Check Out the State Department's Anti-ISIL Propaganda

In a warzone both sides use propaganda.


State Dept

The Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIL or ISIS) has gotten a lot of attention for its somewhat successful use of propaganda directed at the West. The most obvious example is its slick video of the beheading of American journalist James Foley committed by an English-accented jihadist. ISIL has "the most significant propaganda machine of any extremist group," national intelligence official Matt Olsen recently warned. "They're as sophisticated as anybody out there," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says.

Of course, in a warzone both sides use propaganda, and the State Department recently released a video of its own. The clip was actually published on Youtube several weeks ago, but just caught media attention this weekend. It's a pretty straight forward pitch: If you join ISIL, you're actually harming other Muslims and you're going to get yourself killed sooner rather than later.

It's got over 500,000 views … but it's also got graphic footage of beheadings and crucifixions, so it's probably not safe for work:

Playing catchup to ISIL's spread throughout social media, the U.S. government is also posting daily on the Facebook and Twitter. The campaign is called "Think Again, Walk Away" and it's geared at English-speakers who are tempted to join the terrorist organization. Britain recently raised an alarm because its defense department believe around 600 citizens have taken up arms for ISIL, though some estimate as many as 1,500 have. There are also an estimated 100 American citizens and a sum total of 3,000 Westerners who have joined the fight to establish a Caliphate throughout much of the Middle East.

America's information front focuses a lot on kids: ISIL isn't letting kids go to school, ISIL is eating meat while children eat bread, ISIL is killing children and using them as suicide bombers. It also features on individuals who became jihadists but are now disillusioned with the fight, as well as Muslims who denounce ISIL as hypocritical and unfaithful to the religion's teachings. 

State Dept

The first tweet (left) was sent out several days ago, and the other (below right) several hours ago. Some, like the "poisonous tree" (above), are written in direct response to ISIL's own Twitter propaganda.

The Islamic State is savvy about social media, to the point that Iraq had to block Facebook and Twitter earlier this year.

State Dept

It's not too surprising that ISIL is so good at this type of propaganda, though. Many of its fighters are pop culture-consuming millennials, a fact that was made so strangely vivid when they were tweeting their thoughts about the death of Robin Williams and his films like Jumanji.


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  1. I’m thinking Lysistrata. Women deny them sexual access until they stop killing. I mean it, no strippers, no nothing.

    1. I thought the whole point of joining the military was to get your sex without having to deal with women. Or is that just the Navy?

      1. I think that’s just the Navy. And maybe the Coast Guard.

    2. That’s a good idea. But what should women do to stop the raping?

      1. I thought rape wasn’t sex? I can’t keep up with all of that.

        1. I thought they said all sex was rape.
          It’s so confusing trying to keep up.

  2. Many of its fighters are pop culture-consuming millennials

    Thos GODDAMNED millenials? (PBUT) are EVERYWHERE! What’s the Reason/Rupe poll say about their love of technology….and beheadings?

  3. “The Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIL or ISIS)”

    but but but but but AP GUIDELINES?!?!?!

    are we seeing cracks in the insistence on ‘ISIL’? keep hope alive.


    2. The Associated Press has made a compelling argument for why ISIL is the more accurate translation.…..s-in-iraq/

      I also note “ISIS” so as not to confuse.

      1. yeah, well why don’t you just marry the AP then.

        (kicks can)

        1. *blows snot bubble out nose trying not to spray pop everywhere*

      2. And since zenon has copped to the “Appeal to Authority”/’We Wuz Told To Do it’ excuse…

        I would like him to explain why other news organizations, say …

        Fox News…?

        or the New York Times…?

        …have blaring headlines about “ISIS” on their front pages?

        Did they not get the memo?

      3. Other Journos suspect the Name Game has ulterior motives

        Obviously*, we refer to it at NBC News as ISIS,” Todd explained to anyone who may have been confused by the two different names. “The Obama administration, the president says the word ISIL. The last ‘S’ stands for Syria. The last ‘L’ they don’t want to have stand for Syria.”

        As Todd said, ISIS stands for the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” a designation that could indicate the best way to combat the group is to take them on militarily in both of those countries. ISIL stands for the “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.” The Levant is a larger area of the Middle East that actually includes Lebanon and Jordan in addition to Syria. But since the Obama administration has shown much more willingness to attack ISIS in Iraq than they have to attack them in Syria, they seem to have decided it is in their best interest to leave the “S” out of the name.”

        I personally don’t really give a shit about the propaganda effect of making them “sound” scary or the geopolitical ramifications of acronyms…

        i just think the vagina-creme label is freaking LAME

      4. “Zenon Evans|9.8.14 @ 3:15PM|#

        The Associated Press has made a compelling argument for why ISIL is the more accurate translation.”

        I can’t help it but any time anyone tries to explain to me that,

        There’s a reason… that *important people have*, you see…. and while I *could* explain the reasons here… i’ll instead say that Important People think this… which is probably ultimately convincing than their actual argument*….

        I hear it in This Guy’s voice.

        *their actual, ‘compelling’ argument is =
        that ISIL is a more-literal translation of their organization’s name, which, in referring to “Al Sham”, is basically “the Levant”. AND that this label reflects their “aspirations” more accurately than “ISIS”, which may “mislead” people into thinking that they simply think themselves as limited to “Iraq and Syria

        but here’s the thing:

        They ARE in Iraq and Syria

        AND Iraq is NOT part of “the Levant”

        So ISIL is neither an accurate label for what they ARE, or what they seemingly INTEND.

        So, “Compelling argument”? Let me introduce you to my ballsack.

        1. *my ballsack just noted that their original name features Iraq AND Levant.

          ISIS still sounds cooler.

        2. Hey look man, I don’t make the rules around here, I just follow them. I offered my explanation, because that’s what it is. I didn’t claim to be infallible.

    3. I also think it would be awesome if the terrorists’ PR guy held a press conference, explaining:

      Uh, look people = apparently there’s been some confusion. The name of the group is “ISIS”, and its pronounced, “IS, IS”. See, me and mahmoud? we were laughing about Bill Clinton’s whole bullshit excuses and thought, “hey! lets name the band ‘is-is’?!” because that’s like what he said, you know? “Everything depends on what the meaning of ‘Is’, is”. Also, we were both big fans of Was-Not-Was. This whole thing makes it sound stupid. I hate explaining jokes.”

  4. It’s not too surprising that ISIL is so good at this type of propaganda, though. Many of its fighters are pop culture-consuming millennials, a fact that was made so strangely vivid when they were tweeting their thoughts about the death of Robin Williams and his films like Jumanji.

    I don’t think it’s too late to say that ISIL’s millenials are closet libertarians in the making.

  5. re: government propaganda

    i think Michelle Obama should start a hashtag campaign with a frowny-face photo. It has been proven to work wonders. also – and i’m just thinking out loud here – …. *ice bucket challenge*? Kids love it.

    1. “Are you martyr enough for the boiling crude oil challenge?”

    2. #bringbackourIraq

      I like it.

    3. Also, ads of bros doing keggers while warning people about the dangers of radical Islam.

      I hear those are highly effective.

  6. Wow, that propaganda video is awful. Looks like a high school student made it in under two hours in Windows Movie Maker. A bunch of shitty cuts and a bad filter.

    Now those ISIS videos, they’ve got decent editing, good soundtracks, and a consistent narrative. Camera work could be a lot better, but when you’re doing drive-bys of Iraqi military personnel I don’t expect it to be top quality. Maybe ISIS is where all the unemployed graphic design students are going?

    1. I think they should use the talking dogs (foxes?) from the TSA video.

  7. Wouldn’t we look like a bunch of Johnny-come-latelies, bragging on our own beheading video, doesn’t matter how gory.

  8. A PR campaign is lame! ISIS must be crushed immediately and totally before it gets going much further (the big stick) – but in the wake of doing that the causes of the discontent (the same old haves vs. the have-nots issue) must be dealt with (speak softly).

    These people sign up because they have noting else to do, they are mostly from under developed rural areas, have had no stake in the economy, no piece of the action, no voice, nothing. This is what happens. Something has to change.

    Both sides of the political aisle get to share in the current disaster called the Middle East. Before the Bush/Obama administrations began their campaigns to destablize the Middle East, the region was fairly stable. Egypt was stable. Libya was stable. Iraq was stable. Israell was doing relatively OK.

    Now look at what we have. In hindsight, it would have been a lot wiser to have foreseen the need to share some of the wealth with the have nots in this region. If we get a chance for a do-over perhaps some people with brains will be allowed to get involved.

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