Exovera was featured at the Information Operations: Countering Violent Extremism conference in London June 15-16, 2016. Chief Analyst Andrew Katona presented “Tracking and Understanding and Tracking the Enduring Narrative Behind the Threat,” which focused on aggregated open-source monitoring of news media and the insights that can be gained from the approach.
Drawing from experience with the Department of Defense’s Foreign Media Analysis (FMA) Program that Andrew headed, he drove the conversation to understanding narratives and cognitive prediction and how attendees might apply them in their current roles.
A few highlights from his speech:
Deeply-rooted “narratives” help explain extreme cognitive biases:
Confirmation Bias: Events validating existing views more influential than those that counteract them
Fundamental Attribution Error: Problems/failures attributed to “enemy”: fuels conspiracy narratives
Cognitive Dissonance & Backfire Effect: Ideological and/or emotion-based beliefs bolstered and entrenched despite (or due to) contrary evidence
And a few key takeaways for the audience at CVE:
- Don’t just focus on our enemies and terrorist networks, but the wider information/media environment in a society that helps enable extremist thought and action
- Must be strategic, not just “fact-based” countering of falsehoods (i.e. story-telling, not argumentation)
- Must conform to local narratives and understanding of the world
- Government counter-messaging likely to backfire
- No silver bullet: Requires persistent, high-level, unified, long-haul effort (de-bunking & establishing new narratives is hard!)
- Media freedom and reduced state/political control must be supported
- Government entities need concerted tracking/assessment approaches