A TERRORIST STORY IN THREE ACTS: DABIQ, RUMIYAH, AND THE HERO'S JOURNEY
Capece, Alexander G.
Johnson, Thomas H.
Dahl, Erik J.
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Terror does not win with strategic victories; rather, terror is in itself a strategy that can win only through the projection of a narrative and its associated stories. A successful story is compelling, powerful, and resonates with a target audience. Thus: If it is terrorism we are combating, it is story we must understand first. As a fundamental framework of storytelling and mythology, the Hero’s Journey provides an analytical structure to evaluate the direction in which the Islamic State (IS) moved its narrative after significant organizational life events. This thesis examines the effect of losing physical territory (i.e., cities as strongholds they once occupied) upon the IS narrative. Using the stages of the Hero's Journey, qualitative content analysis was performed on the Islamist extremist print magazines Dabiq and Rumiyah. After identifying categories of narrative intent, data analysis demonstrates a significant narrative shift along the spectrum of organizational goals. With a more in-depth understanding of this storytelling ebb and flow at the time of any given publication, countries battling this brand of extremism throughout the world may now create counter-narrative and counter-messaging strategies on the fly—by telling the "better story." Further research may demonstrate the value of content analysis within the Hero’s Journey framework to determine a similar organization's current level of stability, using media publications in the present or future.
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