The Strategic Logic of Islamic State Information Operations

Australian Journal of International Affairs

Author/s (editor/s):

Haroro J. Ingram

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:
Taylor & Francis

Published in Australian Journal of International Affairs, 69(6) 2015: 729-52.

Drawing on English and Arabic Islamic State (IS) communiqués produced by its central media units, wilayat information offices and broader supporter base, this study examines the strategic logic of IS information operations (IO). It argues that the overarching purpose of IS’s IO campaign is to shape the perceptions and polarise the support of audiences via messages that interweave appeals to pragmatic and perceptual factors. Pragmatic factors—such as security, stability and livelihood—are leveraged in IS messaging by promoting the efficacy of its politico-military campaign and denigrating its enemies’ efforts via rational-choice (logic of consequence) appeals. Perceptual factors—which are tied to the interplay of in-group, Other, crisis and solution constructs—are leveraged via identity-choice (logic of appropriateness) appeals that frame IS as the champion of Sunni Muslims (the in-group identity), its enemies as Others complicit in Sunni perceptions of crisis, and IS as the only hope for solving this malaise. With this approach, IS seeks to resonate its message across a diverse ‘glocal’ constituency and supercharge supporters towards action. IS simultaneously targets its enemies with messaging that manipulates the inherent dualities underlying perceptual and pragmatic factors, vigorously counters criticisms and ‘baits’ opponents into ill-conceived IO responses.

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