The Marketing of Terrorism. Analysing the Use of Social Media by ISIS

Master's Thesis, 2016

131 Pages, Grade: 1,0



Abstract: English ... 4

Abstract: Deutsch ... 5

1 Introduction ... 9
1.1 Content and organization ... 9
1.2 Literature review ... 12

2 Introduction to modern terrorism ... 13
2.1 Definition of terrorism ... 13
2.2 Definition of marketing of terrorism ... 15
2.3 Terrorism and publicity ... 16
2.3.1 Terrorism, political communication and the internet ... 17
2.3.2 Media channels used by terrorists ... 18
2.3.3 Terrorism and social media ... 19

3 The Islamic State ... 21
3.1 Early stages of the Islamic State ... 21
3.2 Masterminds of the Islamic State ... 23
3.3 Ideology of the Islamic State ... 25
3.3.1 Eschatological – apocalyptical prophesy of IS ... 26
3.3.2 Salafism: definition and the three different movements ... 26
3.4 Structure and governance – management model of IS ... 27
3.5 Management model – modern businesses ... 29

4 Media wing of the Islamic State ... 30
4.1 Important propaganda institutions ... 31
4.2 Brand of the Islamic State ... 32
4.3 Role of social media IS ... 35
4.3.1 Ideological reasons for social media ... 35
4.3.2 International network – going beyond boarders ... 36
4.3.3 Cost-benefit analysis ... 36

5 Analysis of the use of social media by the Islamic State ... 38
5.1 IS Goals ... 38
5.2 The target audience of the Islamic State ... 40
5.3 Foreign fighters role in the caliphate ... 40
5.3.1 Socio-Demographics of foreign fighters ... 41
5.3.2 Information channel used by foreign fighters ... 44
5.3.3 External and internal motivations of foreign fighters ... 45
5.4 Generation Jihad – Millennials ... 45
5.4.1 Millennial needs, Maslow’s and Conely’s pyramids of needs ... 46
5.4.2 Use of social media by Millennials ... 48
5.4.3 Influencer ... 49
5.5 Main social media communication platforms ... 50
5.6 The problem of encryption, banning and missing information ... 56

6 Recruitment Customer Journey – Jihadist journey of radicalisation ... 57
6.1 From the AIDA model to the Customer Journey ... 58
6.1.1 AIDA and Social recruitment ... 61
6.1.2 The new Customer Journey – derivation ... 62
6.1.3 Process of radicalization ... 64
6.1.4 The model of Dawa – Jihadist theory on recruitment and propaganda ... 67
6.2 New costumer journey ... 69
6.3 Conclusion of new Customer Journey ... 79

7 Narrowcasting the power of Storytelling ... 81
7.1 Storytelling themes/ frames used by the IS ... 83
7.2 Jihad and the frame of war ... 85
7.3 Religious appeal to all Muslims to join the utopia ... 87
7.4 Storytelling as military recruitment ... 88

8 Counter Terrorism discussion and recommendation ... 90
8.1 Reporting and deleting accounts – Freedom of Speech and efficiency ... 90
8.1.1 Virus behaviour of the Islamic State ... 91
8.1.2 Orwellian structure utopia ... 91
8.1.3 The dark web ... 92
8.2 Counter measurements ... 92
8.2.1 Voices from inside the caliphate ... 93
8.2.2 Muslim role models ... 95
8.2.3 Families ... 96
8.3 Cooperation and collaboration ... 97

9 Conclusion ... 99

10 Tabel of figures ... 101

11 Glossary: Marketing definitions ... 103

12 Glossary: Arabic words ... 105

13 Bibliography ... 108

1 Introduction

“In Mosul, the battle for hearts and minds may be won on Facebook” (Patrikarakos 2016) was the title of a news caption on CNN on 19 October 2016. Social media has played a central role in the digital era for almost a century, influencing almost all aspects of life. The use of social media in warfare is threatening not only one country but the whole global community, is a recent development.

Up to September 2016 the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for more than 140 global terrorism attacks, including the most vicious terrorist attacks ever committed on European soil since the emergence of international terrorism. (Lister et al. 2016) The famous speech by Abu Muhammad al-Adnani on social media inspired the bloody month of Ramadan in 2016 and showed the deadly power of social media inspired attacks and what the Islamic State is capable of achieving. Although the terrorist group has lost territory over the last few weeks of combat both in Syria and Iraq, and is on the edge of losing their main capital Mosul, IS still remains a hybrid threat. Consisting of military powers and an unmatched affinity of using social media as a cyber-war weapon, IS will continue to be a severe danger to the global community. Winning a territorial war is not easy but it is possible. The hard part will be to win the war of ideas spread in a virtual world of the internet which is known to not forget.

The Islamic State is more than just the territory occupied in Syria and Iraq. The Islamic State is also a digital caliphate. (Atwan 2016, p.19) A global network of individuals willing to fight and die for an extremist ideology. Its a terrorist organization that managed to put industrialized countries like France and Belgium in a State of Emergency in just one night. An organization so influenceable, that there has hardly been one day since 2014 without the mentioning of terrorism in the daily news. The Islamic State is an intangible threat, which allows terrorist to radicalize children in their parents’ house, using a technology that was invented to connect people. A city like Mosul can be conquered by military force, but how does one conquer a digital caliphate?

1.1 Content and organization

The Islamic State is a new kind of terrorist organisation using social media as a weapon to wage war. This thesis focuses on the analysis of use of social media by the Islamic State and will present possible counter to the extremist measures. It is assumed that the reader is familiar with the basic terms of marketing. Basic marketing terms will be also given in a separated glossary. Since the emergence of the Islamic State had several names. This thesis will refer to the Islamic State either as the Islamic State, the name used by the terrorism organization since 2014, or as abbreviation IS or Daesh, the term mostly used by the Western media. Due to the many different names and a diverse use of the names in the current literature, it is however possible that cited quotes might include the terms like ISIL, ISIS, ISI, Islamic State in Iraq or al-Sham or Islamic State in Iraq and Syria all referring to the Islamic State. The Islamic State is a Middle Eastern terror organization, which is why there are certain terms in Arabic, which will be explained in a second glossary.

The Islamic State is a terrorist organisation with a sophisticated marketing strategy that is regionally adapted. This thesis will focus on the marketing strategy used for Western countries. The main goals of the Islamic State are marketing, financing, image branding and recruiting. As analysing all these aspects would exceed the format of this thesis, there will be a focus on the recruitment of young foreign fighters. The processes of radicalization and recruitment by the Islamic State consist of online and offline measurements, this thesis will however only analyse online measurements over social media. This is a secondary literature research as primary research is close to impossible to conduct for this topic. Further information on the use of literature will be given later on in this introduction. The aim of this master thesis is to demonstrate a greater understanding of the communication used by extremist groups, such as the Islamic State, providing insights to an alternative communication based framework to explain the radicalisation of Western youths. In this connection, the ideology of IS, their target audience, ways of distribution and content strategy will be analysed.

Using a fennel structure this master thesis will start with an introduction to modern terrorism followed by an overview of the Islamic State, the media wing of the IS, the social media marketing of IS, to the use of the social media platforms and the content marketing methods used by IS. At the end of this thesis possible counter measurements will presented.

The first and second part of this thesis can be seen as introduction to the topic of terrorism and the Islamic State consisting of definitions and historical developments. The relationship between mass media, political communication and terrorism will be explained in this connection as well as the ideology of the Islamic State as it is an essential part of the success of the communication strategy. The third part of this thesis will analyse the media wing of the Islamic State including the brand of IS and the role social media has in the marketing of the Islamic State.

The next part will analyse the use of social media by the Islamic State, starting with the main goals and a differentiation between the social media use by the Islamic State and AlQaeda. This differentiation is one of the main reasons the Islamic State is currently the most dominant Islamic terrorist organization. After that the target audience of the Islamic State will be analysed using data on foreign IS fighters as base. As research is limited and lacking vital information, the results of this research were used to find a similar marketing cluster. Comparing age, needs and motivation of foreign fighters as well as for the recruitment used information channels, identified the Generation Y also known as Millennials as similar marketing cluster. This cluster was used as base for the next steps of this analysis. Analysing the social media platforms and their use, several challenges arose mostly due to encryption, deleting and banning of social media content. Due to these reasons, this master thesis will provide the reader with their own alternative theoretical framework for further research. This allows content published by the Islamic State to be integrated in a communication model showing structures and indicators rather than snapshots of distributed content.

Part six of this thesis will therefore elaborate and explain the new theoretical framework of this new model. Combining a marketing communication model for social media with the process of radicalization and the religious based dawa model used by jihadist, this thesis provides a new kind of analysing model tailored to the Islamic States use of social media. This model should provide a possibility to analyse the communication strategy used by the Islamic State to distribute content to their target audience at so called touchpoints. The Customer Journey is used to explain the systematic content distribution by the Islamic State, the method used to connect content over the different touchpoints is however explained by looking at the use of storytelling by IS. Storytelling is used as a vehicle to distribute content at different touchpoints, the Islamic State follows two main marketing trends of modern content marketing. Part seven of this thesis will analyse the storylines used by the Islamic State and the role of narratives.

The last part of this thesis will use the results of the previous analysis as a base to find a suitable counter measurement while discussing the efficiency of deleting and banning of content. As a possible counter measurement this thesis will show three different storylines opposing extremist online propaganda, followed by the conclusion.

1.2 Literature review

The Islamic State called out the caliphate in April 2014 and has been an acknowledged security threat for the West since that date. Terrorism, social media and especially the Islamic State are all topics that are all relatively new and constantly evolving. Research and literature are therefore just at the beginning of documentation and analysis which is why this master thesis can only be seen as a snapshot of a moving target at this point of time. Social media as a weapon in war is a complex and a relatively new topic, which due to its recent emergence lacks profound literature, accurate scientific data and research at the current time. In addition, there are only a limited amount of theoretical sources on these topics. This is why most of the research for this thesis was done online, using journals, reports and online publications to provide up to date information. The literature review is therefore a secondary research, mainly based on recent literature on extremism, terrorism, social media and the emergence of the Islamic State between 2013 and 2016.

Another challenge was the fact that the Islamic State, similar to North Korea, is an information vacuum. Both regions are isolated and are under control of a militant regime, which uses propaganda, brainwashing and brutal power to oppress their inhabitants and prevent them from getting free information from outside world. It is therefore not possible to conduct primary research. The information gathered by journalists and researchers alike are mainly gained through eye witnesses, hostages as well as defectors and propaganda released by the Islamic State. As a result the given resources are limited, inconsistent and subjective. In addition, it should be taken into account that information from eye witnesses and defectors are possibly distorted. On one hand traumas, repression and only limited own access to high quality information on the IS has an influence the results. On the other hand, it is possible that given information are strategically placed by the IS to give an adulterated view of events.

Fundamental scientific research can only be conducted with the help of accurate figures and information after the IS system has collapsed and hundreds of thousands of people are freed from the terrorist tyrants. Therefore, secondary literature was used for this master thesis which can only be seen to give a glimpse about the unique, innovative and professional use of marketing and media instruments by IS, which haven´t been used by any other terrorist group in a similar way. To conclude, there will be an increasing need for research to truly understand this complex topic. To administer the citations in this thesis as well as for the bibliography the reference management tool Citavi was used.

2 Introduction to modern terrorism

The use of mass media as a means to spread propaganda and recruit followers by terrorist groups is not a new strategy. The last decade has provided a lot of examples of the mutually beneficial relationships between extremist organisations and the media. (Rohner and Frey 2007) Starting from the Munich Olympics in 1972, the terror attacks from 9/11 to recent attacks like the train bombing in Madrid in March 2004, the underground attacks in London in July 2005 and the Norway terror attack in Oslo and Utoya in July 2011 terrorism manifested itself into our daily news.

Since the macabre execution of James Foley in August 2014, the Islamic State has officially joined the trend of extremist groups using terror as key element of their communication strategy. In the following abstracts the term Terrorism will be defined, followed by a short summery for why the Islamic State is considered a terrorist organisation. After the symbiosis of Terrorism and mass-media as well as the use of media outlet will be analysed.

2.1 Definition of terrorism

The term terrorism has been broadly used especially since the terror attacks of 9/11, however there is no single international accepted definition. The definition of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (Code of Federal Regulations n.d.). This is a pretty broad definition, same as the UN definition which defines terrorism as

“criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, […] are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them” (United Nations 1994).

Both definitions capture the essence of the meaning of terrorism, but fail to name key element, which for example differentiate a freedom fighter from a terrorist. This thesis will therefore a mix of definitions. The CIA defines terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups” (Central Intelligence Agency 2013) including the word international terrorism to describe terrorism acts across borders in multiple countries. The term terrorist group is hereby defined as a group or subgroup that practice international terrorism. (Central Intelligence Agency 2013) In addition, terrorism consists of a method of spreading fear, hence propaganda pa le fait (propaganda of the deed), and advanced planning with the goal of society and/or political changes. (Seidler 2016, 2016) Another point, which has yet not been named, is the circumstances in which terrorism arises and which sets organised crime apart from terrorism. Terrorism can therefore be set apart from organised crime by its willingness to maintain instability in “conflict-ridden and conflict-prone environments” (Ulusoy 2008, p.207) with an ideological, political motivation to diminish the “legitimacy of governments in the eye of the mass population” (Ulusoy 2008, p.207), whereby organised crime seeks only to maximise profits in given circumstances. (Ulusoy 2008, p.207) Hence organised crime can coexist or even benefit from terrorism but is not the same as terrorism.

The Apocalyptic battle of Islamic State, to declare the caliphate vowing death to all disbelievers, is a political motivation to conduct terrorism that is spread and communicated over several news outlet and social media outlets. The Jihad definition of the Islamic State refers to the holy war against the enemies of the caliphate and nonbelievers. However this is not considered as legitimate as war. Apart from similar “tactics and tools […] terrorism is considered illegitimate” (Smith 2008, p.12), as terrorism involves the threating or the killing of non-combatants. With threats and appeals to followers, e.g. the famous hate speech of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014, the methods of spreading fear are equivalent to psychological warfare. As the Islamic State is self-proclaimed and many of the recruits have never travelled to Syria or Iraq but conduct terror attacks in their home countries, the terrorist group of the Islamic State can be seen as non-state actors. Terror attacks are part of propaganda of the deed and are systematically planned. A good example is the bombing of a Russian passenger plane on 31.10.2015, which was act of revenge to airstrikes by Russian military on Syrian cities just weeks before. According to the key factors as well as the definitions, the Islamic State is therefore considered a terrorist group conducting acts of terrorism beyond its borders. In addition to these facts, which prove that the Islamic State is a terror organisation as described in the previous definition, the United Nations and the U.S. Department of State (U.S. Department of State 2016) declared the Islamic State a terrorist organisation.

2.2 Definition of marketing of terrorism

The term terrorism has been defined previously, whereas the Marketing of Terrorism still has yet to be explained. The terms marketing of terrorism or marketing terrorism is often used in publications as a way to describe IS new kind of warfare. There is however no international recognised definition for the marketing of terrorism. The term marketing is defined as “action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising” (Oxford Dictionaries n.d.f). The central goal of marketing is to analyse customer needs and answer those needs by offering a product or service an individual desires, in order to increase the brand awareness, ultimately leading to the primary goal to increase profits and achieve marketing goals. (Meffert et al. 2015, p.10ff)

As terrorism is not a product or service, the object of marketing is the extremist ideology/ organizations goals, where the promotion is replaced by propaganda and selling is e.g. the recruitment of foreign fighters. “In the most basic terms, IS is selling an idea the very same way a company would sell a product.” (Shroder 2015) The definition of propaganda is “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view” (Oxford Dictionaries n.d.j), in regards to extremist groups and their radical ideology. The term propaganda is the terrorist equivalent to marketing advertising, the only differentiation is that advertising is built upon business goals, whereas propaganda of terrorism is build up-on radical, extremist beliefs. Following that definition, marketing of terrorism would in a way be a contradiction in itself and should be called propaganda of terrorism. However, due to the many parallels of the Islamic state with modern businesses, like the sophisticated use of multi-channel communication online, a company like management structure, a strong brand image and superior communication goals legitimise the use of the term marketing, together with the term terrorism to indicate the unlawful aspects.

Propaganda is the systematic use of imagery and ideology to influence broad masses and these instruments have been used ever since the beginning of mankind from religion to fascism believes. (Soules 2015, p.60) As terrorism is still a relatively new field of research and academic studies, a theoretical approach for propaganda will be used to foster a better understanding to the development of terrorism marketing. When talking about the modern utilisation of propaganda Edward Bernays must be named, who revolutionised propaganda, “using insights from sociology and psychology to influence the public mind” (Soules 2015, p.60) during the 1920s. While the use of this new form of propaganda during war time was outstanding, the results had many unforeseeable side effects like the encouragement of corruption, the creation of conflicts among nations and the danger of an unlawful use by third parties. (Soules 2015, p.60f) It was after the First World War that propaganda was named as a weapon of war. Edward Bernays, defines in his book ‘propaganda’, the modern propaganda as “a consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea or group” (Bernays and Miller 2005, p.52). Using propaganda as a method to manipulate the masses, Bernays revolutionised the recruitment process of the US government, using mass media as well as emotionally engaging motion pictures as well as local influencers. (Turow 2011, p.565)This is a method still used today by the Islamic State.

2.3 Terrorism and publicity

Terrorist have always needed the attention of the media, known as the oxygen of publicity, and with the execution of calculated “premeditated terrorism that virtually assures a great deal of news coverage” (Nacos 2007, p.14). Philosopher and ethicist, Sissela Bok, defined the expression “entertainment violence” referring to “forms of medial violence offered as entertainment” (Bok 1999, p.5f), where the mass media tends to be the most preoccupied with the most vicious cases of violence. Following our high connectivity and virus behaviour of the mass media, these events will be played all over the world “over and over again […] reflected, repeated, and echoed in endless variations through the lens of entertainment violence” (Bok 1999, p.5f), propagating terrorism as a particular type of violence. Drama, fear as well as “shock, tragedy, and grief, the ideal ingredients of human interest stories” (Nacos 2006) and important elements of terrorism communication as well as modern news coverage as they touch recipients emotionally. The institutions of the

“world media are feeding on the content, and that's huge earned media for ISIS…The more it's talked about, the more free advertising they get.” (Shroder 2015)

This new form of marketing of terrorism deliberately aims for the attention of the Western world using online resources, especially social media. By using shocking, gruesome and action filled content the Islamic State managed to situate itself in the centre of the current mass media communication, applying elements associated with Hollywood movies and video games. (Shroder 2015)

What followed was a row of well-crafted terror attacks starting with a shooting in a Jewish museum in May 2014, the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and Hypercacher in January 2015, the fatal Paris attacks in November 2015 to this year’s bloodshed in March 2016, in Brussels and the most recent attack in Nice. (Jess Mchugh 2016) All of these events spiked a huge media resonance as the targets were consciously chosen as goes for time of the attack and the location. (Nacos 2007, p.16f)Mostly big cities with high press density were chosen and were perfectly choreographed to attract a maximum amount of media attention. (Nacos 2007, p.16f) By using violence in a shocking and most ferocious way, by targeting civilians, the Islamic State follows Nacos perpetrators’ media-related goals, summing up to “attention, recognition, and perhaps even a degree of respectability and legitimacy” (Nacos 2007, p.46) from sympathiser as well as the broad public. Profiting from the public’s eagerness to obtain information, a substantial part of the mass media business is currently based on terrorist news, lifting extremist groups almost to a popcultural level, mutually benefiting terrorist movements and the media which profits from record sales.

2.3.1 Terrorism, political communication and the internet

To understand the dynamics between terrorism, political communication and the internet Brigitte Nacos, developed a chart symbolising the relationship between these three elements, which can be seen in figure 1. The general political communication is shown as two triangles merged over each other. The corners of each triangle are the mass media, the public and the government. The bigger triangle shows the political communication on an international level whereas the smaller triangle shows the domestic. All three political communication elements are connected by an arrow with two tips indicating a mutual information exchange. Terrorist or Terrorism in general is shown as an element outside these two triangles with a one-way connection to both the international and domestic media. Surrounding these triangles, there is the internet. The media has a gate keeper role in this chart and controls the news spread of terrorism propaganda, to the public as well as too the government.

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Figure 1 Terrorism, the triangles of political communication, and the internet, (Nacos 2006)

Herman and Chomsky describe in their propaganda model in 1988, the role of the media as central propaganda mechanism in a capitalized democracy. (Herman and Chomsky 1988, p.2f) Terrorist hereby have the power use mass media as an instrument of power to mobilize support. (Herman and Chomsky 1988, p.xi) Whereas “well connected peaceful groups with extremist agendas really get access to the mainstream media” (Nacos 2006), terrorists succeed by using political violence, which is used by the media as entertainment violence. Over an international coverage, which is mostly triggered by political violence received as extraordinarily brutal, terrorism is equally spread over domestic as well as international media, influencing the public as well as governments. The graphic shows that the internet is a superior source of information for all parties in the chart, which is for the most part hardly regulated. As a result, terrorists often leave the triangle structure of the political communication and turn to the internet, a sphere without gatekeepers, where terrorists can directly communicate with the public.

2.3.2 Media channels used by terrorists

The coverage of deeds by the mass media is only one part of the communication strategy of terrorism groups today. Asiem El Difraoui analysed different media channels used by terrorist from 1979, marking the beginning of modern international terrorism till today. As political scientist, economist and currently senior fellow at the Institute for media- and communicationpolitics in Berlin, he is one of the leading experts on terrorism studies. (Kröber-Stiftung 2016)

The use of media by extremist groups has change drastically over the last decades. This is partly caused by the technological revolution, the increasing power of the internet as modern propaganda method and also due to a change of ideology used by terrorists. In general there are the four stages of media usage by jihads:

· 1979-1989 classic media propaganda: print, audio and VSH-cassettes, Hindu Kush (war against Soviets in Afghanistan – Cold war)

· 1990-2001 increase of technology through veterans from European nations, first time usage of own websites, videos of attacks and training methods (Balkan war)

· 2001-2006 globalisation of cyber jihad, multi-media, new production methods as well as methods of propagation, increasingly outsourcing and multilingual (Iraq and Afghanistan war)

· Since 2006 Increasing usage of the Web 2.0 and social media Jihad (Iraq, Syria and global epidemic)

(see. El Difraoui 2012, p.10ff)

2.3.3 Terrorism and social media

One of the pioneers of the digital Jihadism was Anwar al-Awlaki also known as Sheikh Anwar, who was killed in a US drone strike in 2011. (Scott Shane 2015) His digital legacy is the start of modern day Jihadism and his online lectures are still in use to attract new recruits with more than 120.000 results found on YouTube (YouTube 2016). The in the United States born Salafist was a leader of the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and first to introduce the systematic use of social media as a means to spread terrorism propaganda and recruit terrorist online. (Atwan 2016, p.30) The so called internet-binladen had his own blog, Facebook page, online magazine called Inspire as well as his own YouTube channel. (Atwan 2016, p.30) However in 2011 it was still possible to trace social media activities with a relative high accuracy, as diversion methods as the TOR, third party onion routing, was not yet in use by terrorism groups, leading to the fatal drone attack. (Atwan 2016, p.30) Ten days after the death of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, AlQaeda published a statement, which five years later is hard to dismiss. “America killed Sheikh Anwar, […] but it could not kill his thoughts. The martyrdom of the Sheikh is a new and renewing life for his thoughts and style.” (Scott Shane 2015)

The evolving role of social media terrorism was again pointed out by Adam Gadahn, media head of Al-Qaeda wing Al-Sahab, in 2013 when he pointed out the importance of social media, like Twitter and Facebook. (Aly 2016, p.50) The Islamic State managed to bring the online strategy of Anwar al-Awlaki to a higher level.

With the use of the Internet and especially with the rising importance of social media platforms, terrorists found the perfect media environment. As an unmatched source of information, the internet presents ways to communicate globally, if needed anonymously, mostly unregulated throughout an easily accessible network. (Nacos 2006)

3 The Islamic State

There are many theories on how the Islamic State evolved, the most recent and probably most campaign driven is the one from US president candidate Donald Trump blaming President Barak Obama and Hilary Clinton for the rapid emerge. (Nelson 2016) All speculations aside, there are certain key events which have led to the fast and successful rise of the Islamic State to the most feared Terrorist group worldwide and the only terrorist organisation that established its own state. This discourse is only a short summary of events to understand the circumstances, underlying systems and ideologies, which led to the pioneer role of IS as a social media marketing as a more detailed analysis would exceed the format of this thesis.

3.1 Early stages of the Islamic State

Terrorist groups/ networks often emerge “from a state of perpetual conflict and instability” (Ulusoy 2008, p.208) and pose the greatest risk to the global community as they seek economic and political power, operating within “de facto save havens for illicit“(Ulusoy 2008, p.208). By the dismantling of the Saddam regime, the United States created a breeding ground for terrorist groups as the invasion destroyed the states stability.

According to counter terrorism expert John Grey, the western “grandiose schemes of regime change aiming to replace tyranny by democracy have created chaos, leaving zones of anarchy in which Jihadist forces can thrive” (Grey 2015). This thesis can be backed up by the fact that the first Al-Qaeda and ISIS attacks were only committed in Iraq, during and after the American Invasion in Iraq. (Windrem n.d.)

The first real appearance of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also know under the name Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) and todays Islamic State (IS), was the bomb attack on the United Nations Assistance Mission from Iraq in 2003. (Theine 2016, p.1) The establishment of the Jihad group however goes back as far as 2002 when Abu Mus’ab alZarqawi founded the so called Monotheism and Jihad. (Landau-Tasseron 2016, p.1) The group was renamed in 2004 to Al-Qaeda in Iraq after pledging its allegiance to Bin Laden only to split two years later now being called the Islamic State of Iraq after the death of AlZarqawi. (Landau-Tasseron 2016, p.1) Until 2011 the terror group was relatively unknown, compared to its image now. Benefiting from the US withdrawal from Iraq, the Islamic State used the religious tension between the US favoured Shiites and the majority of Sunni population, gaining both power and followers. (Theine 2016, p.1)

With the start of the Syrian civil war on March 15, 2011, new opportunities arose for the terrorist group, which had already gained territorial power over major Sunni cities close to the Iraqi border. Again the Western intervention played an important role in the Syrian civil war, as it supported Syrian rebels against the Assad regime. (Grey 2015) To avoid a “moderate opposition”(Grey 2015) to take over after a possible defeat of Assad, Saudi and Qatari sources funded “jihadist forces including” (Grey 2015) supplying the financial and economic resources that the Islamic State needed for its rapid rise. With new recruits of mostly jailed Sunnis, which were freed by the Islamic State during the attacks on both Iraqi and Syrian jails, IS managed to take control of a big parts of the south Syria and north Iraq boarder zones. Amongst the freed inmates were members of the former intelligence units of Saddam as well as former Al-Qaeda, adding skilled fighters to the army of the Islamic State. After a rapid gain of territory, in an astonishing blitzkrieg, the Islamic State called out to the caliphate on June 29, 2014, with an audio and video declaration released on the groups Twitter accounts, followed by English transcript of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi speech. (Said 2015, p.91)

Today the Islamic State is the best known and largest terrorist organisation worldwide and the only ever self-proclaimed and self-sufficient terrorist state. The Islamic State controlled areas can be seen in figure 2.

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Figure 2 Territory controlled by the Islamic State 31.10.2016, (BBC News 2016)

After the establishment of its own state the caliphate underwent two known phases. The first phase can be categorised as ethnic cleansing, where potential oppositions both religious and political were eliminated or restrained. (Neriah 2014b) Tailored to fit the strategy of ethnic cleansing after a conquest used by the prophet centuries before. Remaining non-Muslims were given the choice of either accepting the religion of Islam as their own, paying the jizya a form of religion based income tax for non-Muslims or face death. (Neriah 2014a) In the second phase the ideology of the Islamic State was implemented, which can be described as a cultural revolution, issuing new rules and regulations for an Islamic education and ruling according to the Sharia and the Salafist philosophy of the caliphate. (Mamouri 2014)

The first two phases can be seen as a transition from conquest to the governance of the Islamic State, which is "essential to the sustainability" (Richard Barrett 2014, p.21). Since the Islamic States’ slogan is “baqiyya wa tatamaddad (remaining and expanding)” (Jawad Al-Tamimi 2015, p.12) the third phase of the caliphate will be the expansion of the Islamic State, where "the allegiance of all Muslims, should first encompass the entire Muslim world and should eventually subsume the whole world under its dominion" (Jawad AlTamimi 2015, p.12). Social media and the recruitment of foreign fighters have key roles in this expansion theory, as well as allegiance with other terrorist groups worldwide as a franchise system as well as so called home grown terrorist groups called sleeper cells.

3.2 Masterminds of the Islamic State

To understand the evolution of the Islamic State, there are several main characters which should be named. Haji Bark is the architect of the blue print of the Islamic State and Abu Bark al-Baghdadi is the current leader of the Islamic State and student of Haji Bark. Abu Muhammad al-Adnani former head of the IS media wing and the spokesman for the Islamic State and Ahmad Abousamra former social media executive. As a primary source of the next two abstracts, reports from the SPIEGEL-Verlag Rudolf Augstein GmbH & Co. KG will be used. The blueprint of the Islamic State and further information on Haji Bark are mainly known throughout the notes of Haji Bark himself, which were discovered by the SPIEGEL-Verlag in November 2014. Different to other sources of information by former members of the Islamic State or eye witnesses this report is a reliable non-distorted source and can be seen as “the source code of the most successful terrorist army in recent history” (Reuter 2015b).

Samir Abed al-Mohammed al-Khleifawi is known by many names. With the name Haji Bark however he made history. Known as the mastermind behind the Islamic State, Haji Bark was killed in 2014 after laying the foundation of the Islamic State. It took the former Saddam Hussein secret service official almost a decade to plan his state, which should initially restore the ruling class in Iraq. (Reuter 2015a, p.21) His first attempts to build a caliphate was when he was an activist in the Baath party, however he failed and the proclaimed nationalist joined Al-Qaeda to fight against the occupation of the United States. With the start of the Iraqi civil war, Haji Bark followed the lead of Al-Qaeda leader Zarqawi fighting against the Shiite ruling class, an opponent he despised even more than the American occupants. (Reuter 2015a, p.22) As an ideologist, planner and brilliant architect of communication and chains of command he soon realized how flawed the AlQaeda network was. It was based on belief of god and shattered leaders, with almost no centralised communication strategy. Starting in 2006 he again followed his megalomaniac plan to establish an umma, hence a new state called the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). Soon after he was imprisoned till 2008 in a US facility in southern Iraq called Camp Bucca. (Reuter 2015a, p.23) It was in this prison where he met Abu Bark al-Baghdadi. In 2012 he travelled to Syria to the latter IS stronghold Tal Rifaa, as part of a small advanced group of trained terrorist, taking over parts of Syria with an advance plan to then take control of parts in Iraq.

Abu Bark al-Baghdadi, a little known name in 2010, started as the leader of a small terrorist cell called the Islamic State. Six years later he is one of the most well-known terrorist of all time and leader of the last self-proclaimed caliphate. As the time of his radicalisation is unclear, most reports state that he was radicalized during his four years stay in Camp Bucca. (BBC News 2015) Being held with commanders of the Al-Qaeda, he had time to foster relations, leading to his emergence as leader of the Al-Qaeda in Iraq, knows as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in 2010. (BBC News 2015) He was named leader by Haji Bark himself, with whom he went to Syria in 2013. The charismatic leader first became famous for his speech in 2014, one of the few times he spoke to the Muslim world himself.

Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, killed on the August 30, 2016, was one of the spokesman of the IS and responsible for the division emni, a special force unit for foreign fighters and masterminds of the propaganda machine of IS. In 2003, he pledged allegiance to AlQaeda and was jailed for terrorist activities soon after. In Camp Bucca he met Abu Bark al-Baghdadi. From 2015 to 2016 he was in charge of foreign attacks and responsible for the bloody Ramadan in 2016 with the encouragement of lone wolf attacks. One of the most important heritages left behind form Abu Muhammad al-Adnani was the strategic implementation of so called returners, a strategy in which recruits disguised as refugees were sent to Europe. (Chulov 2016) This ensured that the Islamic State could still make its mark even with territorial losses, Intelligence services estimate well over 200 IS operatives are in Europe. (Chulov 2016) Abu Muhammad al-Adnani is believed to have direct links to the most recent attacks in Paris, Brussels as well as the attack on the Atatürk airport in Istanbul, championing “an expansion of Isis at any cost” (Chulov 2016).

Ahmad Abousamra was born in France but raised in Boston. This is where he became in contact with convicted supporters of terrorism like Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the band leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, while worshiping in the mosque at the Islamic Society of Boston in Cambridge. (Counter extremism project n.d.) In 2004 he was recruited by Al-Qaeda’s media wing (AQI) while he was travelling to Iraq to “fight the U.S. military” (Counter extremism project n.d.). Before he joined Al-Qaeda, Ahmad Abousamra got his degree in a “technology field then took a job at a telecommunications company” (ABC News 2014). He is known to be behind several well-crafted propaganda videos and mastermind of the social media blitz of the Islamic State. He was reportedly killed in September 2014 but has left behind a vicious social media strategy still practiced today. The Islamic State was built upon the beliefs of military men and ideologists. The blend of military strategic calculations and a new use of social media created the most capable enemy that the West has faced in over two decades. (Chulov 2016)

3.3 Ideology of the Islamic State

The Islamic State is a Salafi-Wahhabi organisation, which “derives its existence and legitimacy from an ideology of conquest, that is, conflict with other countries. With feud and hostility between them, the Islamic State wants to rule by the sword to implement Islamic law.” (al-Ibrahim 2016) The Islamic state is known for a world view based on “the willingness to use violence, hate and fascism” (Ramsauer 2015, p.13). Fighting the holy war of Muslims, the Jihad became the centre of the ideology, as the forming of “a single state under God's law is a dream that stands at the heart of all Muslim traditions” (Casey 2015). The establishment of a caliphate, also called umma, therefore a State of Islam is in the centre the Daesh belief system.

3.3.1 Eschatological – apocalyptical prophesy of IS

The apocalyptical prophesy of the Islamic State is that it will come to end in Dabiq, where there is going to be a final battle between good and evil, is another part of IS ideology. (Fraser 2014) The establishment of a last caliphate before the big transformation of mankind is a powerful eschatological idea. Eschatological beliefs can be found throughout a variety of religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam and refer to events which lead to “death, judgement, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind” (Oxford Dictionaries n.d.c). The 20th century has been mainly influenced by such ideas, which can be described as millennialism movement, with both communism and fascism subscribing to the idea of eschatology. (Wessinger 2000, p.241f)

3.3.2 Salafism: definition and the three different movements

Not all Salafists are terrorist or jihadist, but almost all jihadists are Salafists. To understand this sentence, the word Salafist should be defined. The word Salafist can be traced back as early as the 20th century, when religious facilities in Saudi Arabia were opened for scholars to learn about the teachings of Islam. (Kraetzer 2014, p.77) The initial idea of Saudi Arabia was to gain influence beyond borders by spreading the word of Allah, similar to the early crusades of Christianity. Little did they know that this was the beginning of a new religious belief system based on Sunni principles. Together with the adjustment that not only Mohammad’s teachings were the rules but also the rules of the Salaf, the next three generations of Muslims after Mohammad’s death. The Salafists differentiate themselves, according to the Islamic scholar Bacem Dziri, from the Sunni belief system especially in four points:

- the literal comprehension of the holy texts and total rejection of all logical and rational thinking, which is not based on the Koran or the sunna
- the understanding of the tauhid in all aspects of life and society
- strict orientation on the life of Mohammed and resulting rules
- follower of the only true religion and elitist thinking, devaluating all other religions as well as other interpretations of Islam

(see Kraetzer 2014, 79ff)

All Salafist movements are based upon the belief system of the aqida. The implementation of the manhaj, which can be translated as the method or way the aqida is executed, sets apart three different sub-movements of Salafists. (Kraetzer 2014, p.83) First is the purist Salafist movements, which seeks the purity of the Salafist beliefs and aims to spread the word of Islam throughout education. (Kraetzer 2014, p.83) Second is the political Salafist movement that seeks the propagation of the Salafist beliefs throughout political activism within a state, like the occupation of the big mosque in Mecca in November 1979. (Kraetzer 2014, p.87f) What followed were mass executions of 64 politically active Salafists by the Saudi government. (Kraetzer 2014, p.88f) Throughout this elimination of an opposition movement, many of the politically active Salafists fled the country. While fighting in Afghanistan, side by side with the Muslim Brotherhood, the political Salafist ideology collided with radical Jihadist philosophies. This collision was the start of the terror organisation Al-Qaeda, as Osama Bin Laden was one of the Salafist fleeing from Saudi Arabia. (Kraetzer 2014, p.88f) This was the start of the third movement, the Jihadist Salafism. Jihadist Salafists seek the propagation of Islam by any means, fighting a war against all non-believers. Hence all three Salafist movements can be distinguished by the extent to which the manhaj is supported by the use of violence. The Islamic State uses is a Jihadist-Salafist movement and extremely violent.

3.4 Structure and governance – management model of IS

As this thesis focuses on the role of mainstream media as well as social media used by the Islamic State, this abstract will not explain the state structure, bureaucracy or command structures. It will rather explain the dynamics of the structure and governance as well as the influence it has on the media structure of the Islamic State.

A big part of the successful rise of the Islamic State can be traced back to the strategic planning of Haji Bark, often referred to a “Stasi-System” (Reuter 2015b) after the surveillance system used in East Germany by the secret service of the DDR. According to the political philosopher and historical analyst John Grey the Islamic State, “resembles a 20th Century totalitarian state more than any type of traditional rule” (Grey 2014), which can be seen as a self-financing business. Superficially driven by religious fanaticism, the blueprint shows a master plan on how to establish an Islamic State subjecting by another country using religion as a vehicle. (Reuter 2015b) The organizational chart of the Islamic State command structure (Reuter 2015b) can be seen in figure 3. It shows almost all governing elements and consists of four pillars. The Islamic state is also divided into nine provinces, each consisting of different councils.

[Figures are not part of this preview]

Figure 3 Islamic command structure, (Lewis 2015)

On top of the system there is Al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed Caliph Ibrahim, representing the Prophet Mohammed as “sole decision-maker […] with no avenue for recourse” (Neriah 2014b). Much like in a totalitarian state, Al-Baghdadi hereby holds the absolute power. Daily decision-making is however outsourced to lower leadership representatives on a provincial level, enabling top leaders to plan on a strategic level.

[Figures are not part of this preview]

Figure 4 Unites under local command, own model inspired by (Simpson 2014).

This contradicts a unitary form of management, “where control is centralized” (Simpson 2014) and utilising a local provinces or so called units seen in figure 4. The precisely planned organisation structure has one central goal: surveillance, control and substitutability of individuals. The hydra behaviour of the Islamic State, together with a strictly controlled system, gives the terrorist group the unique ability to adapt fast to new circumstances. These main features of the strategic planning of Haji Bark can be found throughout the whole organisation of the Islamic State and is the crucial differential element of the state’s structure. Using broadcasting and propaganda the Islamic State controls the community within the caliphate and simultaneously spreads a radical interpretation of Islam externally. (Grey 2014).

Propaganda and a media institution have been neglected in the model in figure 3, which makes it necessary to expand the model as those are essential parts of the governance of the Islamic State. Adding to the four pillars named in figure 3, Dr. Jacques Neriah, former Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence and foreign policy advisor to the Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, adds an institution for public information. (Neriah 2014b) This institution was run by the spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, who has been replaced by Abu Ahmad al-Alawani (Neriah 2014b) and will be discussed in detail in part four of this thesis.

3.5 Management model – modern businesses

In the definition of Marketing Terrorism, it was argued that the Islamic State incorporates aspects of modern businesses. To support this hyper thesis, the research of Nobel Prize winner Williams and Chandler can be cited, comparing the management structures of the Islamic State to the management model used by General Motors.

The management of General Motors underwent a drastic change with Alfred Sloan, who revolutionized the management structure in the 1920s, leading the company to an extraordinary growth period. (Simpson 2014) By creating “semiautonomous divisions ordered largely around geography, freeing […] top leaders from daily decision-making” (Simpson 2014) to focus on strategy decision-making and the overall company performance.

Comparing the Anbar province of the Islamic State, which has a similar management approach, where the “cells caring out the group’s daily functions were organized into units” (Simpson 2014) to the management approach of General Motors, there are many structural consistencies. The provincial structure, which is comparable to a franchise system, is one reason why the Islamic State poses such a great threat to the Western world. Using encryption as well as techniques for anonymous creation of social media accounts the Islamic State created an almost intangible network supporting these provinces, a seemingly creative chaos which is extremely hard to conquer. Using the provincial structure on a global level, the Islamic State has the power to establish so called franchises all around the world. These then spread like a cancer cells and are highly adaptable to external influences and are hard to find.

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The Marketing of Terrorism. Analysing the Use of Social Media by ISIS
Institut for Interpreter and Languages Munich
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Terrorismus, Marketing, Social Media, Online Marketing, Islamic State, IS, Marketing of Terrorism, Gen Y, Millennials, Generation Y
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Lisa Wiechert (Author), 2016, The Marketing of Terrorism. Analysing the Use of Social Media by ISIS, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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