RAN expert online- meeting, 28 September 2020

Das Papier kann hier heruntergeladen werden

Von Alexander Ritzmann und Maximilian Ruf

„Verschwörungstheorien setzen auf Narrative, die pseudowissenschaftlich sind oder gar eine Leugnung wissenschaftlicher Fakten darstellen, und sollten daher eher als Verschwörungsmythen bezeichnet werden. Sie zählen zu den größten Herausforderungen in der Arbeit zur Prävention und Bekämpfung von gewaltbereitem Extremismus (P/CVE) in Europa, da sie zentral für extremistisches Gedankengut sind und auch eine Schlüsselrolle bei Radikalisierung und Anwerbung spielen. P/CVEMaßnahmen können nur dann effizient geplant werden, wenn ein Grundverständnis dafür vorhanden ist, welche Narrative eine Gefahr für die Menschen, die sie glauben, und in Folge auch für die
Gesellschaft, in der sie leben, darstellen. Eindeutige Indikatoren lassen sich nur schwer definieren.
Vielmehr sollten es PraktikerInnen als Alarmzeichen werten, wenn eine Person die drei folgenden zentralen Narrative in Kombination vertritt:
1) Wir gegen sie: „Wir sind überlegen und im alleinigen Besitz der Wahrheit!“
2) Sie gegen uns: „Wir sind die Opfer der Machenschaften dunkler Mächte!“
3) Die Postulierung einer apokalyptischen Dimension: „Wir befinden uns in einer existenziellen Notlage, die den Einsatz von Gewalt rechtfertigt!““

Harmful conspiracy myths and effective P/CVE countermeasures

RAN expert online-meeting, 28 September 2020

Download the paper here

By Alexander Ritzmann and Maximilian Ruf

„Conspiracy theories, which should rather be called conspiracy myths due to their anti- or pseudoscientific narratives, continue to pose a key challenge for the prevention and countering of violent extremism (P/CVE) in Europe, since they play vital roles within extremist ideologies and recruitment and radicalisation.

In order to efficiently plan P/CVE interventions, it is necessary to understand which conspiratorial narratives could constitute a danger to the individuals believing in them and, by extension, to society. Fixed indicators are difficult to define, but three main types of narratives, when believed in combination, may help practitioners identify if a person is on a potentially dangerous path:

  1. Us vs Them: “We are superior, only we know the truth!”
  2. Them vs Us: “We are victims, we are being threatened by evil forces!”
  3. Apocalyptic dimension: “The threat to us is existential, hence violence is legitimate!”“

Presentation (Video): Guidelines for effective alternative or counter narratives (Gammma+)

The GAMMMA+ model combines key elements and lessons learned from  Communication & Narratives (C&N) working group of the European Commission’s  Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN).  The model aims to help practitioners to increase the impact of their communications campaigns, be it online and offline. Alexander Ritzmann (RAN C&N co-chair |Brandenburg Institute for Society and Security (BIGS)) and Lieke Wouterse (RAN Staff) presented the webinar on the GAMMMA+ model.

Link to the presentation 

Link to the GAMMMA+ paper

Effective Narratives: Updating the GAMMMA+ model (EU RAN)

Authored by Alexander Ritzmann, Lieke Wouterse and Merle Verdegaal

The RAN Communication and Narratives working group (RAN C&N) has
promoted the GAMMMA+ model since December 2017 as a practical
guideline for carrying out effective alternative and counter narrative (AN
/CN) campaigns. Since then, the GAMMMA+ model has served
practitioners from all over the European Union as a tool when planning
and implementing communications campaigns. After two years and based
on feedback and insights from practitioners at the RAN C&N Academy in
November 2019, it is time to update the model in the format of this expost paper.

EU RAN: Involving young people in counter and alternative narratives – why involve peers?

Radicalisation Awareness Network, Alexander Ritzmann

When working in multicultural teams, creating trusting
relationships is key. Policy-makers and civil society
organisations (CSOs) often share goals. But they might have
quite different procedures, approaches and perspectives,
and therefore ‘cultures’. Young people, an important part
of civil society, want and need to be empowered to become
more active members of communities preventing and
countering violent extremism (P/CVE). They can provide
perspectives, insights and a ‘spirit’ that most established
organisations will struggle to create without them.
This paper presents some of the key challenges and
opportunities identified at the policy and practice event on
cooperation between young people and policy-makers. It
also suggests concrete steps for building trusting
partnerships and effective multicultural teams.


Alexander Ritzmann, The Program on Extremism at George
Washington University GWU)
. This paper, part of the Legal Perspectives on Tech Series, was commissioned in conjunction with the Congressional Counterterrorism Caucus.

Over the course of 2015 and 2016, Germany had accepted around one million refugees, most from the Middle East. A right-wing anti-migrant backlash ensued, leading to a dramatic increase of crimes often committed by Germans who had no prior affiliation with extremist right-wing groups. On social media, hate speech proliferated, targeting both refugees and government officials who were deemed responsible for Germany’s open immigration policy. At the same time, the online propaganda and recruitment efforts of the so called “Islamic State” (IS) were at their peak and several IS-claimed terrorist attacks were committed within the European Union and Germany.

In 2016 and 2017, the German federal government initiated an investigation into online activities that violated Article 130 (incitement to hatred and Holocaust denial) and Article 86a (use of symbols from unconstitutional organizations) of the penal code, and violations against the Youth Protection Act. The organization mandated with the investigation reported 200 pieces of content per tested social media company (SMC).
Facebook removed 39%, YouTube 90% and Twitter 1%. Looking solely at content
removed within 24 hours of being flagged, the rates fell to 31% for Facebook, 82% for YouTube and 0% for Twitter.
Realizing that social media failed their own community standards and did not police their networks effectively in respect to illegal activities, Germany’s Network Enforcement Act, or NetzDG law, was introduced on May 16, 2017 and passed several weeks later. The short period for deliberation in the Bundestag was criticized heavily.
Federal elections were held in September that year so it appeared that for the governing coalition of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and Social Democrats (SPD), speed was more relevant than deliberation. The law was passed virtually unanimously among the CDU and SPD. The Free Democrats (FDP) and the party “The Left” voted against, the Greens abstained.

Studie zu Extremismusprävention (PVE) in der MENA-Region/Study on PVE in the MENA region

„GIZ cannot not work on PVE“ – so die Ansicht von Alexander Ritzmann, Autor der Studie „Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) – Methods, Approaches and Potential for GIZ Governance Interventions in the Middle East and North Africa” (link). Die Studie wurde vom GIZ-Fachverbund Governance in der MENA-Region (Go-MENA) in Auftrag gegeben. Der Fachverbund ging der Frage nach, welche Rolle die GIZ, und insbesondere ihre Governance-Programme, im Bereich Extremismusprävention spielen können, denn Terrorismus und gewaltsamer Extremismus bedrohen die Sicherheit und Stabilität vieler Partnerländer.

Weiterlesen »


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 »