As the situation in Iraq and Syria continues to deteriorate, insurgency groups are gaining traction and territory. Already the Islamic State has destabilized the area by capturing dozens of cities, but experts say that a new player, VICE Media, has now effectively taken over twice the area of ISIS by flooding the region with journalists documenting human suffering and turmoil in its signature gonzo style.
Since the beginning of its gradual occupation, VICE has immersed thousands of reporters into Iraqi culture, many of whom have splintered off into groups that regularly demand ride-alongs with ISIS religious police patrols and others who generate innumerable hours of documentary-style video footage of the region.
“At first, there was a small contingent of VICE journalists, embedding themselves in the region to get first-hand accounts of life in the midst of war,” explains Georgetown political science professor Leslie Joyce. “With time, however, VICE’s presence has rapidly increased. In our estimation, the media group now effectively controls over 30 percent of northern Iraq and 20 percent of southern Syria.”
MAP: A look at ISIS- and VICE-controlled regions:
As shown by the map above, VICE’s rapidly increasing presence has dominated the cities of Mosul and Tikrit, both of which were firmly in ISIS control just weeks ago. Currently, this VICE majority exists from the Euphrates in western Iraq and stretches into Syria, and the speed with which the spread has occurred has completely caught the world off guard.
“Every day, VICE’s stronghold across the Iraqi region grows stronger and stronger,” says Joyce. “Particularly across war-torn areas, we see more alternative journalists from VICE occupying the region to expose the grim reality and human desperation, and to grow their social media following.”
According to Joyce, VICE continues to attract members from all over the world who are eager to pledge themselves to the new media movement.
“VICE has a story to tell, and we’re not leaving until we’ve told it our way,” says Eric Drummond, a 24-year-old VICE contributor who recently left his home in Santa Barbara to join up with the burgeoning movement. “There is so much human suffering in these regions, and we will capture all of it in a way only VICE can. We will not stop until we tell these stories.”
With neither the Iraqi government’s armies nor ISIS forces able to topple the media organization’s presence in the region, we’re left wondering how long VICE’s campaign can continue until President Obama is forced to take action.