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Twenty First Annual TISS New Faces Conference

October 23, 2020 | 9:00 am - 4:00 pm


Advanced graduate students in the security studies field will present their research and engage in conversation with the TISS Community. Advanced Registration Required. Presenters include Gregoire Phillips (University of California at Davis), Velvet Gloves on Iron Fists: Media, Persuasion, and Power in Modern Extremism. More information and register.


How do rebels gain and maintain local support while also engaging in costly war? In this dissertation, I argue that rebels leverage the influence and reach of modern media to translate hearts and minds into guns and butter. I test this theory on the media of the most geographically prolific and militarily successful rebel group of our time: the Islamic State. Combining an expansive dataset on Islamic State media (Walter & Phillips 2019; Mitts, Phillips, & Walter 2020) with micro-level data on the dynamics of conflict on the ground, I show how the group’s media strategy shifted toward governance in response to changing opportunities for civilian support as they pushed for greater control of urban areas – and particularly those inhabited by co-sectarians with a history of violent state oppression. Furthermore, these changes extended beyond the portrayal of goods and service provision – shifting the group’s depiction of violence, a well-known feature of Islamic State media, away from brutality toward foreign and government opposition and toward portrayals of civilian punishment for rebellion or transgressions against the group. I then compare these results with an empirical assessment of two other groups – Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham in Syria, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – to demonstrate the potential generalizability (and potential empirical limitations) of applying this theoretical framework beyond groups like the Islamic State.


Sponsored by the Triangle Institute for Security Studies.



October 23, 2020
9:00 am - 4:00 pm
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