times

The vaunted propaganda operations of the Islamic State, which helped lure more than 30,000 foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq, have dropped off drastically as the extremist group has come under military pressure, according to a study by terrorism researchers at West Point.

In addition, the researchers found, there has been a striking shift away from publications and social media portraying a functioning state with competent bureaucrats, thriving businesses and happy citizens. The Islamic State, also called ISIS and ISIL, claims that it is building a new caliphate — or unified Muslim land — a claim that has become increasingly threadbare.

“It’s not just the numeric decline,” said Daniel Milton, director of research at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point and the author of the new report. “The caliphate was their big selling point. Now there’s an inability to say we’re doing the things that make us a state. And that was behind their broad appeal.”

At the peak of the Islamic State’s media output, in August 2015, the group released more than 700 items from official outlets in Syria and several other countries. During the month of August 2016, after a year of airstrikes and other assaults, that number had declined to under 200, according to the study.

Over the same period, the share of items devoted to military reports doubled to 70 percent, eclipsing attention to governance, commerce and other topics portraying civilian life.

The findings reflect a cascade of failures for the Islamic State, reversing its sudden rise both in territory seized and propaganda reach in 2014. Experts caution, however, that the Islamic State’s ideology, which portrays Muslims in an apocalyptic contest with non-Muslims, is likely to continue to inspire terrorist acts long after its caliphate is gone…

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