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Cartoons vs. the Caliphate: The Scale of Counter-Narrative Campaigns and the Role of Religion

  • Author(s): Digby, James
  • Advisor(s): Juergensmeyer, Mark
  • et al.
Abstract

This paper analyses the deployment of counter-narratives on social media as part of counter violent extremism (CVE) strategies aimed at degrading Islamic State’s ability to recruit foreign fighters and inspire attacks abroad. It argues that the bulk of counter-narrative content emerges out of a small network of NGOs, think-tanks and organizations based in London which is conceptualized as a lattice. The quantity of counter-narrative content emerging from this lattice and elsewhere, whilst significant, is vastly mismatched by the scale of Islamic State content produced at their operational apex, and is frequently overestimated by policy papers and CVE reports from social media companies. Successful counter-narrative campaigns – identified by their adherence to academic communications theory and prevalence within CVE policy spheres – demonstrate the need for religious narratives in which normative Islam plays an active yet embedded role in modern societies outside of the so-called caliphate.

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