The production of propaganda by extremist organisations is not a new phenomenon, although the Internet and social media platforms have facilitated the speed, reach and quantity at which it can be disseminated. However, it is the apparent ‘success’ of, and central role ceded to, the communications strategy employed by violent extremist groups such as ISIS, that has brought propaganda to prominence. In response, Governments (including the UK) and supranational organisations (such as the UN), have posited the countering of extremist narratives as key to their counter-terrorism strategies and policy objectives. But, research to support the development of counter-narratives is limited – including the construction of extremist output, and the nature of links between exposure to these materials and subsequent action.
It has been reported that extremist organisations make particularly powerful use of historical events to strengthen and justify their cause and actions, and to give cover and credence to claims that their side of the story as presented through their propaganda, is the truth. However, the role of historical narratives is particularly under-explored, which is likely to hamper counter-narrative endeavours.
It is the primary aim of my research, therefore, to examine historical narratives and the role they play in the on- and off-line propaganda formulated by extremist organisations, and in the output of Government or NGOs which seek to counter them, as well as how these may be linked with action. An exploration of how these narratives present, and are directed towards, women will be a secondary thread running throughout. It is hoped that the outcomes will be of use to practitioners, policy-makers and academics in the fields of terrorism, criminology, political science and communications, as they seek to advance and refine their response to extremist narratives.