Framing Daesh: Failures and Consequences

Benjamin Smith, Andrea Figueroa-Caballero, Samantha Chan, Robert Kovacs, Erinn Middo, Lauren Nelson, Richard Palacios, Supriya Yelimeli, Michael Stohl


The actual structures and motivations of terrorist organizations like Daesh (aka. IS, ISIS, ISIL) are often invisible to the general public, and given their clandestine nature, often opaque to all external actors (including governments, militaries, and others). For the general public, the ‘picture’ of terrorism and terrorist organizations is often painted by the media, with media framing having a direct influence on the American public’s understanding of the global terrorist threat, and in turn on the policies and actions the public expects and wants in response. We argue that the central disconnect between the preferences of the American public and the actions of the current administration – a disconnect that we argue did not exist in relation to al Qaeda – can in part be explained by media framing of Daesh. We compare media representations of Daesh, and al Qaeda, with a specific focus on the time period between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2014 and find that Daesh has been framed as an existential threat, derivative of its framing as a singularly motivated militaristic group. Because of this framing, there is an inherent disconnect between public perceptions of the threat posed by Daesh and the response to Daesh being pursued by the Administration.

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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