A Tribal Call to Arms: Propaganda and What PVE Can Learn from Anthropology, Psychology and Neuroscience

Alexander Ritzmann*

EUROPEAN EYE ON RADICALIZATION, March 22 2018

The Propaganda Process

Is online propaganda really effective? How can it be countered? And what can practitioners of Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) and policymakers learn from the research findings of other relevant disciplines, such as anthropology, psychology and neuroscience?

Propaganda, understood here as the strategic communication of ideas aiming at manipulating specific target audiences for an extremist cause, generally has three main components. First, it provides a diagnosis of “what is wrong”.  Secondly, a prognosis of “what needs to be done”. Thirdly, a rationale – “who should do it and why” (Wilson 1973).

The self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS), for example, claims that Islam and Sunni Muslims are under attack (diagnosis), that a Caliphate needs to be created (prognosis), and that YOU need to help in any way you can (rationale).

Right wing movements use the same approach. In their diagnosis, migration and corrupt elites are a threat to the white or national identity. The prognosis is that only homogeneous societies with high walls can ensure survival. Then they ask their target audiences to join the fight in any way they can. Weiterlesen „A Tribal Call to Arms: Propaganda and What PVE Can Learn from Anthropology, Psychology and Neuroscience“

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RAN guidelines for effective alternative and counter-narrative campaigns (GAMMMA+)

The „RAN Guidelines for EFFECTIVE narrative campaigns“ are here! – including relevant findings from different research fields. A big thank you to all who shared their insights at our C&N meetings and to my colleagues from the RAN. It was a pleasure putting it all together.

PROPAGANDA: WIRKUNG, GRENZEN UND GEGENMASSNAHMEN (Interventionen -Zeitschrift für Verantwortungspädagogik)

Interventionen. 09-10 | 2017, Seite 4-9.

Propaganda:  Wirkung, Grenzen und Gegenmaßnahmen

Die Manipulation von Informationen war schon immer ein wichtiges Werkzeug im Streit um die vermeintliche Wahrheit.

Die katholische Kirche beispielweise professionalisierte ihre Missionstätigkeit im Jahre 1622, um der protestantischen Reformation besser entgegenwirken zu können und bezeichnete dies als Propaganda. Als Konsequenz war die „Sacra Congregatio de propaganda fide” bei Katholiken positiv, bei Protestanten negativ besetzt (Bussemer 2013).

Der Versuch, „Wahrnehmungen zu gestalten, Kognitionen (und Emotionen) zu manipulieren und Verhalten zu lenken, um eine Reaktion im Sinne des Propagandisten zu erzielen“ (Jowett 2012), gehört seitdem unter diesem Namen zu jedem politischen und religiösen Konflikt.

Als systematisch geplante Massenkommunikation will Propaganda nicht nur informieren und argumentieren, sie soll überzeugen und überreden. Beim Empfänger soll eine neue „Wahrheit“, ein neuer Deutungsrahmen zur Einordnung von Ereignissen und Themen in die jeweilige Ideologie oder Religion geschaffen werden.

Aber kann man Menschen zum „Glauben“ überreden? Die Wirksamkeit von Propaganda ist umstritten. Klar ist, dass Akteure in politischen oder religiösen Konflikten der Propaganda große Wichtigkeit beimessen und signifikante Ressourcen dafür aufwenden. Weiterlesen „PROPAGANDA: WIRKUNG, GRENZEN UND GEGENMASSNAHMEN (Interventionen -Zeitschrift für Verantwortungspädagogik)“

THE ROLE OF PROPAGANDA IN VIOLENT EXTREMISM AND HOW TO COUNTER IT (8th Euromed Survey)

ALEXANDER RITZMANN
Senior Policy Advisor. European Foundation for Democracy. Co-chair of the European Commission’s Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) Communication and Narratives (C&N) Working Group

The 8th Euromed Survey conducted by the European Institute of the Mediterranean touches upon a number of important and complex issues related to violent extremism in the EuroMediterranean region, including the question of the context and drivers through which violent extremism can prosper. Echoing some of the results, this article looks into propaganda as a tool of extremist ideologies and how to counter it.
What is Propaganda?
Propaganda, as a tool of extremist ideologies, aims to generate and promote a world view that reduces the complexity of life to a simple black and white picture. This structured attempt to reform the cognitive (and emotional) perceptions of a target audience to initiate an action in the interest of the propagandist has probably been a part of every political or religious conflict (Jowett, 2012).
In 1622, when the Catholic Church professionalised its missionary work to counter the progress of the Protestants, the body responsible for this important endeavour was called “Sacra Congregatio de propaganda fide”, which gave the name to what since then has been called propaganda. Over the conflict of what true Christianity is, Catholics regarded propaganda as something positive, while Protestants saw it as a tool of the enemy (Bussmer, 2013).

Propaganda, in the form of recruitment messaging, generally follows the pattern of diagnosis (what is wrong), prognosis (what needs to be done) and rationale (who should do it and why) (Wilson, 1973). The self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS/Daesh), for example, follows the same principle: diagnosis (Islam/Sunni Muslims are under attack), prognosis (fight/create the Caliphate) and rationale (help however you can).
The IS then uses sub-narratives for every target group they want to reach (Neumann, 2015). Adventure-seeking young men were promised a future as heroes who are fighting for a just cause and who would be rewarded, amongst other things, with wives and sex slaves. Medical doctors and engineers were lured in by the call to helping fellow Sunni Muslims in need and to being part of the creation of the perfect Islamic utopian society, the Caliphate. Young women were promised an important role by becoming the wives of the “lions of the Caliphate” and securing its future by raising their “cubs” (Winter, 2015).

How Does Propaganda Work?
Extremist propaganda often has clear-cut messages that promise clarity, relevance and meaning in addition to emotional and social benefits, such as belonging to a new family or brotherhood/sisterhood. For propaganda to increase its chances of success, it needs to be close to an already existing (perceived) truth of the targeted audience. 180-degree conversions happen but very rarely. Weiterlesen „THE ROLE OF PROPAGANDA IN VIOLENT EXTREMISM AND HOW TO COUNTER IT (8th Euromed Survey)“

Propaganda: Wirkungen, Grenzen und Gegenmaßnahmen (Video/Webinar)

Webinar-Aufzeichnung  (Link zum Video)

Referent/innen: Alexander Ritzmann und Julia Ebner

„Inhalt: Soziale Medien sind heute ein fester Bestandteil des Lebens von vielen Menschen. Informationen sind kein Gut von Zeitungen, Radio und Fernsehen mehr. Sie fließen über Facebook, werden über Twitter und WhatsApp rasend schnell verbreitet und über Youtube mit bewegten Bildern unterlegt – jeder hat von fast überall Zugriff und kann selbst Nachrichten verbreiten. Auch Extremisten nutzen soziale Medien, um für sich zu werben und junge Menschen zu radikalisieren. Welche Rolle Soziale Medien bei der Radikalisierung spielen und wie sie auch von Kommunen für die Prävention von Extremismus genutzt werden können beleuchten Alexander Ritzmann (European Foundation for Democracy, Co-Vorsitzender der RAN working group on communication and narratives) und Julia Ebner (Institute for Strategic Dialogue).

Das Deutsch-Europäische Forum für urbane Sicherheit (DEFUS) und das Institut für angewandte Präventionsforschung des Deutschen Präventionstages (dpt-i) bieten gemeinsam eine Webinarreihe an, die die unterschiedlichen Facetten des Themenkomplexes Extremismus und Radikalisierung beleuchten.“

 

 

Video: „One year after the Brussels attacks: the Challenge of Jihadist Radicalisation“

On 22nd March 2017, the anniversary of the 2016 Brussels attacks provided an occasion to discuss measures to prevent similar tragedies: the European Policy Centre (EPC), in partnership with the European Foundation for Democracy (EFD) and the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) presented the final publication of The challenges of jihadist radicalisation in Europe and beyond, a research and event project.

Alexander speaks starting minute 33.