Reconceptualizing Radicalized Groups and Their Messages

Authored by:
Paul Lieber, Yael Lieber
Published on 10/1/2017
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In this JSOU Press occasional paper Dr. Paul Lieber and Dr. Yael Lieber explore alternative approaches for Special Operations Forces (SOF) to engage with radicalized groups through comprehensive engagement in the narrative space to defeat the effects of ISIS in the psychological and sociological aspects of the human domain. Rethinking this problem from a joint social psychology—notably realistic conflict theory (RCT)—and social network analysis approach can yield unprecedented insights on the inner workings of radicalized groups and their penchant for political violence. The authors explore conflict theory through the lens of the Robbers' Cave experiment conducted by Muzafer Sherif. The authors posit that in general, radicalization, and hopefully de-radicalization, may be said to follow a similar process whereby groups that are culturally, religiously, and/or racially diverse perceive each other as in competition for scarce resources such as employment, housing, education, and benefits--in-groups and out-groups. This paper continues with an analysis of the roles that are essential to promulgating and sustaining message influence within an in-group social network—group communication norms. Within these pages are tremendous insights, relevant to the SOF community, on ways to rethink counter-radicalization efforts.