Joe Whittaker and Lilah Elsayed

Linkages as a Lens: An Exploration of Strategic Communications in P/CVE

Journal of Deradicalization


Strategic communications for the purpose of countering violent extremism have become widespread in recent years, especially given the communications revolution which has amplified the messages of violent extremists and those that wish to counter them. Despite this, there is little-to-no research which collects message data and analyses its design in a systematic way. In this article, we collect data from 10 social media multi-message campaigns and undertake an exploratory analysis of their design using a methodology developed from Ingram’s “Linkage-based” framework for countering militant Islamist propaganda. Our findings include: a prevalence towards highlighting the atrocities of violent extremist groups rather than strategies which challenge their competence; a priority to messages which seize the narrative agenda; differing emotional or rational pulls depending on the language in which the message is delivered; a range of different tactics employed depending on the target audience; as well as a wide range of deployments of different themes of positive and negative messages. We offer a number of possible explanations for these findings before undertaking a cluster analysis of the data to aid the construction of Weberian “ideal type” campaigns, which offer a contribution to the field for the purposes of future research and exposition.