In a shift, ISIS tries to show it can govern

Brutality remains a high-profile tactic—Islamic State was accused of executing dozens of Iraqi tribal opponents last week as well as inspiring last weekend’s suicide bombings in Turkey. But Western officials who monitor Islamic State say the data reflect a shift away from fear-based messaging to attempts at positive branding they have tracked since the spring. The group’s official media outlets have more than doubled their output, compared with production levels analyzed in May.

“There is a common impression that Islamic State propaganda starts and ends with brutality. That’s not the case,” said Charlie Winter, a senior researcher at the Quilliam Foundation in London who collected and analyzed Islamic State’s official propaganda during that period for a policy paper on how Western governments can better counter Islamic State propaganda. “Statehood is the group’s chief positive message. It understands that by focusing on how it builds its state, it builds legitimacy and silences its detractors.”…

“ISIL realizes it has a credibility problem—it brutalizes the communities it claims to defend to instill fear, but alienates Muslims all over the world by doing so,” said Rashad Hussain, U.S. special envoy for strategic counterterrorism communications, using another name for Islamic State. “It’s no surprise that they’re trying to paint a false picture of life in the areas they control, but the real story is told by the former fighters who are revealing ISIL’s false promises, terrible living conditions, and the damage ISIL is doing to Muslim communities.”