WASHINGTON (CNN) – A gruesome stunt choreographed and recorded by ISIS in the middle of the desert. The beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff then posted online.
The reaction is swift, even in Muslim countries. Saudi Arabia’s king saying, “These terrorists do not know the name of humanity.” And in Lebanon, one leader calling these actions “heinous;” saying they contradict the message of Islam.
Here in the United States, condemnation and a vow to destroy ISIS. “We will not be intimidated, their acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to take the fight against these terrorists,” said President Barack Obama.
World leaders talking tough, but is ISIS really listening? Or are they too busy uploading these horrific videos online, hoping to inspire young men in the Arab world, and the west.
According to Paul Cruickshank, terrorism analyst, “They’re absolutely playing to their base here…some of these men almost have a pornographic attraction to these violent scenes, these violent beheading videos- it really sort of energizes them. Makes them want to join this group. They feel like this is holy war. They feel complete absolute visceral hatred of the U.S. deep in their bones.”
It’s those people who spend time in password protected online chart rooms, Jihadi forums, where they re-post the videos and share comments about the beheadings. Of the two main Jihadi forums, Amef or “Ansar al-Mujahideen” is where hardcore English speaking ISIS supporters tend to gather. Members take the videos posted there, then share them on Twitter and Facebook, recruiting an even wider audience.
On Twitter, the hashtag #A_Message_To_America gained popularity following the beheadings. Supporters of ISIS shared tweets like a picture of President Obama next to a screen grab from the beheading video. Also threats like this: “We are coming to slay you,” and this: “Remember that we are not invaders, it is you who invade countries and wreck [sic] havoc!”
Besides the tweets themselves, users even changed their profile pictures to screenshots of Steven Sotloff’s beheading. It may sound sickening, but terror experts say it only makes recruiting easier as ISIS spreads its message.
Cruickshank said, “It’s in a very kind of interactive kind of way which is different from bin laden and others a generation ago were able to put out these grainy, kinds of grandstanding video tapes. Now it’s very interactive. You can interact with ISIS fighters in Syria in real time and that can serve as a sort of radical virtual echo chamber for these people.”
An echo chamber, which feeds on hate.