A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Singaporean delegation discusses countering extremist propaganda with START

A delegation of Singaporean government officials and members of academia visited START this month to learn more about its research portfolio, focusing on its efforts in countering violent extremism and countering extremist propaganda.

START Investigator Arie Kruglanski, professor of psychology, presented on “Mapping and Evaluating Online Salafi-Jihadism,” a project he’s conducting with Michele Gelfand and Noa Schori-Eyal. Currently the team is analyzing about 300 propaganda videos and audio files produced by al-Qaida and al-Qaida affiliated groups from 2004-2009.

“We must first understand extremist propaganda in order to undermine its effectiveness,” Kruglanski said.

The team is coding and evaluating the substantive content of the videos as well as assessing how the message is conveyed, who it’s for and whether it uses a rational or emotional argument.

Preliminary findings indicate that the prominent themes within the propaganda attempt to:

  • Identify, denounce and/or belittle the enemy
  • Bolster pride in and empathy for Muslims and Muslim fighters
  • Establish the validity of the speaker

Less common themes include the intimidation of the enemy or specific calls to action, according to the researchers.

Once all recordings have been are coded, the research team will examine if the target audience, the message, or the frequency of these tapes have a discernible pattern; if these patterns change over time.

The Singaporean delegation included representatives from the Ministry of Home Affairs and its Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre, the National Security Research Centre, Defence Science and Technology Agency, National Security Coordination and the Centre of Excellence for National Security at Nanyang Tech University.