Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Why the U.S. Can’t Make a Magazine Like ISIS

Why the U.S. Can’t Make a Magazine Like ISIS

The Obama administration attributes much of ISIS’s success at communicating to its technological savvy, which has elevated the group to a global media and terrorist phenomenon. The president has gone so far as to say that the Paris attackers were a “bunch of killers with good social media.”

Despite the praise heaped on the so-called Islamic State for its cutting-edge propaganda online, one of its most effective products is decidedly low tech. Dabiq, ISIS’s online news magazine, has a small but devoted readership that spans the globe. News of advances on the battlefield excite them—more evidence that God’s kingdom on Earth has returned and grows. Stories of fighters inspire them—more models to emulate as they contemplate what role they can play in the divine drama unfolding.

Journalists and analysts read it with almost the same intensity as ISIS fans; the contents of each volume fill newspapers and think-tank reports soon after it’s released. And no wonder: The magazine clearly states the organization’s goals; provides news of its activities that advance those goals; showcases personal stories of the people engaged in the activities; and announces major developments in the organization’s fight against its enemies. It’s a wealth of information presented between two covers every few months.

Can you name a single U.S. government publication or online platform devoted to the anti-ISIS fight that is as informative or as widely-read as Dabiq? Is there anything that tells us what all these air sorties are for? Who’s fighting this fight on the ground? What advances the coalition has made and why we should we care? We couldn’t come up with one either.

That got us to thinking: Why can’t the U.S. government publish something like Dabiq online? Lack of imagination isn’t…

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