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Normalisation Campaigns do not Prevent Radical Online Cultures: Avoid the Pitfalls of Counter-Narratives

Propaganda

Courtesy Lord Jim/Flickr. CC BY 2.0

This article was originally published by the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) on 10 November 2016.

Recommendations

  • Only use counter-narratives when objectives, target groups, and success criteria from the start can be described precisely and in detail
  • Do not base counter-narratives on the notion that it is possible to describe ‘facts’ about reality, but instead address feelings, dreams, and opinions that youths can relate to
  • Do not use campaigns that promote normality as a positive alternative to radicalism

Counter-narratives and campaigns promoting normality, are often highlighted as universal means against online propaganda from militant movements. However, such campaigns are driven by a number of unfortunate assumptions and are difficult to apply in practice.

We often turn to information campaigns to inform and instruct the general population. Such campaigns are also pointed to as possible tools, to combat radical and militant counter-cultures on the internet. However, reaching broad segments of the population is one thing. It is more challenging, to direct communication at a smaller audience, which cannot immediately be identified and defined, such as vulnerable youths, radicalised individuals, ideological deviants, violent extremists, foreign fighters, etc.

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To the Victors Go the Foils

Graffiti showing a ballot box

Many countries are holding elections in 2012, but governments are struggling to keep up with their peoples' expectations (Photo: david drexler/flickr)

NEW YORK – A surprising number of elections and political transitions is scheduled to occur over the coming months. An incomplete list includes Russia, China, France, the United States, Egypt, Mexico, and South Korea.

At first glance, these countries have little in common. Some are well-established democracies; some are authoritarian systems; and others are somewhere in between. Yet, for all of their differences, these governments – and the individuals who will lead them – face many of the same challenges. Three stand out.

The first is that no country is entirely its own master. In today’s world, no country enjoys total autonomy or independence. To one degree or another, all depend on access to foreign markets to sell their manufactured goods, agricultural products, resources, or services – or to supply them. None can eliminate economic competition with others over access to third-country markets. Many countries require capital inflows to finance investment or official debt. Global supply and demand largely set oil and gas prices. Economic interdependence and the vulnerability associated with it is an inescapable fact of contemporary life. » More

Pirating Lessons

A pirate flag

Full speed ahead. Photo: Scott Vandehey/flickr.

Nomen est omen; the pirates have taken Berlin by storm. Although SPD’s Klaus Wowereit was comfortably re-elected as Berlin’s mayor, the strong showing of Germany’s newest addition to a state parliament has taken many by surprise. The pirate party, dedicated to free information and privacy protection, has won 8.9% of the votes. By comparison, the FDP – a junior partner in Angela Merkel’s government – has been completely kicked out.

Though concerned about the results, most established parties shrug the events off as a form of political protest, and describe the party as anything from ‘non-serious’ to ‘meaningless’. Unfortunately, they’re missing what Berlin’s youth has been trying to say.

Freedom of information and privacy issues on the net affect many voters directly. For a long time, Germany’s elite has been ignoring the important role of the internet in many of its citizens’ lives. When they finally touched upon the issue, it made ‘Generation Net’ worry even more. To internet activists, the prospects of telecommunications data retention felt like a 2.0 version of 1984.

Of course some of the party’s demands seem extreme, and their leaders still have to prove that they are committed to playing a constructive role in day-to-day politics. But whatever the future holds: instead of belittling the pirates, the bigger parties had better work out their own positions on a complex issue that concerns far more than 8.9% of the electorate.

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Filtering the ISN to fit your needs – Find Information

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With over thirty thousand content objects in a variety of formats, the ISN holds a vast repository of data on international security research. But how do find what you’re looking for?

To enable you to locate articles, publications or podcasts for your specific area of interest, the ISN provides a filtering tool called “Find information”. The “Find information” box is located on the top right of the ISN website. First, select the most important criterion for your research, either subject or region. After clicking on your item of choice, you are presented with the topmost level of region or subject matter. To narrow down your research area, you can choose a more focused region in the tree view in the left pane. In the example below, we first chose “Africa” as a region and then narrowed the search to “Southern Africa”.

Easily filter by regions

Define the main criteria for your search and easily enhance the filtering.

You could also narrow down the region even further. e.g. by choosing Angola or Comoros, but we will leave this for now and turn to the second filtering option, by subject. The subject tree is right above the region tree in the left pane. Clicking on a subject now will add this filter to the already selected region. » More

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