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Blood and scripture: how the Islamic State frames religion in violent video propaganda


Dynamics of Asymmetric ConflictJournal Article

The Islamic State captured the world’s attention with the declaration of a global caliphate in 2014. In the subsequent 3 years, the Islamic State showed significant success at attracting foreign fighters, inspiring international terrorist attacks, and maintaining geographic control over portions of Iraq and Syria. The Islamic State’s vibrant online presence amplified this success via a sophisticated social media campaign and a robust propaganda output through imagery and visual multimedia. We expand on the prior work on Islamic State propaganda by asking, how does the Islamic State frame its violent video propaganda in the presence or absence of religious verses? We will answer this question using the SITE Intelligence Group’s terrorist video database. We applied framing theory and developed a theoretical framework built on the scholarly literature on violence in video propaganda and religious marketing. We find that the Islamic State intermixes violence and religion for the same purposes within its propaganda; namely, in seeking to legitimize itself, recruit from a broader audience, and intimidate its opponents. We further find specific differences between the perceived problems, solutions, and motivations in Islamic State propaganda and how the Islamic State uses religion and violence to address particular demographics.

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