Denying to Win: How Image Savvy Militant Leaders Respond When Operatives Harm Civilians
by Max Abrahms, Journal of Strategic Studies
Terrorism carries high costs for militant leaders because attacks on civilians risk tarnishing the reputation of the entire group as immoral extremists. Image-conscious militant leaders attempt to reduce the backlash to the group whenever members commit acts pf terror. Specifically, the leaders distance their organization from civilian attacks by denying them. In this paper, identified are two types of denial strategies that are regularly employed by militant leaders, their effectiveness for image restoration, and how the Islamic State paid a price for failing to implement them.