The United States is attempting to find the most efficient ways of responding to the threat of terrorist recruitment within its borders. ISIS has effectively recruited individuals from around the world on a large scale and specifically targets citizens of Western countries with high-quality, cinematic, English-language recruitment material. In the following analysis, we propose an additional approach to understanding ISIS recruitment appeal by comparing the content of recruitment messaging from a militaristic (but value-oriented) organization that is familiar to the authors of this thesis (the United States Marine Corps) with the militaristic but value-oriented unfamiliar (ISIS). Through this analysis, we seek to understand ISIS recruitment not from a theological basis but from a communications framework: narrative analysis. We identified narratives in each organization's recruitment materials and, by comparing larger themes that appeared across materials, determined the overarching narrative arc for each organization (into which the many smaller individual narratives were tied). We found that the narratives of the organizations are similar and different in many ways, but most significantly, they articulate fundamentally different resolutions: ISIS is driving towards a defined narrative resolution (which results in the end of the modern world) while the USMC recruitment materials depict no concrete resolution, as the organizational arc is depicted as continuing throughout time. Our discussion of narrative trajectory and defined resolutions directly supports existing scholarly literature linking the need for cognitive closure with extremist views: providing certainty and assurance about the future to potential extremist recruits. As demonstrated in our analysis, the narratives produced by ISIS for the purpose of recruitment depict a definite and conclusive resolution to both individual and organizational narratives, removing ambiguity (of actions, of antagonists, and of resolutions) and the anxiety associated with chance from the lives of the potential recruits. We believe ISIS's removal of uncertainty and provided template for how individuals should conduct their lives is an important part of the appeal its recruitment material has for Western recruits. Our suggestions for real-world use of our findings apply the immediacy and defined resolution found in ISIS recruitment narratives to counter ISIS-recruitment strategies.
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