Our culture has familiarized itself with a variety of popular magazines such as Reader’s Digest, ESPN, Cosmopolitan, People and Vogue. All of these pertain to a certain niche of people. However, our pool of interests is expanding — it’s becoming easier to discover and absorb ideas from people outside of the United States through the Internet and social media. With easy access to outside opinions, it’s easier to stray away from biases and close-to-home propaganda. Although this is true, propaganda has been used in the media throughout history to influence our thoughts, and it has lodged itself into our beliefs over time without us being able to easily recognize it happening. Now the same concepts are being used by ISIS to entice readers, recruit and be heard globally. But what does this mean for us?
“Perhaps the grossest ongoing censorship of all is the culturally conditioned, narrow range of opinion fed to the vast majority of Americans by their own media,” said Lawrence Davidson, professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. “The differences in storylines and opinions in the ‘news’ given by well-watched television channels such as ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN, or those of the nation’s major newspapers and news magazines, is minuscule.”
Although we may think we’re well-informed on world issues, our opinions are not pure and our ideas of the truth usually have another side, especially if you’re somebody who only gets information from one news source.
Perhaps Dabiq, ISIS’s propaganda magazine, was created with good intentions (in the group’s eyes) to show us the reasoning behind its actions, which can’t be manipulated or interpreted wrongly by outside media outlets. Dabiq gives ISIS full control of the message it’s eager to display.
Dabiq is published in many different languages including English, and ISIS has a plan to recruit more followers. If an extreme religious terrorist group is able to recruit individuals around the world with a propaganda magazine, does this make us susceptible to its influence?
“Reading the magazine, one can see that, in a general way, ISIS wants land and resources, a recognized state, a caliphate that dominates the Middle East,” David Denby of The New Yorker said. “It wants to slaughter Christians, Jews, and Yazidis. It wants to slaughter Muslims who do not believe in its version of Islam. It wants revenge against the Western presence in Arab lands. It wants to ‘defend the Prophet.’ Most of all, it wants power. That is, it wants the future.”
Dabiq explains what ISIS wants and portrays the group’s message through a series of lessons and stories. While we view ISIS as terrorists, the group views itself as doing God’s work and wants to challenge the status quo, like many rulers have done in the past. Dabiq gives ISIS a chance to explain its purpose from a point of view without interference from outside sources. With this being said, it’s important to remain informed on the group’s publications but also take into consideration that Dabiq can manipulate readers the same way our news outlets have before.
I want to make it clear that I’m not taking sides with ISIS; I’m reminding the public how propaganda has influenced everyone around the world. Almost every country has an army backing it up, willing to kill those who are not on its side and defend the nation without question. We are all victims of influence and our beliefs are shaped by the world we live in. Dabiq is simply able to persuade and recruit followers by inspiring people through religion, power and its idea of what God’s plan is.
Reighan Fisher studies journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.