Discourses of terrorism: The role of Internet technologies (social media and online propaganda) on Islamic radicalisation, extremism and recruitment post 9/11

Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Science

First Supervisor

Professor Craig Valli

Second Supervisor

Dr Eyal Gringart


The threat of Islamic terrorism has become the biggest threat to Australian National Security. Since 9/11 and the subsequent war on terror, the threat of terrorism has not subsided. Significant parts of this threat are the online discourses of radicalisation perpetuated throughout social media. Literature reviewed included main discursive influences as well as a number of useful theoretical frameworks for later analysis. This thesis used a longitudinal online ethnographic approach coupled with Grounded Theory to examine the discourses and processes involved in radicalisation. The global context for this study was significant and hence has been outlined. Three overarching meta narratives were found: Narratives of grievance, narratives of jihad and narratives of martyrdom. Another important finding was that these narratives were complemented by a significant number of visual images that embedded and conveyed slightly different, yet complementary discourses. In addition, several case studies were also undertaken looking at the discourses and process of recruitment. A case study on the researcher’s insights was also included covering recruiting strategies of the newly formed Islamic State terrorist group. A number of analytical frameworks were applied to the data with the most notable being the Psychiatric Power and the notion of an online institution in which power structures are embedded. A number of radicalisation models are examined in relation to the data and a new model is developed termed: Institutionalised Moral Reframing, which is built on the foundational notions of Psychiatric Power. Finally, implications for counter radicalisation policies are discussed with the need to broaden the focus to better deal with the threats posed by online social media.

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