Rebels without a cause? “Rebel lifestyle” and recruitment: an analysis of Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and the Dutch jihadist constituency.
Schootbrugge, M. van de
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In this thesis, I analyse the role of “rebel lifestyle” as a pull-factor in radicalisation and recruitment, guided by the question: “To what extent does rebel lifestyle play a role in propaganda distributed by contemporary terrorist organisations, and in the behaviour and radicalisation processes of their (potential) recruits?”. Through a historical perspective, constructed by an analysis of West-German New Left movements (1965-1975), I design an analytical framework to apply to the recruitment strategies of contemporary terrorist organisations and aligned local networks. This analytical framework helps to identify the symbolic value terrorist organisations and their followers have assigned to branding themselves as rebels that reject the social, cultural, or political conventions of the societies in which they live. The research focuses on the interaction between jihadist terrorist organisations and their constituencies through propaganda. I expect that lifestyle will play a more important role in these dynamics than has hitherto been acknowledged in academia. The analysis is twofold: on the one hand, I analyse the ways in which terrorist organisations have constructed an attractive image of themselves and their lifestyle to encourage targeted recruits to join them. An analysis of the propaganda published by Al-Qaeda and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is central to this part of the thesis. On the other, I analyse the extent to which lifestyle appeared relevant among the constituency of these groups. Since a lot of the more recent propaganda is targeted at potential supporters in western diasporas, I have analysed two local networks from The Netherlands to this end: De Hofstadgroup and De Waarheid. The case studies point out that an idea of rebel lifestyle, rooted in a broader discourse of heroism, brotherhood, and adventure, played a significant role in the propaganda of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and in the behaviour of Dutch jihadists that desired to identify with these groups.