Mobilization and Radicalization Through Persuasion: Manipulative Techniques in ISIS’ Propaganda

This paper explores the recent findings of some empirical research concerning Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s (ISIS’) communication and tries to synthesize them under the theoretical frame of propaganda’s concept and practices. Many authors demonstrated how ISIS propaganda campaigns, in particular those deployed on cyberspace, proved to be effective in recruiting new members in both western and Muslim countries. However, while most of the researches focused on ISIS’s communication contents and narratives, few works considered other methods and techniques used for actually delivering them. This is a regrettable missing point given the fact that communication’s and neurosciences’ studies demonstrate that not only what is communicated but also the techniques adopted bear important consequences on the receiver’s perceptions and behavior. Therefore, this article analyzes in particular the findings of researches carried out by communication scholars, social psychologists, and neuro-cognitive scientists on ISIS’ persuasive communication techniques and demonstrates their importance for security studies’ analysis of ISIS’ propaganda. It argues that ISIS’ success in mobilizing people and make them prone to violent action relies on—among other factors—its knowledge and exploitation of sophisticated methods of perceptions’ manipulation and behavior’s influence. This, in turn, demonstrates ISIS’ possession of state-like soft power capabilities effectively deployed in propaganda campaigns and therefore calls for a more complex understanding of its agency.

Tags: Discourse Analysis, ISIS, Radicalisation, Violent Jihadism