Emotional Effects of Terroristic Communication: Between Professional Propaganda and Media Coverage

Michael Johann, Michael Oswald


Like no other terroristic organization, the Islamic State anchors forms of direct communication in its communication strategy. Although classical mass media still serve as multipliers in order to spread fear, modern terrorists increasingly focus on social media to address relevant recipients. Spreading their messages via mass media, terroristic communicators have to accept balancing media coverage: the classical media framing. With forms of direct communication however they are able to set own strategic communicator frames and narratives. The question arises whether these messages have different effects on recipients than corresponding media reports. In this article we analyze the effects of different forms of terroristic communication on the recipients’ emotions using an experimental design. The results indicate that strategic communicator frames are able to reinforce negative emotions. However, it could be observed that the recipients’ political knowledge and thematic interest are able to reduce the terrorists’ main target: fear.

The article was written in German.


Video; Propaganda; Media Coverage; Terrorism; Islamic State; Framing; Emotions

Full Text:



Abrahms, M., & Conrad, J. (2017). The Strategic Logic of Credit Claiming: A New Theory for Anonymous Terrorist Attacks. Security Studies, 26 (2), 279–304. doi: 10.1080/09636412.2017.1280304

Amble, J. C. (2012). Combatting Terrorism in the New Media Environment. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 35 (5), 339–353. doi: 10.1080/1057610X.2012.666819

Archetti, C. (2015). Terrorism, Communication and New Media. Explaining Radicalization in the Digital Age. Perspectives on Terrorism, 9 (1), 49–59.

Atwan, A. B. (2015). Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Baele, S. J. (2017). Lone-Actor Terrorists’ Emotions and Cognition: An Evaluation Beyond Stereotypes. Political Psychology, 38 (3), 449–468. doi: 10.1111/pops.12365

Benford, R. D. (1993). Frame Disputes within the Nuclear Disarmament Movement. Social Forces, 71 (3), 677–701. doi: 10.2307/2579890

Benford, R. D. (1997). An Insider's Critique of the Social Movement Framing Perspective. Sociological Inquiry, 67 (4), 409–430. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-682X.1997.tb00445.x

Benford, R. D., & Snow, D. A. (2000). Framing Processes and Social Movements. An Overview and Assessment. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 611–639.

Blödom, S., Gerhards, M., & Klingler, W. (2005). Informationsnutzung und Medienauswahl. Ergebnisse einer Repräsentativbefragung zum Informationsverhalten der Deutschen. Media Perspektiven, 12, 638–646.

Brosius, H.-B., Koschel, F., & Haas, A. (2012). Methoden der empirischen Kommunikationsforschung. Eine Einführung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. doi: 10.1007/978-3-531-94214-8

Canetti, D. (2017). Emotional Distress, Conflict Ideology, and Radicalization. PS: Political Science & Politics, 50 (4), 940–943. doi: doi:10.1017/S1049096517001032

Cohen, S. J. (2016). Mapping the Minds of Suicide Bombers Using Linguistic Methods: The Corpus of Palestinian Suicide Bombers' Farewell Letters (CoPSBFL). Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 39 (7–8), 749–780. doi: 10.1080/1057610X.2016.1141005

Combs, C. C. (2018). Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century. New York, NY: Routledge.

Daase, C. (2013). Terrorismus. In B. Enzmann (Hrsg.), Handbuch Politische Gewalt. Formen – Ursachen – Legitimation – Begrenzung (S. 336–348). Wiesbaden: Springer VS. doi: 10.1007/978-3-531-18958-1_15

Dienstbühl, D., & Weber, M. (2014). Rekrutierung im Cyberspace. Wie Extremisten das Internet nutzen. Journal Exit-Deutschland. Zeitschrift für Deradikalisierung und demokratische Kultur, 2, 35–45.

Dixon, M. R., Dymond, S., Rehfeldt, R. A., Roche, B., & Zlomke, K. R. (2003). Terrorism and Relational Frame Theory. Behavior and Social Issues, 12 (2), 129–147. doi: 10.5210/bsi.v12i2.40

Druckman, J. N. (2011). What’s it All About? Framing in Political Science. In G. Keren (Hrsg.), Perspectives on Framing (S. 279–300). New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Eifler S. (2014). Experiment. In N. Baur, & K. Blasius (Hrsg.), Handbuch Methoden der empirischen Sozialforschung (S. 195–209). Wiesbaden: Springer VS. doi: 10.1007/978-3-531-18939-0_11

Entman, R. M. (1993). Framing. Toward Clarification of a Fractured Paradigm. Journal of Communication, 43 (4), 51–58. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.1993.tb01304.x

Entman, R. M. (2007). Framing Bias. Media in the Distribution of Power. Journal of Communication, 57 (1), 163–173. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2006.00336.x

Entman, R. M. (2009). Doomed to Repeat. Iraq News, 2002–2007. American Behavioral Scientis, 52 (5), 689–708. doi: 10.1177/0002764208326516

Falkheimer, J., & Olsson, E.-K. (2015). Depoliticizing Terror. The News Framing of the Terrorist Attacks in Norway, 22 July 2011. Media, War and Conflict, 8 (1), 70–85. doi: 10.1177/1750635214531109

Fischer, P., Fischer, J. K., Weisweiler, S., & Frey, D. (2010). Terrorism as Collective Communication. The Collective Communication Model of Terrorism (CCMT). Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4 (9), 692–703. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2010.00298.x

Gerhards, J., & Rucht, D. (1992). Mesomobilization. Organizing and Framing in Two Protest Campaigns in West Germany. American Journal of Sociology, 98 (3), 555–596.

Gerhards, J., Schäfer, M. S., Al-Jabiri, I., & Seifert, J. (2011). Terrorismus im Fernsehen. Formate, Inhalte und Emotionen in westlichen und arabischen Sendern. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. doi: 10.1007/978-3-531-94053-3

Goffman, E. (1986). Frame Analysis. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press.

Hackensberger, A. (2015, 15. Januar). Todenhöfers zweifelhafte Propaganda für den IS. Die Welt Online. Abgerufen von https://www.welt.de (zugegriffen am 04.12.2018).

Hermann, R. (2016, 12. Juli). Im Reich des Terrors ist ein Menschenleben nichts wert. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Online. Abgerufen von http://www.faz.net (zugegriffen am 04.12.2018).

Hoffman, B. (1997). Why Terrorists Don’t Claim Credit. Terrorism and Political Violence, 9 (1), 1–6. doi: 10.1080/09546559708427381

Hoffman, B. (1998). Inside Terrorism. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Hossain, M. S. (2015). Social Media and Terrorism: Threats and Challenges to the Modern Era. South Asian Survey, 22 (2), 136–155. doi: 10.1177/0971523117753280

Ingram, H. J. (2018). Islamic State’s English-Language Magazines, 2014–2017: Trends & Implications for CT-CVE Strategic Communications. Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism Studies. The Hague, 8 (15), 1–46. doi: 10.19165/2018.1.03

Kearns, E. M. (2019). When to Take Credit for Terrorism? A Cross-National Examination of Claims and Attributions. Terrorism and Political Violence, 1–30. doi: 10.1080/09546553.2018.1540982

Kinder, D. R., & Sanders, L. M. (1996). Divided by Color. Racial Politics and Democratic Ideals. Chicago, MA: University of Chicago Press

Kühne, R. (2013). Emotionale Framing-Effekte auf Einstellungen. Ein integratives Modell. Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft, 61 (1), 5–20. doi: /10.5771/1615-634x-2013-1-5

Kunczik, M., & Zipfel, A. (2001). Publizistik. Ein Studienhandbuch. Köln: UTB.

Kurtulus, E. N. (2017). Terrorism and Fear: Do Terrorists Really Want to Scare? Critical Studies on Terrorism, 10 (3), 501–522. doi: 10.1080/17539153.2017.1329080

Landau, M. J., Keefer, L. A., & Rothschild, Z. K. (2014). Epistemic Motives Moderate the Effect of Metaphoric Framing on Attitudes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 53, 125–138. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2014.03.009

Melki, J., & Jabado, M. (2016). Mediated Public Diplomacy of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria: The Synergistic Use of Terrorism, Social Media and Branding. Media and Communication, 4 (2), 92–103. doi: 10.17645/mac.v4i2.432

Milton, D. (2016). Communication Breakdown: Unraveling the Islamic State’s Media Efforts. West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

Morgan, M. J. (2004). The Origins of the New Terrorism. U.S. Army War College, 34 (1), 29–43.

Nanninga, P. (2019). Branding a Caliphate in Decline: The Islamic State’s Official Video Output (2015–2018). The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism. The Hague, 9 (5), 1–33. doi: 10.19165/2019.1.04

Neumann, P. (2009). Old and New Terrorism. Cambridge: Polity.

Nevalsky, E. C. (2015). Developing Terrorism Coverage. Variances in News Framing of the January 2015 Attacks in Paris and Borno. Critical Studies on Terrorism, 8 (3), 466–477. doi: 10.1080/17539153.2015.1096656

Norris, P., Kern, M., & Just, M (2003). Framing Terrorism. The News Media, the Government, and the Public. New York, NY: Routledge: doi: 10.4324/9780203484845

Oswald, M. (2019). Strategisches Framing. Eine Einführung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. doi: 10.1007/978-3-658-24284-8

Oswald, M., & Johann, M. (2018a). Framing Terrorism. ISIL’s Video Messages as a Strategy of Fear and Recruitment. In I. Saleh, & T. Knieper (Hrsg.), The Visual Politics of War. Volume Two. Truth and Lies of Soft Power (S. 135–158). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Oswald, M., & Johann, M. (2018b). Strategische Politische Kommunikation als ein interdisziplinäres Forschungsfeld. In M. Oswald, & M. Johann (Hrsg.), Strategische Politische Kommunikation im digitalen Wandel. Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf ein dynamisches Forschungsfeld (S. 1–5). Wiesbaden: Springer VS. doi: 10.1007/978-3-658-20860-8_1

Oswald, M., & Johann, M. (2016). Im Kampf für eine Gegenkultur: Wie der Islamische Staat den Terrorismus revolutioniert. Zeitschrift für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung, 5 (2), 299–312. doi: 10.5771/2192-1741-2016-2-299

Papacharissi, Z., & De Fatima Oliveira, M. (2008). News Frames Terrorism: A Comparative Analysis of Frames Employed in Terrorism Coverage in U.S. and U.K. Newspapers. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 13 (1), 52–74. doi: 10.1177/1940161207312676

Payerhin, M., & Zirakzadeh, C. E. (2006). On Movement Frames and Negotiated Identities. The Case of Poland's First Solidarity Congress. Social Movement Studies, 5 (2), 91–115. doi: 10.1080/14742830600807386

Polletta, F. (1998). Contending Stories. Narrative in Social Movements. Qualitative Sociology, 21 (4), 419–446. doi: 10.1023/A:1023332410633

Powell, K. A. (2011). Framing Islam: An Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage of Terrorism since 9/11. Communication Studies, 62 (1), 90–112. doi: 10.1080/10510974.2011.533599

Powell, K. A. (2018). Framing Islam / Creating Fear: An Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage of Terrorism from 2011–2016. Religions, 9 (257), 1–15. doi: 10.3390/rel9090257

Prucha, N. (2014). Celebrities of the Afterlife: Death Cult, Stars, and Fandom of Jihadist Propaganda. In R. Lohlker, & T. A. Hamdeh (Hrsg.), Jihadi Thought and Ideology (S. 83–137). Berlin: Logos.

Renaud, D., & Unz, D. (2006). Die M-DAS – eine modifizierte Version der Differentiellen Affekt Skala zur Erfassung von Emotionen bei der Mediennutzung. Zeitschrift für Medienpsychologie, 18 (2), 70–75. doi: 10.1026/1617-6383.18.2.70

Rieger, D., Frischlich, L., & Bente, G. (2013). Propaganda 2.0. Psychological Effects of Right-Wing and Islamic Extremist Internet Videos. Köln: Luchterhand Verlag.

Rogan, H. (2006). Jihadism Online. A Study of How Al-Qaida and Radical Islamist Groups Use the Internet for Terrorist Purposes. Abgerufen von https://admin.ffi.no/no/Rapporter/06-00915.pdf (zugegriffen am 04.12.2018).

Rössler, P. (2011). Skalenhandbuch Kommunikationswissenschaft. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. doi: 10.1007/978-3-531-94179-0

Ruggiero, A. M., & Vos, M. (2013). Terrorism Communication. Characteristics and Emerging Perspectives in the Scientific Literature 2002–2011. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 21 (3), 153–166. doi: 10.1111/1468-5973.12022

Scheufele, B. (2003). Frames – Framing – Framing-Effekte. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. doi: 10.1007/978-3-322-86656-1

Schmid, A. P. (2015). Challenging the Narrative of the “Islamic State”. The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism. The Hague, 6 (5), 1–19.

Schmitz, T. (2016, 13. Oktober). Was für das Köpfen spricht. „Inside IS“. Jürgen Todenhöfers umstrittenes Buch, ein Bericht aus dem Reich des Terrors, versagt als Bühnenstück. Süddeutsche Zeitung Online. Abgerufen von http://www.sueddeutsche.de (zugegriffen am 04.12.2018).

Snow, D. A., & Benford, R. D. (1988). Ideology, Frame Resonance, and Participant Mobilization. In B. Klandermans, H. Kriesi, & S. G. Tarrow (Hrsg.), From Structure to Action. Social Movement Participation Across Cultures (S. 197–217). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

Snow, D. A., Rochford, E. B. Jr., Worden, S. K., & Benford, R. D. (1986). Frame Alignment Processes, Micromobilization, and Movement Participation. American Sociological Review, 51 (4), 464–481. doi: 10.2307/2095581

Stone, D. A. (1989). Causal Stories and the Formation of Policy Agendas. Political Science Quarterly, 104 (2), 281–300. doi: 10.2307/2151585

Stone, D. A. (2012). Policy Paradox. The Art of Political Decision Making. New York, NY: Norton & Company.

Tarrow, S. G. (1998). Power in Movement. Social Movements and Contentious Politics. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1981). The Framing of Decisions and the Psychology of Choice. Science, New Series, 211 (4481), 453–458. doi: 10.1126/science.7455683

van Stekelenburg, J. (2017). Radicalization and Violent Emotions. PS: Political Science & Politics, 50 (4), 936–939. doi: 10.1017/S1049096517001020

Vliegenthart, R. (2012). Framing in Mass Communication Research – An Overview and Assessment. Sociology Compass, 6 (12), 937–948. doi: 10.1111/soc4.12003

Waldmann, P. (1998). Terrorismus. Provokation der Macht. München: Murmann Verlag.

Wildavsky, A. (1987). Choosing Preferences by Constructing Institutions. A Cultural Theory of Preference Formation. The American Political Science Review, 81 (1), 4–21. doi: 10.2307/1960776

Wilkinson, P. (1997). The Media and Terrorism: A Reassessment. Terrorism and Political Violence, 9 (2), 51–64. doi: 10.1080/09546559708427402

Wirth, W. (1997). Von der Information zum Wissen. Die Rolle der Rezeption für die Entstehung von Wissensunterschieden. Ein Beitrag zur Wissenskluftforschung. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag. doi: 10.1007/978-3-322-91678-5

Yan, C., Dillard, J. P., & Shen, F. (2012). Emotion, Motivation, and the Persuasive Effects of Message Framing. Journal of Communication, 62 (4), 682–700. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2012.01655.x


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2019 Michael Johann, Michael Oswald

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

ISSN: 2363-9849 

Proud Member of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and indexed by SCOPUS.