Radicalization is not a new phenomenon; it has been present since the beginning of human history. However, its incidence and consequences have recently been magnified because of (1) the proliferation of social media and (2) the related phenomenon of disinformation. The process of radicalization is now occurring online, and we invite marketing scholars to pay more attention to extremists’ online persuasion strategies.
First, social media have been a catalyst in the radicalization process of recent movements. Many radical groups have become masters at creating content to support their ideology and at using social media to spread it worldwide (Fisher and Prucha 2019; Lohlker 2019). In the predominantly digital communication world, extremists can share information about a group’s cause to a large audience with the simple click of a button. In addition, those various radical groups successfully took advantage of social media network to generate “brand” awareness among potential consumers. For instance, Winter (2015) notes how effective brand management has helped ISIS stand out as a “brand” in the competitive religious extremism landscape.
A second related issue is disinformation (i.e., “fake news” or propaganda). We need to better understand how disinformation can contribute to radicalization by fueling hate toward some groups (Schwarz and Holnburger 2019). By feeding on public insecurities (e.g., racial tension, immigration, cultural differences), this type of inflammatory content can promote inaccurate beliefs about some groups, thus creating a culture of fear, hate, and revenge (Grégoire et al. 2010; Stein 2019). This type of information may, in turn, affect how members of those communities are perceived in the marketplace, where they go shopping, and what they consume (e.g., Alkayyali 2019; Pittman 2017).
Building on such premises, we solicit manuscripts that examine any parts of extremists’ persuasion process or marketing strategies. Radical organizations are often excellent marketers, and we first need to understand their strategies if we want to prevent their influence. Specifically, this special issue is interested in the following topics:
- Assessments of the social media content used by extremists;
- Assessments of the communication strategy put in place by extremists;
- Persuasion process used by radical groups;
- Hate and revenge process fueled by radical organizations;
- The effects of anonymity on hate speech and online revenge;
- The effects of disinformation on fear, revenge, hate, and radical views;
- Development of fake news and its effects on radicalization;
- The influence of radical incidents on minorities and majority groups;
- The internationalization process of radical views;
- Segmentation of potential consumers at risk;
- Understanding the needs and wants of extremists’ targets;
- Individual differences affecting the effectiveness of extremists’ strategies;
- The impact of disinformation on consumers’ usage of news and media;
- The influence of fake news on consumption;
- Brand, branding, and retail strategies used by radical groups.
This list is not exhaustive, as this special issue is open to any research examining the communication strategies and persuasion models used by extremists. In addition, we understand that the internet is not the only factor leading to radicalization. Therefore, we would also welcome research looking at other factors that may lead to the radicalization process. We encourage empirical work on these topics.