ISIS Media and Troop Withdrawal Announcements: Visualizing Community and Resilience

Ayse Deniz Lokmanoglu, Carol K. Winkler, Kayla McMinimy, Monerah Almahmoud


When a president announces troop withdrawal, some factors change. Financial and human costs fall, and relations among international actors change. To expand contemporary understandings of how the influence of troop withdrawal announcements may extend beyond state-based media portrayals, and to explore additional factors that help explain changes in nonstate actor’s media campaigns, this study asks whether troop withdrawal announcements in regions of military conflict correspond to changes in the visual media output of militant groups. Focusing on issues leading up to and following President Trump’s Twitter announcement of U.S. troop withdrawals from Syria on December 19, 2018, we conducted a content analysis of 887 images in 102 issues of ISIS’s official weekly newsletter al-Naba that examined variables related to presentational, individual, and institutional components. A chi-squared analysis and post-facto qualitative analysis revealed that militant, nonstate groups emphasize community building, resilience, and nonprovocative postures in their media campaigns after troop withdrawal announcements. The findings have implications for the intersections of platforms and gatekeeping, and of military, media, nonstate actors, and the public.


media, military, visual, terrorism, social media

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