Stage 3
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English
Talk
Advanced
The Islamic State - Terrorism and Influence

Short thesis


Based on a unique archive containing tens of thousands of pieces of official Islamic State propaganda, this session offers a direct lens into the core of the global threat from jihadist terrorism today. It tracks the evolution of the group's propaganda between its 2014 zenith and 2018 nadir, shedding light on why more than 40,000 foreigners joined it in its early years, how it used propaganda to navigate through territorial defeat in places like Mosul and Raqqa, and what its future holds in store in terms of international security and regional (in)stability.

Description

This session, which is based on a longitudinal archive of primary source materials collected since early 2014, will set out the current state of play regarding the Islamic State.

First of all, by reverse engineering documents and publications leaked from the organisation in Iraq, Winter will set out the tactical and strategic rationale behind the group's propaganda operations, demonstrating how an obsessive desire for information and narrative supremacy has coursed through it and its predecessors' veins for a matter of decades.

After this, Winter will identify and discuss the three core objectives of its communication operations today - that is: (1) to present an alternative narrative to current members and would-be recruits; (2) to counter the global "fake news" agenda, which it considers to be a deliberate intellectual offensive against Sunni Muslims; and (3) to launch Islamic State "information bombs" in the form of offensive psychological attacks against populations and governments outside of Syria and Iraq.

The third section will consider how things have changed since 2014. Using data to track its evolution, Winter will demonstrate how the group's "virtual caliphate" has altered since its heyday a few years ago. He will also take this as an opportunity speculate as to its operational trajectory in the coming months and years, taking note of its new stated priority: to incite, instruct and instigate acts of violence outside of its immediate sphere of operations in Syria and Iraq. 

Throughout the session, which will be highly visual, Winter will engage with some of the toughest questions associated with terrorist use of the Internet, ranging from the merits (and demerits) of censorship to the implications of encryption technology. 

Speakers