The ISIS crisis

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Alessia Barcelo ’16

Alessia Barcelo '16
Alessia Barcelo ’16

This summer the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) proved to be quite effective in its manipulation of the press and social media to rapidly expand its network in the Middle East. The pace at which the self-proclaimed jihadists managed to militarily control large portions of Iraq and Syria has shocked regional and western governments. But it was the viral spread of journalists executions on YouTube which prompted government officials to attack ISIS. 
Part of the group’s success can be explained by its ability to recruit and inspire young people through social media. Both ISIS and Al-Qaeda are working hard to raise their groups’ profiles through marketing and media attention. Mr. David Manners, Founder of Decapolis Group and a retired Central Intelligence Agency senior officer, saw this happen over his 18 years living and working in the Middle East when he was the CIA Chief of Station for Jordan and Iran where he led efforts against Islamic terrorism.
“What they are hoping to do is attract more people into their group,” Mr. Manners said, “and they use social media, such as YouTube, to advertise what they are doing and to inspire people to join them.”
Mr. Manners explained that Al-Qaeda, which translates as “the base” in Arabic, supports terrorist groups worldwide and provided the foundation for the ideologies of ISIS, also known as ISIL, or the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
ISIS uses Twitter and YouTube to send out new plans for how they hope to intimidate populations. Through the openness of their attacks and plans, it is thought that it would be easy to catch or kill these groups, but there is a difference between their confidential and public communications, according to Mr. Manners.
“Operational information is not communicated via social media or open texting but rather they use couriers carrying verbal messages or written messages,” Mr. Manners said.
The real outrage began this summer when American photojournalist James Foley was brutally executed in Syria and a video of the execution was put on YouTube. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Syria and Iraq remain very dangerous with 29 journalists killed in 2013 and 60 kidnapped. Journalists continue to work towards exposing the truth, but they do not always publish the stories, instead deciding to do a news blackout in order to stop the attacks.
Mr. Manners, however, disagreed with this opinion, stating, “the more they [the media] publicize the more it harms these groups who are committing these atrocities.”
I believe ISIS’ publicity is making them a more powerful terrorist group.  It uses media attention as a recruitment tool for more people to fight for their horrific acts.  The media needs to exploit the acts of terrorist groups so, as a country, we can fight against them. We can lead a more powerful war on terrorism if we are exposed to the truth.
“When evil manifests itself in the world, it needs to be confronted,” Mr. Vincent Badagliacca, Convent of the Sacred Upper School History Teacher and Chair of History Department, said. “The media, many of our politicians, world leaders, and even religious leaders seem unwilling to speak out with clarity about extremism and terrorism. We desperately need the truth to be told and we need leadership in confronting difficult problems.”
To Mr. Manners’ point, public anger about ISIS dramatically increased after watching the viral YouTube videos of the killings of Americans. This rage also pushed governments to take action in a coalition to fight back.
“I think young people can do a lot to comment on how appalled they are by these groups and their actions.  You have to make your peers and people generally feel repelled by these groups and make it unacceptable to have any support for them,” Mr. Manners said.
It may be difficult to see how teenagers can combat terrorism, but we have the power and knowledge of social media on our side.  This generation has grown up in an media-fueled culture and knows how to use it to make an impact. By voicing our opinions and standing up for human rights overseas and in our own country, we can create a ripple effect that will enact change all over the world.
– Alessia Barcelo, Staff Writer