Understanding master narratives can be the difference between analytic anticipation and unwanted surprise, as well as the difference between communications successes and messaging gaffes. Master narratives are the historically grounded stories that reflect a community’s identity and experiences, or explain its hopes, aspirations, and concerns. These narratives help groups understand who they are and where they come from, and how to make sense of unfolding developments around them. As they do in all countries, effective communicators in Afghanistan invoke master narratives in order to move audiences in a preferred direction. Afghan influencers rely on their native familiarity with these master narratives to use them effectively. This task is considerably more challenging for US communicators and analysts because they must place themselves in the mindset of foreign audiences who believe stories that — from an American vantage point — may appear surprising, conspiratorial, or even outlandish.
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An Open Source Center translation of a decree issued by Hamid Karzai in July 2012 on fighting corruption in Afghanistan.
August 24, 2012 in Open Source Center
An autonomous or federal Kurdistan within Syria — similar to that which exists in Iraq — is unlikely because of intra-Kurdish conflict and the opposition of Turkey and the Syrian National Council (SNC) — the main external Syrian opposition group.
Understanding master narratives can be the difference between analytic anticipation and unwanted surprise, as well as the difference between communications successes and messaging gaffes. Master narratives are the historically grounded stories that reflect a community’s identity and experiences, or explain its hopes, aspirations, and concerns. These narratives help groups understand who they are and where they come from, and how to make sense of unfolding developments around them. As they do in all countries, effective communicators in Syria invoke master narratives in order to move audiences in a preferred direction. Syrian influencers rely on their native familiarity with these master narratives to use them effectively. This task is considerably more challenging for US communicators and analysts because they must place themselves in the mindset of foreign audiences who believe stories that — from an American vantage point — may appear surprising, conspiratorial, or even outlandish.
June 12, 2012 in Open Source Center
This report is focused on helping US communicators and analysts better identify opportunities to undermine AQ messaging. With this in mind, the report analyzes how AQ portrays itself and its objectives to the public through statements and multimedia releases – the messaging used to attract recruits, build public sympathy, and undermine adversaries such as the United States. Research for this analysis included AQ messaging dating back to 2000, with particular attention paid to recent messaging from 2009-2011. In addition to primary sources and open source research, interviews with 25 SMEs were used to surface master narratives, test hypotheses, and validate assertions. These SMEs were asked a combination of expansive, open-ended questions designed to surface new hypotheses as well as targeted questions designed to verify assertions. Combining these interviews with open source research, this report highlights how each master narrative reflects perceived history, themes, and objectives that are central to AQ’s public identity. Each of these master narratives appear with varied frequency across AQ messaging and propaganda, and collectively they represent a unified narrative system used by AQ and affiliate communicators.
This report serves as a resource for addressing this challenge in two ways. First, it surfaces a set of nine master narratives carefully selected based on their potency in the context of France’s Muslim communities, and their relevance to US strategic interests. Second, this report follows a consistent structure for articulating these narratives and explicitly identifies initial implications for US communicators and analysts. The set outlined here is not exhaustive: these nine master narratives represent a first step that communicators and analysts can efficiently apply to the specific messaging need or analytic question at hand. For seasoned experts on French Muslim communities, these narratives will already be familiar — the content contained in this report can be used to help check assumptions, surface tacit knowledge, and aid customer communications. For newcomers to European Islam accounts, these narratives offer deep insights into the stories and perceptions that shape French Muslim identity and worldviews that may otherwise take years to accumulate.
Understanding master narratives can be the difference between analytic anticipation and unwanted surprise, as well as the difference between communications successes and messaging gaffes. Master narratives are the historically grounded stories that reflect a community’s identity and experiences, or explain its hopes, aspirations, and concerns. These narratives help groups understand who they are and where they come from, and how to make sense of unfolding developments around them. As they do in all countries, effective communicators in Somalia invoke master narratives in order to move audiences in a preferred direction. Somali influencers rely on their native familiarity with these master narratives to use them effectively. This task is considerably more challenging for US communicators and analysts because they must place themselves in the mindset of foreign audiences who believe stories that — from an American vantage point — may appear surprising, conspiratorial, or even outlandish.
North Korea’s recent threat to carry out “special actions” against the South is rare and seems intended to signal the regime’s resolve to move forward with some form of provocation. The threat, however, is unlike past warnings the regime has typically issued prior to military provocations, suggesting that the North might follow through with a move other than a conventional military attack. Significantly, some aspects of the warning appear to signal Pyongyang’s commitment to follow up on the “actions” in the near future.
Pyongyang quickly has set the stage for the fourth Party Representatives Conference slated for 11 April. Though state media have not yet announced an agenda for the conference, it is likely that the regime will use the event to memorialize formally Kim Jong Il and appoint Kim Jong Un to a top party post. The tables below provide a baseline of state media coverage of the impending conference and its antecedents.
Personnel moves at the recent Party Conference and spring session of the legislature — beyond Kim Jong Un’s assumption of the top slots — underscore the new leadership’s continued commitment to revitalizing the Party as an institution and its confidence in managing the system. Though state media billed the moves merely as filling vacancies, the leadership quietly elevated or replaced almost one-third of the ruling Political Bureau, many through unannounced retirements or dismissals. The personnel changes occurred in military, internal security, and economic organizations and are not clustered in one area. Though personnel were added to the National Defense Commission (NDC), its relationship to the Political Bureau and Central Military Commission (CMC) remains unclear.
OSC has identified more than 350 joint ventures in North Korea in a search of open source information. For the 88 ventures for which we have investment amount data, the aggregate total of reported foreign investment from 2004 to 2011 amounted to $2.32 billion, with roughly half of that going toward ventures in the mining sector. Firms from China account for 75% of the joint venture partners for which partner country is known, followed by firms from South Korea, Japan, and Europe. Of the joint ventures for which we found location information, most show a Pyongyang address. The remaining are concentrated at seven locales in other parts of the country.
May 27, 2012 in Open Source Center
Conflict between government and opposition forces continued during the week, generally following the established pattern of government military attacks and security raids against centers of opposition, on the one hand, and ambushes and bombings by opposition forces on the other. The Syrian conflict also continued to spark clashes in neighboring Lebanon. Further turmoil among the top leadership of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) reflected the opposition’s continued difficulty in unifying ranks. Syria and the United Nations traded accusations on the subject of human-rights violations.
May 17, 2012 in Open Source Center
OSC has recently observed two Facebook pages and a popular blog that promote the recently established Syrian jihadist group Al-Nusrah Front and jihadist attacks in Syria. As these pages are the top results for a Google search in Arabic of “Al-Nusrah Front,” they are likely to be visited by Arabic-speaking Internet users interested in the group. Observed activity on these pages suggests expanding interest in Al-Nusrah Front.
(U//FOUO) Open Source Center Pakistani Taliban Wants to Use Nuclear Weapons to Ensure Islam’s Survival
May 17, 2012 in Open Source Center
Despite past denials by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leaders that the group intends to target Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, TTP Mohmand Agency leader Omar Khalid said in a 21 March video that the TTP aims to use Pakistan’s nuclear technology, among other assets, to ensure Islam’s survival. This is the first time that OSC has observed a TTP leader publicly list Pakistan’s nuclear weapons among its goals. Other elements of Khalid’s statement suggest that he may be seeking to boost his own stature within the group.
May 16, 2012 in Open Source Center
Open source reporting indicates the Afghan political landscape, presently dominated by four political groupings and a number of prominent politicians, is likely to undergo further changes in the lead-up to the presidential elections and withdrawal of ISAF forces in 2014. Differing views of the Taliban threat as ISAF withdraws is likely to help drive the realignment and consolidation of political forces. This realignment may result in two major groupings: President Hamid Karzai and allies keen on working with the Taliban versus former anti-Taliban forces and others opposed to the government’s alleged appeasement toward the militants. Such consolidation would likely lead the emerging generation of younger leaders to choose between joining one of the groupings or risk being marginalized at the national level. Four main political groupings — Karzai’s camp, the National Front of Afghanistan (NFA), the National Coalition of Afghanistan (NCA), and the Truth and Justice Party (TJP) — are currently dominating the Afghan political scene.
A body of open-source reporting suggests that fighters leaving the Afghan insurgency are doing so in greater numbers this winter (1,865 fighters) than last winter (443 fighters). As with the winter of 2009-2010, the majority of defecting fighters have continued to reintegrate into Afghan Government entities in the comparatively peaceful northern and western provinces of Afghanistan. The Taliban have rejected these reports, claiming that those joining the government are not Taliban fighters. Because of variations in the level of detail provided in media reports, this compilation could understate the number of reported militants leaving the battlefield. However, even 2,000 defections over six months would not appear to represent a major blow to an insurgency estimated to have 25,000 to 36,000 current fighters,12 and it is likely that at least some of those taking advantage of government reintegration programs were not committed fighters.
June 8, 2011 in Open Source Center
Mysterious guesthouses have been established in Abottabad’s famous residential area. It has been revealed that Blackwater officials are living there. Important persons regularly visit these guesthouses, and there are fears that the peace and stability in Abottabad may be affected. According to the details received, there are many guesthouses in Abottabad where immoral activities take place at night and meetings in the name of NGOs are arranged during the day. As soon as the night falls, suspicious persons start coming to these guesthouses.
(U//FOUO) Open Source Center Peru Leaders Claim Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) Infiltration
A recent spate of Peruvian press reports allege widespread penetration of domestic social and political groups by Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) member states and affiliated entities. President Garcia’s administration has used the controversy to support its claim that Peru is under attack from an ALBA-directed “conspiracy” and has linked the supposed threat to opposition leader Ollanta Humala as well as to NGOs.
(U//FOUO) Open Source Center Cuban Officials, Media Celebrate People’s Republic of China Anniversary
Cuban officials and state media marked the recent celebration of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Communist Party rule in China by emphasizing China’s economic might and the importance of bilateral ties. State media also extensively covered the PRC ambassador’s praise for China’s economic achievements under Communist rule, but may have intended this and other coverage more to justify the Cuban Government’s chosen limited economic measures than to signal any shift in Cuba’s economic policy. Cuban officials have continued to cultivate close Chinese ties since the November 2008 visit by President Hu Jintao.
A small but growing number of bloggers who appear to be writing from Cuba are using externally hosted websites to voice dissent and developing inventive ways to circumvent government restrictions on Internet access that limit their freedom to post. While the blogs’ emergence has coincided with the move toward more openness in state media about discussing social and economic problems in the past two years, the bloggers go well beyond that limited criticism by blaming the ruling system rather than individuals or external pressure. The government thus far largely has acted indirectly against the bloggers, warning about the dangers of the Internet and reportedly blocking access to a host website. The bloggers tend to express pessimism about prospects for change under Raul Castro, but they currently are not promoting a specific political agenda or calling for any organized movement against the government. Although readership is mostly international, their on-island audience — including possible imitators — is likely to increase if access to information technology becomes more widespread. See the appendices for details on Internet access in Cuba and the individual blogs discussed.
During the current presidential election campaign, the five most prominent candidates — President Viktor Yushchenko, Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych, Front for Change leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and businessman Serhiy Tihipko — all established an Internet presence as part of their election campaign strategy. According to media assessments, however, the Ukrainian candidates have not understood the intricacies of Internet marketing and therefore have not used the web in an effective manner during this election campaign. Internet use is growing rapidly in Ukraine and future candidates’ sophistication in the use of web tools will likely increase out of necessity.
December 24, 2010 in Open Source Center
An Indian social messaging platform that enables users to build mobile communities is drawing parallels to Twitter. Called SMS GupShup [gossip], this Twitter-like service allows users to create communities. With nearly 26 million users, the platform claims to capture a significant chunk of total SMS traffic in India. According to the cofounder of SMS GupShup, Beerud Sheth, there are over 550 million mobile phone users in India and only 50 million web users. “With a 10 to 1 mobile to PC ratio and SMS serving as the most popular communications platform, the market is ripe for SMS Gupshup,” he said. Launched in April 2007, SMS GupShup is currently processing over 480 million messages a month and accounts for nearly five percent of all texts sent within India (techtrunch.com, 15 December 2009).
Malaysia’s mainstream media are state controlled through indirect ownership of media conglomerates and closely adhere to the government line. Some mainstream outlets, especially Chinese newspapers, raise contentious issues such as the treatment of the country’s predominant Malay and minority Chinese and Indian communities. Newspapers are the preferred choice for political news, but TV and radio have nearly twice the audience, with about 90-percent reach, compared to 50 percent for newspapers. Internet use is increasing, and alternative news portals and blogs provide an important venue for dissent and criticism despite government defamation suits against bloggers and the use of the Internal Security Act.
The use of flashmobs in South Korea has evolved from “just for fun” gatherings to a means of mobilizing new media-savvy users into civic and political action. Flashmobs became increasingly political in 2004 during the run-up to the ROK general elections and reached a peak of influence in 2008, when political flashmobs helped mobilize online citizens to take part in anti-mad cow candlelight street protests. The protests lasted for over 100 days and involved millions of people. As one of the most wired countries in the world, South Korea is especially fertile ground for future flashmobs, given the fun, anonymous, and easily-organized nature of the gatherings. Facilitated by emerging media tools — such as Internet blogs, smart phones, and mobile phone text messaging — potential organizers have ready access to prospective protesters against controversial policies and developments.