Weaponizing Narrative: How the Islamic State Tells its Story
Roling, Joshua David
In the United States, we call the battle of ideas in mass media “information warfare (IW).” The discourse surrounding IW focuses on the type of information transmitted and the technological means through which it travels to audiences. While important, this discourse lacks analysis of how state or non-state actors package information in a narrative format to become persuasive. In this essay, I examine Dabiq magazine, an online publication created by the Islamic State, to explore the magazine’s story-telling qualities and explain how these narrative tools resonate with their intended audiences. Through Dabiq, the Islamic State reconstructs a glorified past in which the former Islamic Caliphate ruled wide swaths of territory, led in technological development, and forced its will on the world. Disrupted by western and secular forces, the authors of Dabiq call upon the Muslim world to recreate a remembered condition of the past by establishing a new caliphate. Furthermore, the magazine incorporates a multi-modal approach, blending text, image, and icon in performative interplay to create a wholistic account of its version of events. By transmitting information within a culturally infused narrative, the Islamic State’s story resonates with certain audiences, increasing its ability to recruit believers throughout the world.