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The Islamic State’s video recruiting campaigns have become increasingly sophisticated, and they’re one reason it’s able to attract new followers and galvanize them to bloody terror.

This video shows how ISIL’s propaganda often nods to—and sometimes directly copies—memes, characters, and scenes contained in Hollywood movies, video games, and music videos.  Think American Sniper or Hunger Games, and Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty. By appropriating popular western culture, ISIL engages directly with its target audiences. It makes terror seem glamorous, and the victims of terror, actors in a western movie or game. 

Our story draws on research conducted by Javier Lesaca, a visiting scholar at the George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. 

He analyzed 845 videos that ISIL published between January 2014 and September 2015, and found that 15% have been inspired by real western movies and video games. He describes his work in more detail in this post.

ISIL’s video recruiting effort is a marketing campaign on a massive scale. It’s something no other terror group has done.