Strategic Narratives and the Public

Extra credit Question:  Are “strategic narratives” something everyday publics can control or shape? Do publics, in a sense, “matter” more to the idea that strategic narratives get international actors to change their behavior or “see the world” differently? Why? 

After I wrote my blog last week, I came across a post from Vox about  the “Not in my name” campaign that challenged my thinking about what I wrote last week. It made me want to clarify some things with regard to strategic narratives and I’m glad this gives me the opportunity to do just that.

I had written that the message needs to come from other Muslims or else it won’t be credible. I had written this thinking that other faiths would be considered “infidels” and not versed in scripture and thus not credible.

I still think this is true. However, upon reading a few other articles and reading this proposed blog post question, I think this is a topic worthy of clarification.

Some have said that Muslims should ALL be speaking out because they as a whole could help the strategic narrative and as this question poses “get international actors to change their behavior or see the world differently.” However, is expecting someone to denounce something because of their faith inherently bigoted? I think it is if we are talking about blanket expectations based on religion or ethnicity.

In an article, Vox news highlighted a conversation between Chuck Todd and the author of the book “Who Speaks for Islam,” Dalia Mogahed, about the issue of anti-Islamic sentiment in the U.S as well as the expectation that Muslim leaders speak out after terrorist events.

Her interview is worth watching because she has some interesting points about how anti-Islamic sentiment aligns with the presidential elections and lead-up to the Iraq war. But she also, rightfully so, says that no one would expect any other ethnicity to denounce something that is inherently abhorrent to human beings. It would just be understood that it is horrendous to all people.

Still, I do think credible voices can have a positive influence when their voices are amplified.

Dovetailing on that logic, British teen Kash Ali saw his tweet go viral when he wrote:

“I don’t understand why non muslims think we British Muslims can stop isis. Mate I can’t even get a text back from a girl I like and you expect me to stop a terrorist organization. Ffs.”

His tweet was retweeted by members of parliament, J.K. Rowling and Stephen King.

It’s a hilarious tweet. However, I also think it demonstrates both sides of the coin. On one hand, I do think it helped shed light on the subtle bigotry of expecting Muslims to fight the ideology of what most reasonable people would call a cult. On the flip side, his tweet also shows how social media in the hands of the public can work to reverse a flawed strategic narrative. So in conclusion, I think both are possibilities. Again, I think a lot depends on the receptiveness of the receiving parties.


2 thoughts on “Strategic Narratives and the Public

  1. asvathababu

    Melissa, I am glad that you have brought up this issue of Muslims addressing the issue of terrorism. I agree with you that on the surface, it seems key to give credibility to the message against terrorism. However, I also have doubts about the effectiveness of such a tactic. In one of my earlier blog posts, I had written that Muslim clerics are an underrated tool in the fight against terrorism. But I now realize that there are way more intricate issues at stake.

    Your post also reminds me of this tweet that went viral –


    1. mmyeager

      That tweet is hilarious. And I completely agree–we need to be careful when we talk about “credible voices” that we’re not conflating that with blanket stereotypes about the expected actions of peaceful Muslims. I see it as similar to people telling me because I am from Kansas I should condemn the Westboro Baptist Church. Well, duh. Of course everyone things what WBC does is abhorrent. Speaking of which–the New Yorker had a phenomenal article about how twitter caused one of the daughters, Megan Roper Phelps, to leave the church. Might be some lessons for strategic narratives against extremist grouops here as well.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s