Back to Page Authors: Quraysha Ismail Sooliman

Keywords: Islamic State (ISIS), propaganda politics, ethics, naturalisation of war, media distortions

Abstract: The story of IS and the violence it portrays is a story told by the media. It is the spectacle of the theatre, where wars are staged and from whence different acts emerge, where the battle is oversimplified, information is manipulated as media personnel are embedded, and only part of what is happening is disclosed. In almost all instances of reportage, ‘experts’ handpicked by the particular media outlet comment on Islam, Muslims and ISIS as if they all mean the same – as if they are the same. These individuals are portrayed as intellectuals - experts, yet in most instances serve as mouthpieces, disposable sycophants for think-tanks and regimes that feed gluttonously on resource rich nations. The mainstream media and its progeny have advanced myopic viewpoints which have intensified the narrative of ‘terror’ as being perpetrated only by Muslims. Research on strategic media intelligence revealed that more than eighty percent of the media coverage on certain US channels were negative and presented Muslims as militants, whilst none of the programmes that discussed these issues included a Muslim as a featured expert on the subject matter. Thus the visible absence of Muslim experts and analysts on mainstream news media who are invited to discuss debate and contribute to an understanding of issues that affect and impact on Muslim lives suggests an intentional slant in the presentation which allows for the permeation of very specific narratives. There is another more sinister hand at play. In seeking to report on the full reality of the events at hand Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists have been blocked from reporting anything that did not substantiate western propaganda and claims about Muslim barbarity and terrorism whilst countless other reporters revealed the extent to which their stories were either censored, edited or rejected by US editors who did not want to project the reality that Muslims “were actual human beings who might suffer as a consequence of the military strikes.” Thus, the depoliticisation of Muslim opposition to empire, coloniality and foreign control of their resources and a culturalist naturalising of conflict between Islam and the West, referred to as the suspension of ethics facilitates for a dehumanising legitimisation of violence against Muslims. In this fashion, the cultures of racialised groups and exploited populations become politically insurgent. The focus here is on the meta-context, where the violence of ISIS is contextualised in this single moment amidst the noise of the mainstream media and the propaganda arms of both ISIS and the different states. In this regard, I ask, “Can there be absolute certainty about a war – a theatrical exchange that is largely mediated through the media?” In this instance, citizens of the world have to become alert, and ask, “Who leads us? And why are the drum beats for war- again?” Although there may be many stories, there usually is only one narrative in the main stream media.