Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Narratives and Messages – Key to Influence & Counter-Influence

Focus is a key to influence success. Unless you know your messages and that of your opponent, you will not succeed. A narrative often forms the core of an enemy’s attraction. For example, Qulliam, a UK based think tank characterizes the ISIS narrative as: “Islam is under attack and we must defend it”  (see: quilliam.org; Countering Islamist Extremist Narratives: A Strategic Briefing, January 2016).

Quilliam also reports that “ISIS publishes more than 30 unique pieces of propaganda each day, and its broader narrative can be stratified into six sub-themes: Brutality; Mercy; War; Victimhood; Belonging; and Utopianism” and argues that “Only by countering the broad Islamist narrative, and how ISIS uses it in its propaganda to radicalise and recruit, will we be able to make progress in our foreign policy priorities for pursuing peace and stability in the region.”

Developing an effective counter narrative requires an in depth understanding of the basis for the target narrative as well as a keen grasp of the communications media and vehicles use to influence target audiences. Naturally language and credibility are key as well as the ability to raise issues with the enemy narrative while not denigrating the base documents upon which the enemy alleges that the narrative is based.

While Quilliam may argue that an attack on the broadest of narratives is the most logical starting point, an alternative approach might be to address sub-themes through a family of messages for each sub-theme and building up a case with the attack on the broader narratives.

The report noted above has some excellent references and examples and is worth your time to check out.

As always, reader input encouraged.

Photo Source: http://www.penguin.com/book/moby-dick-by-herman-melville/9781101100431


Anonymous said...

Hello Mr. Dietz,
I've been following the development of Islamic State/ISIS and am now tasked with writing a paper about a collection and analysis strategy against them should they attack the U.S. homeland. In my research of their propaganda efforts, I came across your blog and found it very intriguing. I appreciate learning all I can and particularly feel that understanding the way the enemy thinks, why and what went into that, is crucial to addressing their message. I feel that your article well articulates the need to address underlying causes when seeking to provide counterarguments through our own written words. The Sulman Triangle (I apologize if I have the spelling wrong but I can't refer back to it when writing this here) that begins with the base of Honor and Esteem, makes such logical sense. It explains the willingness of suicide bombers to engage in self destructive activities. I couldn't honestly understand the logic until I saw that just now.

Anyway, any advice you might give me in my endeavor would be greatly appreciated. I have no military background and am striving to understand the appropriate means to address a hypothetical attack against the homeland. How does psyops fit in here? Can MISO (being a military unit) actually play any role in the homeland? Is it permissible by law as it's to counter a international non-state actor? Any insight would be wonderful should you have the time!


Lawrence Dietz said...

@JBB - thanks for your comment. By law MISO is forbidden to "PSYOP" US Citizens. DHS would have to apply appropriate crisis management public affairs TTP (Tactics, Techniques, Procedures) to deal with the scenario you are proposing.