Media Watch

UA prof analyzes ISIS media approach

If one listens to Western media analysts, terrorist organization ISIS has an impressive Twitter presence and uses barbaric videos to recruit and ultimately indoctrinate its members.

The reality, of course, is significantly more complicated.

The ISIS media machine is extremely advanced, and understands how to tap into the region's discontent. Those are the findings of Shahira Fahmy, a professor in the UA's School of Journalism who recently completed an exhaustive executive summary for NATO on the ISIS media approach.

Much of her focus dissected ISIS publication Dabiq. Her analysis indicates the gruesome images for which ISIS is known, makes up slightly less than 12 percent of the publication. The largest percentage of the focus presents the terrorist organization as a legitimate alternative for those who have endured the constant turmoil of war, by focusing on what it terms a "Utopian Caliphate."

But getting that message across is about more than gruesome imagery. According to Fahmy's research, Dabiq, a 60-page glossy magazine, published roughly monthly since the summer of 2014, uses a collection of photos to present four key propaganda based presentation components of life in the caliphate.

"Overall the images produced by ISIS disseminate a central narrative of being a so-called 'Idealistic Caliphate', a narrative that is central to the organization's strategic communication," said Fahmy in the NATO executive summary. "Dabiq magazine implies a happy status living in the caliphate."

Fahmy notes ISIS imagery, especially when portraying quality of lifestyle within the caliphate, is often filtered, indicating, among other things, a camaraderie of members participating in a greater cause. Included in her examples, Fahmy selected a photo of two young male members of ISIS sharing a smile in the midst of what appears to be a light-hearted moment of bonding designed to indicate "Al-wala and wa-l-bara," roughly translated to mean loyalty and disavowal, and used in this context to reference friendship toward fellow Muslims. That phrasing is followed by "Versus American racism." The message is clear. Join ISIS, join the Utopian Caliphate, and you'll be among friends, not ostracized by an unrepentant West.

"More than half of the images of Dabiq magazine analyzed were visuals portraying the theme of war (e.g. military parade and gains; tanks and guns) (54.6 percent) followed by one-third showing utopianism (e.g. teaching children the Quran, taking care of orphans, healthcare, establishing Shareat court, and implementing punishments) and images of belonging (e.g. fighters relaxing, the idea of brotherhood in the Caliphate) (31.8 percent)," said Fahmy in her executive summary, which since its release has received its share of coverage in the British press. "Images of brutality (e.g. killings and torture) constituted only about one-tenth of all images analyzed (11.9 percent)—raising legitimate concerns about the graphic nature of brutal visuals of ISIS that we regularly see in the news."

Fahmy notes that when brutal imagery is included, ISIS, not surprisingly, drives the narrative toward aggressor responsibility. ISIS will include photos of victims and damage incurred as a result of their attacks.

This becomes a compelling presentation in war-torn regions of the Middle East, and clearly it's been part of the organization's successful recruiting efforts, in the Middle East and across the globe.

"NATO countries should acknowledge the threat of ISIS' visual framing and try to counter the effectiveness of its information campaign that promotes the Islamic State, especially those geared toward the most vulnerable to the radicalization process," said Fahmy in her conclusion.  "The analysis of the themes here presents an important clue to explain the success of ISIS in reaching the disaffected populations—offering them a nurturing, rule-based 'Idealistic Caliphate', in contrast to their current situation as unwelcome outsiders in an individualistic, materialist-driven society."

Star hires football beat writer

The Arizona Daily Star has named Michael Lev as new football beat writer. Lev replaces Daniel Berk, who accepted a position in the UA's Sports Information Department at the onset of the season.

In his absence, and during the search, which lasted about two months, Star sports reporters shared gridiron coverage duties. Lev handled the football beat for USC at the Orange County Register, where he said in one of his outgoing columns, "I have spent most of the past eight years covering USC, and it's really a beat unlike any other."

Lotus producer drives for charity

Classic rock station KLPX 96.1 FM has teamed with Larry H. Miller Chrysler/Jeep for a month-long fundraiser to generate money for the Fisher House Foundation.

Sherm, the KLPX morning show producer, will drive around town. The station hopes he can log 2,500 miles over that course of time in a Miller vehicle. For every mile he does log, the car dealer will donate $1 to the Fisher House Foundation. They'll donate $5 for every test drive during that time frame, which concludes Dec. 19.

It is one of a number of holiday charity campaigns conducted by radio and TV stations throughout the market. To get an idea of who's doing what, check out the respective stations or their online presence for potential information.

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