Media Persuasion in the Islamic State

Neil Krishan Aggarwal

Columbia University Press

Media Persuasion in the Islamic State

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Pub Date: March 2019

ISBN: 9780231182386

264 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $65.00£50.00

Pub Date: March 2019

ISBN: 9780231544122

264 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $64.99£50.00

Media Persuasion in the Islamic State

Neil Krishan Aggarwal

Columbia University Press

Since the declaration of the War on Terror in 2001, militant groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have used the Internet to disseminate their message and persuade people to violence. While many books have studied their operational strategies and battlefield tactics, Media Persuasion in the Islamic State is the first to analyze the culture and psychology of militant persuasion.

Drawing upon decades of research in cultural psychiatry, cultural psychology, and psychiatric anthropology, Neil Krishan Aggarwal investigates how the Islamic State has convinced people to engage in violence since its founding in 2003. Through analysis of hundreds of articles, speeches, videos, songs, and bureaucratic documents in English and Arabic, the book traces how the jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi created a new culture and psychology, one that would pit Sunni Muslims against all others after the U.S.-led invasion. Aggarwal tracks how Osama bin Laden and al-Zarqawi disagreed over the goal of militancy in jihad before reaching a détente in 2004 and how al-Qaeda in Iraq merged with five other groups to diffuse its militant cultural identity in 2006 before taking advantage of the Syrian civil war to emerge as the Islamic State. Aggarwal offers a definitive analysis of how culture is created, debated, and disseminated within militant organizations like the Islamic State. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and area-studies experts will find a comprehensive, systematic method for analyzing culture and psychology so they can partner with political scientists, policy makers, and counterterrorism experts in crafting counter-messaging strategies against militants.
Aggarwal creates a complete and engaging analysis of the material, providing a wealth of diverse academic theory and making a series of innovative and intriguing links between the functioning of terrorist organizations and nonterroristic counterparts. He brings a unique perspective to the area and expertise that allows him to understand and investigate the role that the materials play in a more nuanced and theoretical manner. John Voll, Georgetown University
How do jihadis persuade faraway followers to kill in their name? Aggarwal provides a detailed exploration of jihadi discourse to explain how adherents disrupt their audience's thoughts and emotions to promote violence. A definitive analysis of terrorists' psychology of persuasion. Jessica Stern, author of Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill
Rarely does a body of scholarship navigate the academic, practitioner, and current conversation on transnational terrorism. With careful and meticulous content analysis using primary sources, Aggarwal offers insights utilizing his professional expertise as a clinical psychiatrist and his deep understanding of terrorist movements. Readers will be rewarded with an intellectual journey that offers fresh perspectives and insights that will aid policy observers in this field globally. Muhammad Fraser-Rahim, executive director, Quilliam Foundation
Aggarwal’s book fills a major gap in our understanding of the Islamic State and its appeal. His exploration of media from IS's predecessor groups from a cultural and psychological approach provides an important distillation that highlights how it has also evolved and changed over time, helping better contextualize where the group is today. Aaron Y. Zelin, Richard Borow Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy
There is no doubt that the media in its broadest form plays a role in informing, educating, and teaching us about ‘the other’—and at times pandering to our prejudices. Neil Aggarwal analyzes the way media can be and is often used and manipulated, while highlighting cultural factors that play a major role in a number of ways. He has begun a dialogue in careful, thought-provoking style. Dinesh Bhugra, emeritus professor, Kings College, London

About the Author

Neil Krishan Aggarwal is an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, a cultural psychiatrist in private practice, and a research psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. He is also the author of the Columbia University Press books Mental Health in the War on Terror: Culture, Science, and Statecraft (2015) and The Taliban’s Virtual Emirate: The Culture and Psychology of an Online Militant Community (2016).