When you watch an ISIS online video, remember who is the inspiration.

ISIS or Da’ash or whatever you want to call the latest reality internet show from the Middle East has an active propaganda machine right out of the playbook of Herr Goebbels. If it is not choreographed beheadings or other atrocities meant to cause terror, it is trying to efface and erase the past. The area that ISIS appears to have nominal control over is one of the most extensive archaeological mine fields in the world, with lots of object on display in museums. One of the latest videos is of the bashing of statues in the Mosul Museum. At first glance one can only shake one’s head (and perhaps use the index finger raised in an appropriate gesture) at such a destructive act. But as in all propaganda, the shame factor is the elephant in the display room. Fortunately for the real objects, the hammers are smithereening plaster casts for the most part. Unless ISIS slithers its way into Baghdad, which may require a Mahdi or two to accomplish, the real finds are safe thus far. This does not mean that there has not been irreplaceable damage done to historical objects and sites already.

The current game plan of the primary actors in the conflict, apart from those who seem to delight in mayhem, is to bomb ISIS one pick-up truck at a time and to drone in on leaders from satellite data. This may take some time, no matter how many planes are sent on missions over a rather vast stretch of territory. Some day the local armies on “our” side will have sufficient training and resources (to replenish those taken without much resistance by ISIS) to go in and battle the militants directly. In the meantime (and it is a very mean time indeed), another major front is the propaganda war broadcast digitally. The toppling of a plaster cast of Ashurbanipal, the long-dead Assyrian king, is not likely to bring any converts to Islam, but it may resonate with disaffected youth who see a chance to leave their video game warcraft and get a taste of the “real” thing. I do not think those of us who are appalled by such acts need to watch these intentionally propagandic videos. They are meant to fan the flames of Islamophobia and thus to attract more radicals. The best way to counter such propaganda is not to make an issue out of it, which is the Fox News feed-the-hate approach. It helps to expose the artificiality of it, but that is secondary.

In videos like the one on the Mosul Museum bashing I recommend calculated not benign neglect. I debated whether to even write this post, as I have certainly had enough of the mountain of commentary on ISIS already. If you do watch the video, know what you are seeing and why the makers want you to see it. And remember who the real inspiration is behind such outrageous outreach. But if you can avoid seeing it altogether, the propaganda value may be diminished by at least one person at a time.