Who’s winning on the digital battlefield?

May 7, 2017

On the eve of the French presidential elections, there’s a sudden flurry of activity on social media. A candidate’s name – #Macron – is trending on Twitter. So what’s the news? A large stash of Emmanuel Macron’s private emails have been hacked and leaked online. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s happened exactly like this before. … Read more

Images of Islam: How fake news drives public opinion about Muslims

April 29, 2017

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” – George Orwell Through misinformation to political change Misinformation about Muslims (including refugees, immigrants and ordinary citizens) has been used to construct harmful narratives, reinforce existing Islamophobia and, arguably, create a fertile environment for enacting profound social and political change. Although the role … Read more

Bored of selective outrage

March 19, 2017

When I first heard the news about yesterday’s incident at Orly Airport in Paris, my first thought was ‘I hope he’s not Muslim’. I’m not Muslim. So why do I care? Because I’m bored of the constant stream of outrage. I dislike how people on Twitter and Facebook revel in lambasting all Muslims because of … Read more

Inciting the Interwebs: A short history of ISIS propaganda

March 5, 2017

ISIS is becoming old news these days. Recent coverage of the group talks about reclaiming its territory, freeing its captives, or the implications of its dwindling supply of funds. One gets the impression that the group’s very survival is now on the line. To an extent, ISIS has lost some of its former potency. Written … Read more

Book review: Islamic State, the Digital Caliphate

February 19, 2017

The digital world has been a central feature of the Islamic State’s rise to power, driving much of its recruitment as well as building and maintaining its fearsome image. But the strategy behind the mastery has remained mysterious. Islamic State (ISIS) keeps its operations hidden, to leverage the power of surprise and create a sense … Read more

Shifting realities: The art of propaganda

February 5, 2017

“Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.” – Noam Chomsky Edward Bernays, who some call the ‘father of propaganda’, had an approach to PR that was ground-breaking in his time. He didn’t just try to push the features of a product or an idea, as so many ad-men were … Read more

From mosques to swastikas: Images of terrorism

February 3, 2017

In November 2016 the terrorist Thomas Mair was sentenced to life in prison for the politically-motivated murder of Jo Cox, MP. Many news outlets featuring headlines about the verdict chose to place quote marks around the word ‘terrorist’. Other terms used in the media to describe Mair included ‘deranged white supremacist’, ‘far-right fanatic’, and ‘neo-Nazi’. … Read more

Fearful milieux: Perceptions of Islam in an age of Trump

January 30, 2017

Muslims living and working in the United States are being forced to reconsider their futures in light of Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, announced this week. Citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Somalia will be denied entry for 90 days while the new Trump administration “tightens” already draconian visa laws. … Read more

Arabic update, two classes later

January 26, 2017

It’s been a week now since I started my course in Syrian Arabic on Italki. At first I was sceptical about learning with an online tutor, but after just two classes I’m convinced it’s an excellent method. I’ve learned more vocabulary and grammar than I did in attending 10 weeks of in-person group evening classes, … Read more

Ranking CVE effectiveness around the world

January 17, 2017

Ranking countries and cities on their various merits is a familiar concept to practitioners of place branding. Can this approach be used to rank the effectiveness of global CVE efforts? Many rankings have been created assessing everything from a nation’s dollar brand value to the level of good deeds it contributes to the world as … Read more

Nuanced communities: Mapping ISIS support on Twitter

January 17, 2017

As every content marketer knows, creating resonant narratives requires intimate knowledge of the audience in question. Nowhere is this more true than in attempts to counter the potent messaging of ISIS. The terrorist group is infamous for its ability to attract recruits from across the world to commit violence in the name of the ‘caliphate.’ … Read more

Book review: Propaganda and Counter-terrorism

January 15, 2017

First published in 2015, Emma Briant’s book Propaganda and Counter-terrorism has gained relevance in recent months, as the world comes to terms with the power of propaganda to propel dramatic social and political changes. At the time of writing, there are just days left before Donald Trump enters the White House, amid a furore of fake … Read more

Tackling Levantine Arabic

January 14, 2017

New challenge for 2017: Arabic! Today I’ve scheduled two trial Arabic lessons on Skype, with teachers I found using the iTalki website. The classes are going to focus on the Levantine dialect, which I feel would be the most useful for the work I eventually hope to do. I’m still a beginner but not completely … Read more

Istanbul: Next target in ISIS narrative

January 2, 2017

The Reina nightclub shooting, which killed 39 and injured over 40 during the early hours of New Year’s Day, is the first attack on civilians in Turkey that ISIS has officially claimed. The gunman remains on the run at the time of writing. Mass attacks on civilians have become an ISIS hallmark. In Turkey, the … Read more

Retrospective on loss

December 29, 2016

“What’s past is prologue.”  – William Shakespeare, The Tempest It was a strangely warm winter’s day while reflecting on the cold, dismal year just past. In a year bookended by this city, the enjoyment of being here can’t quite blot out memories of what happened in the middle. Loss has defined 2016; loss of people, … Read more

After Berlin, can Germany resist hate?

December 22, 2016

In Berlin just before Christmas, twelve people were killed and dozens injured in another terrorist attack. The attacker drove a truck into a busy Christmas market, targeting shoppers and bystanders, ploughing his hijacked vehicle into the crowds in much the same way as the Bastille Day attack in Nice. ISIS was quick to claim that … Read more

Fake armies: A field guide to astroturfing

December 10, 2016

“There are invisible rulers who control the destinies of millions.” ― Edward L. Bernays It sounds so Orwellian; the world’s opinions shaped by vast armies of bots, or by paid groups of teenagers in Macedonia. But far from being a 1984 nightmare come to life, this scenario has become reality; and not just in authoritarian … Read more

Teeth and claws

November 4, 2016

Cloudy weather allows for clearer thinking, so it is said, while sunshine ‘dulls the mind’ to risk and thoughtfulness’. If that’s truly the case, my thoughts should have been crystal during these last months. But mostly, they are full of constant musings on what a wild place the world has become. There are four days … Read more

Book review: Old and New Terrorism

October 31, 2016

“The new terrorism cannot be understood without making sense of the dynamics caused by late modernity and globalisation” – Dr Peter R. Neumann To better understand terrorism I knew I needed a basic knowledge of its underpinnings. Not just the ‘Islamist’ terrorism that we hear so much about these days, but all kinds of terrorism … Read more

Rise of nerves

October 21, 2016

I’d never really thought much about violent extremism before 2001, when images of the collapsing Twin Towers filled TV screens around the world. I was just a naive 18 year old asking my father if the world was ending.  He assured me it wasn’t, but I still remember how alarmed he looked. The world didn’t … Read more

All’s not right with the alt-right

October 21, 2016

The rise of Islamic radicalisation has been mirrored by the rise of extreme right-wing groups, or the so-called “alt-right”. The media focuses heavily on the former, but tends to neglect the latter. They are both part of the same cycle of fear, therefore deserve equal attention and analysis. What is the alt-right? The alt-right movement … Read more