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Al-Qaeda was initially formed not as a terrorist organization, but as an independent Islamist military faction (Bergen & Cruickshank, 2012). The organization evolved around the ideology of the central and supreme leader Osama bin Laden (Bergen & Cruickshank, 2012). However, the ability for the group to change and adapt to different environments and cultures has allowed for the organization to spread especially to Western audiences (Bergen & Cruickshank, 2012). The evolution of their media strategy is the epitome of how al-Qaeda is adaptable (Torres, Jordán, & Horsburgh, 2006). The shift from centralized distribution of pamphlets to video and audio tapes to television and then to the Internet has allowed al-Qaeda to use the process of self-radicalization to its advantage (Lieberman & Collins, 2008). The Internet allows people to trade ideas internationally with one another without being located geographically near one another (Lieberman & Collins, 2008). The process is very much steeped in psychological processes that have the potential to be stopped at any of the three main steps (Lieberman & Collins, 2008). Three methods for halting self-radicalization including censorship of information, public education, and intelligence gathering are all examined (Neumann, 2013). The potential for backlash is great, but there is an endless array of benefits that can be achieved through a well-orchestrated public awareness campaign about the process of self-radicalization.
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VCU L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs Publications