I sometimes get accused for contributing to extremist groups agenda when replicating their material, publishing screen-shots from their videos in my work. Even if I don’t necessarily agree, I understand the opinion. It is a valid discussion.
How can we (as in academics, journalists etc) when working within fields that require public communication and publishing, avoid being part of the overall strategy of IS or other groups seeking their ideology and messaging to be widely spread, their images to be shown and their message to be intepreted in a specific way?
In any text I write, in any lecture I give or in any public presentation I create – there are always ethical considerations about what I can and should show. I make these considerations for two sakes: a) for the audience not to be drawn towards emotional disgust but instead be given the opportunity to focus on my words, and b) for caring about broader potential consequences of what I communicate. But it is tricky.
For instance, who really cares about what I write, when I also post a picture like this?
Emotions take over, cognitive schematas a drawn fast and minds are filled with prejudice, fear, shock and, let’s be honest, a vast amount of people also stereotype religion (islam) accordingly. So does it matter if I were to elaborate in an academic critical analysis of the use of children in this socially mediated terrorism after you have seen this image?
Does it matter if I say that this strategy is part of the widespread mediatized criminal enterprise of violence, communicated through channels around the world, rather than an expression of religiously justified activity? Does it matter if I say that the visual imagery is carefully constructed with the ambition to turn codes of well-known fiction into harsh reality and thereby enhancing our sense of fear whilst simultaniously strengthen ideologically likeminded, further dividing societies around the world in order to recruit more extensively?
I am convinced that for many the answer is no on all three questions. And why?
Well, I believe it has little to do with the sometimes stiff and rigourous academic way of writing. Rather it is a matter of an already established image of IS. An image that we all have participated in creating without being aware of it. When reporting on their activities, when publishing images straight from their propaganda industry, when sharing videos and posts in social media, when talking about them in a certain way and when simplifying the phenomena of contemporary extremism. Too often guided by misconceptions, lack of knowledge and prejudices.
Their propaganda is powerful. But it is mainly not due to their own networks. It has a potential of becoming even more powerful when replicated and distributed in a certain way through everyone from journalists, politicians, academics like myself and people in general with keen sharing-fingers moving the cursor over click-bait online.
Therefor it is so important that not only me, in a position of public speaker, make considerations of what and how to publish or communicate.
It must be made by everyone. With knowledge and awareness.
(I know it is provocative to publish the above picture considering the approach in this post, however I firmly believe it serves a purpose to illustrate the argument here. The screenshot is from an IS video from Feb 10, 2016).
PS. A few weeks ago I was asked to be a session speaker at The Conference 2016 . I happily accepted and last week the first 7 speakers for the August event were announced. Since then the number of visitors to my website has increased rapidly and I guess it just shows the interest for The Conference and hopefully the topic I will talk about, namely extremist communication. And I would like to welcome those of you who just reached my blog here for the first time and I look forward to meet some of you in August. DS