As with any private institution, the American news media often does itself a disservice. It has an agenda which largely revolves around raising viewership, highlighting controversies, and while presenting information in a clear and concise fashion. Publicizing nicknames like “Jihadi John” for ruthless terrorists and killers aids in creating sympathy for him as well as demeaning the seriousness of the problem.
The origins of Mohammad Emwazi’s nickname, “Jihadi John”, are unclear. Some sources like The Mirror claim it was created by freed hostages, while sources like NBC News profess that the UK media created the persona.
Regardless of origin, Emwazi’s nickname highlights the severe problem with creating sympathizers for Daesh (Arabic term for the self-proclaimed Islamic State). The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) estimates that approximately 150 American’s have attempted to reach Syria, Iraq and other Middle East States to fight alongside Daesh. Recently, the NYPD thwarted three men’s plot to assist Daesh, both financially and militaristically. The UK also had trouble with tracking down three girls who allegedly have crossed into Syria, according to CNN. “Jihadi John” is not the only creator of Daesh sympathy, but, by profiling him on national news, he is established as a public figure. When, CNN, BBC or any other outlet profiles Emwazi, they are providing speculation about the type of person he was when before the murder. UK based activist group CAGE described Emwazi as a “beautiful young man,” according to ABC News.
BBC, however paints Emwazi in a different light, citing a former Daesh Fighter calling him “a cold loner who set himself apart from others.”
News coverage of Emwazi (of which I realize this article is guilty), at this point is largely irrelevant. To an extent, the knowledge gained about Emwazi can serve to aid in understanding the type of individuals lured by Daesh. But ultimately, the terrorist’s international news profile is filler which has humanized the opposition.