American aid worker Peter Kassig is the latest hostage to be slain by Islamic State on video. The footage was released by the terrorist group Sunday, after which President Obama confirmed in a statement that the person beheaded in the clip was in fact, “Abdul-Rahman Kassig, also known to us as Peter.” Kassig, like other hostages such as journalist James Foley, had converted to Islam during his captivity.

Guardian reporter Martin Chulov argues that the recent “horror” is being used by IS to further intimidate viewers and reaffirm its position of power despite a week of significant setbacks.

The Guardian:

Isis has used modern media better than any other terror group and most production houses in the region. The vivid HD horror it routinely produces has been just as effective in securing its gains as anything its foot soldiers do – perhaps even more so. Barbarity has never been more chillingly showcased. And, from Mosul to Damascus, and probably far beyond, people have rarely been more terrified….[Their recent] video contained two messages. The first was to view recent setbacks through the broad sweep of the group’s history and the time it feels it has on its hands now…The second message was far more visceral: anyone the group captures will meet a horrifying end. Unedited images of diabolical deaths are taking a toll on populations in Iraq and Syria that, while not under direct Isis control, are increasingly captive to the power of its propaganda. Each new video has been worse than the last. The ever-more shocking imagery has projected the group’s power – the darkest possible manifestation for a generation raised on made-for-TV gore.

The video, however, did appear to make at least one concession to sentiment. Choosing not to depict the gruesome end of aid worker Peter Kassig’s life was perhaps a nod to the pressure piled on the group by various Sunni Islamists, including the al-Qaida-aligned Jabhat al-Nusra – a leader of which said Kassig had treated him for a battle wound and deserved to be spared….His death…was not as easy to sell for Isis as some others of the many thousands it has been responsible for. It had either warranted a discretion that his colleagues hadn’t, or had been depicted differently to make the latest horror film stylistically distinctive.

Either way, Isis has shown that it will look for innovative ways to shock and intimidate and new methods of projecting its message that time is on its side and, despite the odd rough week, fortunes will follow.

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—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata


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