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Marketing to Prevent Radicalization: Developing Insights for Policies | Journal of Public Policy & Marketing Special Issue

Our world is becoming more polarized than ever, with a growing number of extremist groups spreading radical worldviews. Although there are countless examples of events linked to violent radicalization, the riots at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, struck the public’s consciousness with extreme sadness and disbelief. On this day, political radicalization turned deadly as groups of armed individuals climbed up the walls and then poured through the windows of the U.S. Capitol. Although this example is particularly striking, it is not an isolated event by any stretch, with many events reported almost daily in different countries.

Disturbed by this uncomfortable new reality, special issue editors Marie Louise Radanielina and Yany Grégoire set out on a mission to add marketing voices to the conversation about radicalization issues. Since radicalization has been rarely addressed in marketing—at least not directly—they asked themselves the following questions: What can we do in marketing to address radicalization issues? How can marketing help policy makers and society prevent acts of violence, which are motivated by radicalization, especially online radicalization? Where should we start? Answering these questions is the specific purpose of the special issue, titled “Marketing to Prevent Radicalization: Developing Insights for Policies.”

Below you will find summaries of the editorial, commentaries, and research articles in the special issue, as well as videos and links to in-depth content.

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Editorial | Commentaries | Research Articles | Special Issue Editors


Marketing to Prevent Radicalization: A First Attempt at Delimiting the Field

Marie Louise Radanielina Hita and Yany Grégoire

In our opinion, the content of this special issue represents an effective starting point to get marketing involved in the discussion about radicalization. We would like to use this opportunity to claim in the strongest terms possible that marketing has an important role to play in understanding, preventing, and decreasing the occurrences of events motivated by radicalization.


Drivers of Political Violence in the United States

James A. Piazza

What explains the volatile situation in which the United States presently finds itself? This commentary investigates four important drivers of political violence in the United States today: toxic political polarization, toxic identity-based ideologies, assaults on democratic norms, and disinformation and political conspiracies. Each of these contributes to violent political instability. The article briefly explains each in turn and discusses some potential ways to address them.

Dive Deeper

How Criminological Theory Can Inform the Role of Marketing in Understanding Radicalization and Deradicalization

Brendan Lantz and S. Willis Shaw

One of the defining characteristics of contemporary radicalization is the role that online interaction frequently plays. Preinternet, those interested in spreading extremist attitudes had to struggle to do so within the constraints of geographic boundaries. Now, however, motivated parties can find each other easily online, and they can do so anonymously, allowing them to market their ideology to others without fear of consequence or social repercussion. The culmination of these factors has contributed to an online social landscape wherein many of the most popular right-wing extremist forums are predominately characterized by selective exposure to extreme and prejudicial worldviews, commonly referred to as “echo chambers.”

While it has only been applied sporadically to the subject at hand, criminological theory offers a useful lens through which we can better understand the danger of the online echo chamber and its role in radicalization processes.

Research Articles

Disinformation and Echo Chambers: How Disinformation Circulates on Social Media Through Identity-Driven Controversies

Carlos Diaz Ruiz and Tomas Nilsson

This article investigates how disinformation circulates on social media as adversarial narratives embedded in identity-driven controversies. Empirically, the article reports on the flat Earth echo chamber on YouTube, a controversial group arguing that the earth is a plane, not a sphere. By analyzing how they weave their arguments, this study demonstrates that disinformation circulates through identity-based grievances. As grudges intensify, back-and-forth argumentation becomes a form of knowing that solidifies viewpoints. Moreover, the argument resists fact-checking because it stokes the contradictions of identity work through grievances (pathos) and group identification (ethos).

The conceptual contribution proposes a two-phase framework for how disinformation circulates on social media. The first phase, “seeding,” is when malicious actors strategically insert deceptions by masquerading their legitimacy (e.g., fake news). The second phase, “echoing,” enlists participants to cocreate the contentious narratives that disseminate disinformation. A definition of disinformation is proposed: Disinformation is an adversarial campaign that weaponizes multiple rhetorical strategies and forms of knowing—including not only falsehoods but also truths, half-truths, and value-laden judgments—to exploit and amplify identity-driven controversies. Finally, the article has implications for policy makers in handling the spread of disinformation on social media.

Dive Deeper

Marketing Against Extremism: Identifying and Responding to Moral Disengagement Cues in Islamic State Terrorist Propaganda

Rebecca Frazer

This study presents selective moral disengagement as a paradigm for analyzing extremist marketing messages and developing effective countermessages. Selective moral disengagement explicates eight mechanisms common to extremist media content that can influence seemingly ordinary people to support and commit atrocities. Through a qualitative content analysis, the author investigates the use of moral disengagement mechanisms in an online propaganda magazine (Rumiyah) of the so-called Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization.

This article demonstrates the extensive use of the eight moral disengagement mechanisms throughout a variety of genres of IS propaganda articles. In addition, a ninth moral disengagement strategy—humanization of perpetrators—emerged. The analysis reveals internal inconsistencies in IS’s approach to moral disengagement. The author argues that careful consideration of the use of these mechanisms in IS propaganda clarifies the understanding of IS’s marketing strategy and informs countermessaging efforts. Specific countermessaging approaches are proposed for combatting IS given these findings. Further, a roadmap is given for extending the selective moral disengagement analysis paradigm into other extremist marketing contexts, including U.S. domestic terrorism.

‘Upload Your Impact’: Can Digital Enclaves Enable Participation in Racialized Markets?

Myriam Brouard, Katja H. Brunk, Mario Campana, Marlon Dalmoro, Marcia Christina Ferreira, Bernardo Figueiredo, Daiane Scaraboto, Olivier Sibai, Andrew N. Smith, and Meriam Belkhir

Ethnoracial minorities are often racialized and consequently excluded from various consumption contexts. Racialized market actors strive to overcome exclusion and gain participation in markets; however, these efforts are often insufficient because they cannot create equitable access to market resources, fair opportunities for voice, and empowerment to shape market practices.

This research identifies digital enclave movements as a unique means by which racialized market actors redirect their resources and mobilize digital network tools to participate in markets. Using a qualitative study of the digital enclave #MyBlackReceipt, the authors explore tactics supporting the formation and sustenance of digital enclaves and how they support participation in markets.

The authors identify five tactics that racialized market actors employ to foster digital enclaves and enhance market participation: legitimizing, delimiting, vitalizing, manifesting, and bridging. The article also provides recommendations for policy makers on how to support and foster more equitable participation of ethnic minority groups in markets while addressing the risks of radicalization and the backlash related to enclaves.

Differential Response to Corporate Political Advocacy and Corporate Social Responsibility: Implications for Political Polarization and Radicalization

T.J. Weber, Jeff Joireman, David E. Sprott, and Chris Hydock

In recent years, firms have become increasingly involved in sociopolitical issues via corporate political advocacy (CPA) and corporate social responsibility (CSR), while consumers have become more politically polarized and skeptical of political institutions. Merging these developments, this article examines similarities and differences in response to CPA and CSR, as well as the implications for consumer polarization and radicalization.

Utilizing three studies across numerous domains, the authors demonstrate that

  1. CPA results in increased negative sentiment and CSR results in increased positive sentiment on social media;
  2. Relative to CSR, CPA results in more negative and polarized reactions due to the controversial nature of CPA
  3. Polarized responses to CPA are stronger among consumers lower in political efficacy.

Together, the findings shed light on the distinction between CPA and CSR and illustrate how (and among whom) CPA may contribute to polarization and radicalization via negative sentiment expressed through social media and consumer actions. Theoretical contributions, practical implications, and future research directions are detailed.

Special Issue Editors

Marie Louise Radanielina
Researcher, HEC Montréal RBC Groupe Financier, Canada

Yany Grégoire
Professor in Marketing and Holder of the Chair Omer DeSerres, HEC Montréal, Canada

Radanielina Hita Marie Louise is an expert in social marketing and communication. Her research focuses mainly on the use of critical thinking to prevent risky behaviors and misinformation. Dr. Radanielina Hita is highly involved in the social marketing community as a member of the board of the Ethics Council of the Alcoholic Beverage Industry in Québec and the editorial board of Journal of Public Policy & Marketing (2016–2022).

Yany Grégoire is a full professor at HEC Montréal, and the Chairholder of the Omer DeSerres Chair in Marketing at the same institution. In the last 20 years, he has published on the issues of customer revenge, online complaining, and the prevention of radicalization in major journals, including Journal of Marketing and Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, among others. He is also interested in other managerial issues such as customer experience, B2B marketing, and sales. He sits on the editorial boards of several journals, including Journal of Service Research and Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.