Alastair Reed and Jennifer Dowling
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The role of historical narratives in extremist propaganda.

Defence Strategic Communications

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to examine the role of historical narratives in extremist propaganda, seeking to show how and why they are used to enhance the impact of such propaganda. To that end we use the concept of the ‘competitive system of meaning’, which lies at the heart of extremist propaganda and forms their grand overarching narrative. Through the use of two constructs, in-group/outgroup identity and crisis/solution, propagandists form a cylindrically reinforcing narrative. This paper is exploratory in nature, and is envisaged as the first step in much more detailed research into the role of historical narratives in extremist propaganda. It seeks to show the importance of historical narratives to propaganda by identifying and exploring five ways in which such narratives are exploited to reinforce the extremists’ ‘competitive system of meaning’.