The NY Times on October 19, 2015 published an article “Britain Unveils Plans to Fight Extremism in Young Muslims” (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/20/world/europe/david-cameron-britain-muslims-radicalization.html?_r=0)
While this proposed program is only in it’s formative stages, the article has some key points that are worthy of consideration by the influence community writ large.
Here are a couple of key points:
1. How aggressively can a government confront extremism without alienating their opposing moderates?
2. Will promoting a nation’s values (British, American, German, etc.) raise strong concerns of moderates in the target audience?
3. Is it really possible to ‘clamp down on the dissemination of extremist messages… by involving the “industry government and the public”’?
The article itself is concerned with influence efforts inside Britain, yet the three points above are applicable to many current and potential influence battlefields. The notion of domestic influence is one that has not been widely considered.
Recent incidents conducted by non-affiliated terrorists (e.g. Boston Bombing) or by domestic terrorists (Oklahoma City) confirm that the threat exists in the US as well as Britain. The implication is that anyone inside a country may be radicalized.
Does the government have a duty to try and prevent the radicalization by employing its resources to disrupt the radicalizer and minimize the effectiveness of their messages and if so, how likely is it that they will succeed?
Taking each point in turn.
Any influence effort needs to strike a balance. This implies careful research and perhaps pre-testing, focus groups and enlisting moderates to help craft the campaign and its messages.
Secondly, promoting one’s values to another is IMHO not a good strategy. Others outside your sphere really don’t want your values – they have grown up with theirs and only multi-generational evolutions can alter that path.
Lastly, given the porous and borderless nature of social media, this would seem like the digital equivalent of cleaning out the Augean Stables. Even so, is it worth the attempt?
Reader input invited.