In a video, released last night, ISIS prisoner John Cantlie “reports” from Kobani, the northern Syrian Kurdish town that has been under siege by the militants for over a month, purporting to debunk the Western media narrative about the battle while promulgating ISIS’s own version of the story. “Perhaps what’s most odd about the video,” Adam Taylor comments, “is how much it apes the Western media it criticizes”:
The video begins with a logo “Inside ‘Ayn al Islam’ ” (a reference to what the Islamic State calls Kobane) and makes use of a number of relatively sophisticated graphics throughout. Cantlie, who may have been speaking under duress, brings to mind BBC correspondents in his presentation. The Islamic State also uses the video to give its cynical version of recent events, notably suggesting that “good old John Kerry” has been criticizing “Kurd-hating Turkish President Erdogan.” Cantlie also makes reference to the cost of American airstrikes in Kobane (“almost half a billion dollars in total”) and a U.S. airdrop that accidentally landed in the hands of the Islamic State. “The mujahideen is now being resupplied, by the hopeless U.S. Air Force, who parachuted two crates of weapons and ammunition straight into the outstretched arms of the mujahideen,” he says.
This new video is very different from previous propaganda items featuring Cantlie, which have shown him in prison garb, discussing his captivity. Jamie Dettmer wonders what’s up with that:
In the “Lend Me Your Ears” series, the British freelance photojournalist emphasizes that he is a prisoner of the Islamic State, widely known as ISIS or ISIL, and doesn’t know whether he will live or die. But in Monday night’s five-and-a-half minute clip, titled “Inside Ayn al-Islam” (the Arabic name for Kobani is Ayn al-Arab), the 43-year-old Cantlie makes no reference to his captivity, raising questions about whether he has crossed the line and is now a willing propagandist for the jihadists behind the camera.
Dan Murphy cautions us not to make too much of it, partly in order to avoid handing ISIS a propaganda victory:
Not that IS will care, but using captives as a propaganda prop – terrorized by the murder of fellow captives and the threat to their own lives – is a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions. To be sure, this crime seems minor when held up against their executions of helpless captives, enslaving of women and children for sexual and other purposes, and their stated goal of wiping out everyone on the planet who doesn’t practice their particular version of Islam. But the press needs to walk a careful line in not uncritically broadcasting the group’s propaganda, effectively rewarding them for their abuse of Cantlie.