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Differentiating Act from Ideology: Evidence from Messages For and Against Violent Extremism

Negotiation and Conflict Management ResearchJournal abstract

Although researchers know a great deal about persuasive messages that encourage terrorism, they know far less about persuasive messages that denounce terrorism and little about how these two sides come together. We propose a conceptualization that distinguishes a message’s support for an act from its support for the ideology underlying an act. Our prediction is tested using corpus-linguistic analysis of 250 counter-extremist messages written by Muslims and U.K. officials and a comparison set of 250 Muslim extremist messages. Consistent with our prediction, Muslim extremist and Muslim counter-messages show disagreement on terrorist actions but agreement in ideological aspects, while U.K. officials’ counter-messages show disagreement with both Muslim extremists’ acts and ideology. Our findings suggest that counter-messages should not be viewed as a homogenous group and that being against violent extremism does not necessarily equate to having positive perceptions of Western values.