Date of Graduation

Fall 2015


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Keith Payne


ISIS, terrorism, propaganda, western, counter measures

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


The purpose of this study is threefold: 1. Examine the use of propaganda by the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) and how its propaganda enables ISIS to achieve its objectives; 2. Examine the United States Government (USG) response; 3. Evaluate the effectiveness of the USG response and how it can be improved. The goal of ISIS is to overturn the Middle East, attack westerners in the region and in the West, and create one all-encompassing Islamic State. ISIS' innovative use of propaganda has been central to its success. ISIS uses propaganda more effectively than previous terrorist groups. What is unique about ISIS propaganda is its success at luring disaffected Westerners to its side. The messages of ISIS propaganda are interpreted by studying the teachings of key jihadist theologians and by examining the content of ISIS propaganda. The approach in this thesis is to listen to what ISIS has to say about itself and its objectives. The struggles and short comings of the USG response are attested to by former directors of USG counter terror messaging. This paper reveals the USG's response to ISIS propaganda falls short in effectively addressing the full range of ISIS propaganda's diversity in messages, audiences, and platforms. For the government to effectively undermine the effectiveness of ISIS propaganda, it must accept the need for more creativity and diversity in its messaging, and find a role it can play in conjunction with a supportive private sector capable of engaging in diverse messages to diverse audiences across diverse platforms.


© Daniel Lincoln Stevens

Open Access