Airwaves and microblogs: a statistical analysis of al-Shabaab’s propaganda effectiveness
Sikorski, Timothy A.
Robinson, Glenn E.
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Al-Shabaab poses a persistent threat in the Horn of Africa, able to mount spectacular transnational attacks such as the siege on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya in 2013 and twin suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda in 2010. Particularly worrying for Western governments is the group’s merger with al-Qaeda, combined with its ability to recruit fighters from Europe and North America. al-Shabaab’s extensive use of propaganda to gain recruits and external support has been well documented. Most studies of al-Shabaab’s propaganda activities are centered on techniques, mediums and themes, with little focus on effectiveness. This study seeks to determine the effectiveness of al-Shabaab’s propaganda by quantitatively evaluating the relationship between propaganda and behaviors linked to the strategic effects sought by al-Shabaab. Statistical analysis is used to determine the significant relationships between al-Shabaab propaganda, target audience behaviors, and desired effects. Results demonstrate that al-Shabaab’s propaganda is statistically ineffective at achieving the desired effect. This research recommends a strategy to counter al-Shabaab propaganda focused on disruption of al-Shabaab’s message dissemination, providing a credible alternative to the group’s propaganda, and highlighting discrepancies between al-Shabaab’s propaganda and the group’s actions.
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