Boston Bombings: Rumor, Conspiracy, Denial

By Chris Lundry It has been over a week since the grisly bombing at the Boston Marathon, and with one perpetrator killed and another captured, analysts are now searching for the “why” and “how” answers. How did a seemingly well-adjusted young man fall under the influence of his brother and deign to commit such an act? Are others involved? Are there ties to a larger group in the US or abroad? Although some of these […] Read more »

NATO’s Narrative Vacuum

by Steven R. Corman Last month, James Appathurai, NATO’s Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy,  agreed to participate in an electronic Q&A sponsored by the Atlantic Community.  He answered 20 questions in four installments, on global partnerships and the Arab spring, partnerships in Asia, questions on Central Asia/Caucasus, and the NATO mission.  The latter includes an item on the NATO narrative that illustrates the large challenge the alliance faces in filling […] Read more »

Bin Laden Worried about Impact of Muslim Killings on AQ Brand

by Steven R. Corman In previous posts I have advocated amplifying al-Qaeda’s record of killing Muslims, and argued this practice was doing serious damage toAQ’s brand.  Captured documents from bin Laden’s compound indicate that he was worried about the same thing. Last week David Ignatius of the Washington Post wrote a story based on his “exclusive look” at those documents.  The headline was about bin Laden’s supposed plot to kill President Obama.  But later in […] Read more »

Contesting New Media: Indonesia vs. the Muslim World League

By Mark Woodward and Inayah Rohmaniyah* Earlier this month (December 13-15) we were privileged to participate in a “The 2nd International Conference on Islamic Media” sponsored by the Saudi sponsored Muslim World League (MWL, Rabita al-Alam al-Islami) and the Indonesian Ministry of Religion in Jakarta Indonesia.  Tension between the co-sponsors was evident in the selection of participants, the themes of formal presentations and in social interaction over the course of the conference. Differing perspectives on […] Read more »

Ten Years Later, Our Narrative Remains Murky to Afghans

by Steven R. Corman Last Friday the always-excellent PBS Newshour ran a story that left me floored.  It featured interviews with several ordinary Afghans who were handed pictures of the 9/11 World Trade Center attack. Of a dozen or so people asked, only one man (a police chief in Marjah) knew the story behind the pictures. All but one person said they had never seen the pictures before and did not know what they represented. […] Read more »

Implicit Master Narratives in Extremist Website Launch

by Jeffry R. Halverson If you’ve read our book Master Narratives of Islamist Extremism then you already have a solid understanding of the major master narratives employed by Islamist extremists in their communications. For example, you’re able to recognize the significance of a Pharaoh reference when an extremist is condemning a world leader. Or you’re able to see the apocalyptic scheme articulated in Ahmadinejad’s praise of the “Lord of the Age” (which is not a […] Read more »

With bin Laden Dead Let’s Kill the Binary Narrative

by Scott Ruston As details pour in regarding this past weekend’s daring raid in which U.S. Navy SEALs  killed elusive al-Qaeda leader and world’s most wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden, the exact details of the events keep changing slightly. The New York Times titled an article covering a recent revision to the sequence of events and details about the operation as “White House Corrects Bin Laden Narrative”. I would argue, however, the “Bin Laden Narrative” […] Read more »

Democracy, God, the People, and the Pharaoh: A Master Narrative’s Work is Never Done

by Bud Goodall The Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia last week beget further democracy uprisings in Egypt and Yemen this week, as well as protests in Jordan and Mauritania.  If the protesters are finally successful in Egypt and President Hosni Mubarak is forced out, this eruption of game-changing scenarios inspired by deep conflicts between the people and their leaders, and enabled by the velocity and spread of social media, poses a whole new set of communication […] Read more »

State’s Digital Outreach Team May Do More Harm Than Good

by Cameron Bean Since November of 2006, the State Department has taken its public diplomacy efforts into the online arena of Arabic, Urdu, and Persian discussion boards. Heading this effort is the Digital Outreach Team (DOT). According to DOT member Muath Alsufy, the initiative began after the realization that “there was a lot of misinformation about the US, mainly foreign policies, and there was a void… no source on these forums and blogs that would […] Read more »

Park51 Imagery and the Rhetoric of Contested Space

by Lisa Braverman A couple of weeks ago as I skimmed the news, I saw the freshly-released images of the Park51 Community Center (colloquially known as the “Ground Zero Mosque”). In the same sitting, I also performed my semi-regular check of a former professor’s co-authored blog, No Caption Needed. Perusing the two in such short succession inspired reflection on the nature of the image in strategic communication – and more specifically, the nature of the […] Read more »