OUT, OUT—THE ROLE OF MESSAGING IN COUNTERING DOMESTIC VIOLENT EXTREMISM
Roberts, Kathryn M.
Hafez, Mohammed M.
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Countering the radical Islamist narrative remains a high-profile priority of the United States in its ongoing efforts to counter domestic violent extremism. Since mid-2014, government officials have condemned the United States as unable to muster a satisfactory “counter-narrative,” and emphasize the potentially devastating consequences of failure. Experts inside and outside the government describe the Islamic State as masters of the internet capable of reaching into the United States and turning its people into hate-filled, violently inspired terrorists at will. The idea that the United States must aggressively work to counter these messages domestically remains a given; but should it? The focus of this thesis is to examine current U.S. efforts in counter-messaging to determine why the United States believes it is failing, and what, if any, evidence supports the idea that a counter-narrative or counter-messaging should be part of domestic countering violent extremism (CVE) programs. Review of official documents found little basis to assess U.S. programs, as no meaningful published strategy, objectives, or performance data exist for current efforts. Moreover, the foundational assumptions underlying current programs suggest malalignment between what U.S. officials desire a counter-messaging effort to accomplish and what is realistically achievable. Based on these findings, it is recommended that domestic CVE programs eliminate counter-messaging from their portfolio.
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