What Terrorist Leaders Want: A Content Analysis of Terrorist Propaganda Videos

Topics: Terrorism,

In recent years, a growing body of empirical research suggests that nonselective violence against civilian targets tends to carry substantial political risks compared to strategic violence against military targets. To better understand why terrorist groups sometimes attack politically risky targets, scholars are increasingly adopting a principal-agent framework where the leaders of terrorist groups are to be seen as principals and lower ranking members as agents. According to this framework, terrorist leaders are thought to behave as rational political actors, and lower level members are thought to maintain stronger non-political motivations for targeting civilians, often as an act of defiance against group leadership. This article tests this theory with an original content analysis of terrorist propaganda videos.

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