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Learning from ISIS’s virtual propaganda war for Western Muslims: A comparison of Inspire and Dabiq
The surge in Islamist-inspired foreign fighters and similarly inspired ‘home-grown’ plots points to a terrorism threat that has grown for many Western nations despite a second decade in which counterterrorism has dominated national security discourse . These trends are, to varying degrees, products of both the effectiveness of propaganda produced by groups like so-called Islamic State (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the failings of counterterrorism strategic communications efforts. This study analyses how ISIS’s propaganda seeks to appeal to and mobilise Western Muslims via its English language magazine Dabiq with reference to AQAP’s Inspire for comparative purposes. It examines narrative trends, how rational-choice (i.e. decisions based on a cost-benefit consideration of options, also referred to as pragmatic-choice) and identity-choice (i.e. decisions based on one’s identity) messaging is prioritised as well as the intra-messaging strategies and levers used to appeal to audiences. Based on this analysis, this paper concludes by drawing out some lessons for counterterrorism strategic communications.