Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
September 18, 2014

From the Islamic State News Desk, Hostage-Anchor John Cantlie Reporting

Beside the fact prisoner-spokesperson and real life journalist John Cantlie — pressed into the role of anchor/spokesperson and opinion commentator — is subjected to one of the most twisted acts of intellectual and vocational torture one could imagine, their latest video is another masterstroke from ISIS. …And just when you’d sworn off Islamic State videos of prisoners in orange Gitmo-style jumpsuits forever.

Besides the editorial tactics, including the reference to Western war fatigue and divergent Western ransom policies, there are many other tweaks there, starting with Cantlie referring to himself in the third and the first person in the same sentence as the ISIS persona presumes to tells us what we’re thinking. More disturbing though are the psychological tells where the real John seems to come through. He adds extra emphasis, for example, to the latter option when he says that “maybe I will live and maybe I will die.” His quick hand gesture to symbolize it also disconcertingly not “mind blowing.” And, his sign-off grimace is as much pro-ISIS punctuation as it is an expression of irony and limbo. And then, please tell me the title, “Lend Me Your Ears” (besides the clever Shakespearean allusion) doesn’t create its own sadistic mental picture.

Ultimately, this syop op-ed is as impressive for the pivot as for borrowing a classically familiar Western media format, using rationality, and the psychological slack created from dialing back on the execution videos, for the group to supposedly re-introduce itself while delivering a compelling teaser for coming episodes. Dare one say, stay tuned?

Related: How the Pictures are Killing Us: The Dynamics of the Sotloff and Foley ISIS Videos

(screenshots: ISIS via IBT/YouTube)

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