Over the past few weeks, as the Islamic State (Isis) has continued its nefarious rampage through Iraq and Syria, I have begun to feel a scintilla of guilt. Hard as I try, I can't shake the feeling that I am in some way responsible for the success of this abhorrent group.
Of course I have never taken up arms in support of Isis, nor have I provided them with men, money or materials. I haven't even so much as sent a misguided tweet demanding the end of the Western capitalist system.
But, in my role as commissioning editor at IBTimes UK, I have actively, wilfully propagated the warped message preached by Isis. By commissioning articles on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's militants practically every day, I have consciously played into their hands ... and never once have I thought twice about it.
I have published articles about Isis victories and defeats, their invasions and their withdrawals. Combing the web like a magpie for jihadi trivia, I have commissioned pieces on Isis films, Isis passports, Isis school textbooks, Isis shopping malls, Isis burger joints... nothing has been too hackneyed or mundane for my taste.
Along the way, I have published stories containing Isis propaganda videos and tweets declaring the glory of the Caliphate. There's even a chance that some of our more impressionable readers have been moved by some of the content I have produced.
But, as a journalist, I can't really think about that, horrific as the admission may sound. Like everyone else in the industry, my job is to find stories that will entice readers. And nothing entices readers more effectively than Isis.
The story is perfect: a diaspora of embittered dropouts who have coalesced in their own bloodthirsty crypto-state, a living, breathing manifestation of the corny slasher movies they watched in their time of solitude. From the orange jumpsuits to the jihadi scout camps, every aspect of Isis is tailor-made to attract attention. The stories write themselves.
What's more, Isis are happy to share their pillaging and medieval barbarism with us. Not for them the craggy mountain hideaways of the Taliban; Baghdadi and his men keep us informed of their progress via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, daring us to publish the hateful speeches and images they spew forth. Usually the best news stories are the hardest ones to find; with Isis the opposite is true.
Isis paying my mortgage
A year into the jihadi soap opera, readers still can't get enough. Stories about the Islamic State consistently rank among the most popular articles on our site; some days I wonder why we don't just rename ourselves the Isis Times and be done with it. But we're far from alone as news outlets attempt to out-gorge themselves on Islamist clickbait.
There is, of course, the counter argument. That, in the interest of good taste, we should refrain from covering such a vile movement. By denying them the oxygen of publicity, we would play some part in stymieing their spread.
But, when you're in the news business, such moralistic concerns don't really apply. Like everyone else clinging to the Isis bandwagon, I know that the content I am publishing is deeply disturbing, and the ideology behind it morally reprehensible.
But, trite as it may sound, Isis is helping to pay my mortgage. I wish I had the option of considering my convictions and possibly looking the other way to cut off at least one source of publicity for the attention-craving jihadis. But, in this age of the 24-hour news cycle, that's simply not an option.