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Narrative Landmines

Rumors, Islamist Extremism, and the Struggle for Strategic Influence

Daniel Leonard Bernardi, Pauline Hope Cheong, Chris Lundry, and Scott W. Ruston

Publication Year: 2012

Islamic extremism is the dominant security concern of many contemporary governments, spanning the industrialized West to the developing world. Narrative Landmines explores how rumors fit into and extend narrative systems and ideologies, particularly in the context of terrorism, counter-terrorism, and extremist insurgencies. Its concern is to foster a more sophisticated understanding of how oral and digital cultures work alongside economic, diplomatic, and cultural factors that influence the struggles between states and non-state actors in the proverbial battle of hearts and minds. Beyond face-to-face communication, the authors also address the role of new and social media in the creation and spread of rumors.


As narrative forms, rumors are suitable to a wide range of political expression, from citizens, insurgents, and governments alike, and in places as distinct as Singapore, Iraq, and Indonesia—the case studies presented for analysis. The authors make a compelling argument for understanding rumors in these contexts as “narrative IEDs,” low-cost, low-tech weapons that can successfully counter such elaborate and expansive government initiatives as outreach campaigns or strategic communication efforts. While not exactly the same as the advanced technological systems or Improvised Explosive Devices to which they are metaphorically related, narrative IEDs nevertheless operate as weapons that can aid the extremist cause.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Series: New Directions in International Studies


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Series Information

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pp. i-i

Title Page

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pp. ii-ii

Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iii


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pp. iv-v


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pp. vi-vii

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pp. viii-xi

Much like the rich and multidimensional nature of narratives, this book represents a partnership spanning academic disciplines, national histories, and personal experiences. We would like to thank the following groups and individuals for their invaluable assistance....

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pp. 1-6

We live in a world awash in rumors. The artificial sweetener in your diet soda can cause cancer is a rumor that circulates with great frequency and with each introduction of new sweetener brands and chemicals. Frequently heard on street corners and right-wing talk radio, Barack Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii, and is thus not a natural-born U.S. citizen is a “birther” rumor that suggests...

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Chapter 1. Rumor Theory: Narrative Systems and Hegemonic Struggles in Contested Populations

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pp. 7-42

On 20 January 2006, Mas Selamat Bin Kastari (Mas Selamat), a reported Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist, was arrested by Indonesian authorities and subsequently extradited to Singapore. After more than two years in custody, he escaped from Singapore’s maximum-security Whitley Road Detention Center. News of his escape broke fast. But the government failed to explain in a sufficient...

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Chapter 2. Rumor Transmediation: Critical Mash-ups and a Singaporean Prison Break

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pp. 43-72

On the afternoon of 27 February 2008, guards at Singapore’s Whitley Road Detention Center were escorting Mas Selamat bin Kastari (Mas Selamat), one of Southeast Asia’s most wanted terrorists, to the visitors’ area of the center to meet with his family. Mas Selamat had been arrested two years earlier in Indonesia for using a fake identity card. He was extradited to Singapore,...

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Chapter 3. Rumor Mosaics: Counterinsurgency Operations in Iraq's Triangle of Death

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pp. 73-100

In 2005, Multi-National Force–Iraq (MNF-I), the military command overseeing U.S. and coalition forces in the war-torn Arab nation, began a bovine inoculation campaign to improve the health of cattle throughout Iraq.1 Although the intent was to stabilize the food supply and increase the return on investment for local cattle ranchers and dairy farmers, the inoculation...

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Chapter 4. Whisper Campaigns: State-Sponsored Rumors and the Post Mortem (De)Construction of an Indonesian Terrorist

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pp. 101-134

Noordin Mohammed Top, a notorious Islamist extremist working in Southeast Asia, had successfully evaded police for years while simultaneously directing deadly and large-scale attacks against Indonesian and Western targets. He is believed to be one of the masterminds of the 2003 Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta, the 2004 Australian embassy bombing in Jakarta, the...

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Chapter 5. Coercion and Consent: Narrative Countermeasures in the Battle for "Hearts and Minds"

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pp. 135-166

The preceding three case studies examined rumors and their function in narrative landscapes. In the case of Mas Selamat, a family of rumors about his escape sparked an online critique of government policy and efficacy. The different rumors intersected with pop culture iconography (movie posters, for example) and contributed to narratives positioning Mas Selamat as an outlaw...


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pp. 167-172


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pp. 173-192

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 193-196


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pp. 197-206

About the Authors

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pp. 207-208

E-ISBN-13: 9780813553221
E-ISBN-10: 0813553229
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813552507
Print-ISBN-10: 0813552508

Page Count: 220
Illustrations: 17 illustrations, 8 photographs, 4 maps,
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: New Directions in International Studies
Series Editor Byline: Patrice Petro, Center for International Education See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 809411098
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Narrative Landmines

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Rumor in mass media.
  • Rumor -- Political aspects.
  • Rumor -- Social aspects.
  • Islamic fundamentalism.
  • Terrorism -- Religious aspects -- Islam.
  • Terrorism and mass media.
  • Mass media -- Influence.
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