“Rhetorical Analysis – ISIS: FOX News v. Al Jazeera,” Jackson Bandy (2015) — Inquiry 2

Today the world is run by politics. Everybody in the world is under control by anything ranging from an established government to a terrorist organization, but not everywhere is the distinction clear. For nearly 20 years America and its allies have been involved in an ongoing power struggle in the Middle East. Whether or not it is his or her place to intervene, everybody has some opinion on these events, and everybody has the intention of making theirs seem correct. We do this using a magnitude of rhetorical devices, intentional or not, and the media of different countries worldwide show prime examples of how these techniques are used for mass persuasion.

ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, is now regarded as the largest most powerful terrorist organization the world has ever seen, and they’re still growing. With no mission other than occupation and murder, many see them as a threat to all of humanity. Recently a video was released by ISIS showing an American journalist, captured and beheaded, after giving a statement addressing President Obamas intervention. There were questions from citizens, reporters, and government agencies throughout the world regarding whether or not the authenticity of this video could be verified. Many have now been led to believe the video was real, with a strong evocative purpose, and others believe it was a staged production, for completely different idealistic reasons. While expressing their opinion, what better way to do it than using persuasive rhetorical techniques?

Al Jazeera, a news-reporting agency based in Qatar, took the firm stance that the video was all staged going as far as saying it was merely “a slickly produced affair” (Rob).  The intent of the article published by Al Jazeera was to convince its audience that the video was nothing but a typical form of propaganda, rather than a brutal murder. With the audience base being largely citizens of Qatar, this may be a comforting article to read, proving maybe so much violence is not imminent in their region.

To get this message across the author strongly aims at using an appeal to logos. In doing this he has a goal of making any reader feel ignorant for not seeing how evident it is that it’s just propaganda. One main goal of the text was to point out the physical evidence leading one to believe it was only staged. Perhaps one of the most obvious instances is when the author states that “this is not footage captured by a spectator on his wobbly cellphone; it’s the carefully constructed output of a professional propaganda unit”(Rob). By subtly calling them a propaganda unit, rather than a cameraman or crew, the author has the intent to drill in the fact that they’re only releasing the film to persuade America to leave the countries alone. Following this, the article states that the victim “is shown wearing a clip-on microphone as he delivers the statement written for him by his captors condemning Obama’s foreign policy.” (Rob). This remark was added with the intent to give readers a reason to believe that since the victim had on a microphone it was all an act, and he couldn’t have been killed. It also implies that the statement he gave was written by the captors rather than it being his own beliefs. The author then makes reference to the fact that “the [ISIS] even uses some Hollywood techniques” (Rob), making it seem as if the murder in question was shown like that of a murder commonly portrayed in the movies.

When paying close attention to the dialect used, the author takes an interesting approach in appealing to readers’ pathos. Using strong and severe words to emphasize the brutality of the act, it is clear ISIS is no joke, until it is further explained that they are. In one instance the article discusses the “brutality of the act” (Rob), but explains how the video was created by a propaganda unit, in the same sentence. By first instilling fear and drawing in the readers, the instant relief and satisfaction is heightened.

Aside from these techniques, the article was written in a manner that made credibility and authority seem out of the question. Phrases such as “The director — and there surely is a director — is…” (Rob) give a feeling that there’s no reason to doubt anything being stated. This same tone of assurance is repeated in the article to remind readers of this. Although the true message of the beheading can only be assumed the author writes “The message is clear: This…” (Rob), to make readers feel as if what he is saying, must be correct.

Although Al Jazeera published an article, seemingly credible, with their stance on the matter, Fox News took another stance claiming theirs was completely credible as well. The main purpose of their Article though veers away from the video itself, and makes reference to the fact that what Obama is doing may not necessarily be actions of approval. In the third sentence of their article though, Fox News makes it clear that “the White House on Wednesday confirmed that video as authentic” (Conflicting). After directly conveying their stance they go into detail dissecting and critiquing President Obama’s response, in order to inform readers of the actions being taken, or lack there of.

The article discusses how Obama stated “we don’t have a strategy yet” and “our objective is clear, and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL so it is no longer a threat not just to Iraq but also the region and to the United States”, as if he is ready to take strong action (Conflicting). The issue they have is that he later states we will “continue to shrink ISIL’s sphere of influence, its effectiveness, its financing, its military capabilities to the point where it is a manageable problem” (Conflicting). Now the question proposed is are we going to eliminate the terrorists or are we going to contain them? By making efforts to portray his remarks as unorganized and poorly thought out the authors of this article are trying to appeal to the audiences logos. The article goes even further to make it seem as if Obama has no active response to the ongoing dangers by noting that he’s in Europe at a meeting “where everything from ISIS to the crisis in Ukraine will be on the table” (Conflicting), but then praises John Kerry for “heading to the Middle East to try and build a stronger coalition to go after the Islamic State while boosting the Iraqi and Kurdish governments.” (Conflicting). After making it evident that they disapprove of Obama’s actions they further discus the video at hand.

When the authors bring it up not much is said in regards to whether or not it is real, but more so on what will be done about it. With Obamas speech given the night before the article was published, they take advantage of what he emphasized, that we will attack through a series of airstrikes. A quote from the masked militant is published which states that as long as Obama continues airstrikes “our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people” (Conflicting). This is an excellent use of kairos because the Presidents words are fresh on everybody’s minds, then Fox News reminds us of what the terrorists said.

Being nationwide news sources each article would like to see themselves as credible and unbiased but when analyzing the two it is clear that isn’t the case. Al Jazeera believed that all the video was produced for was to instill fear in the American government and give us a reason to further intervene. The author also try’s to make it clear that this is obvious, and we wont intervene, likely to convince regional readers not to be worried. Fox News takes a different approach though and subtly takes blows at Obama’s response, rather than directly stating how the issue will be handled. This is due to the fact that Fox News is a Republican based news source and they will take any chance possible to criticize the Democratic Party. The way Al Jazeera uses rhetoric gives a tone of comfort created by clear facts, while Fox News gives off a more alarming tone suggesting something serious needs fixing in the White House Office. Both have very different purposes and methods, each effective for what they’re used for, and both articles successfully get their message across through their professional use of rhetoric.

With world events on a scale such as this, to events of everyday life, it is important to understand how and why rhetoric is used. Being familiar with it can alter how we approach any situation, from both sides. Although the outcome of the current crisis cannot be told, it is articles such as these that will be the ones to shape how we view what’s happening in our world.


Works Cited

“Conflicting Signals? Obama vows to ‘destroy’ ISIS, make it ‘manageable’” Fox News, 3 sept 2014, Web. 16 sept. 2014.

Rob Crilly “Islamic State’s Execution videos are sly propaganda written in blood” Al Jazeera, 3 sept. 2014, Web. 16 sept. 2014.