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In October 2014, Katharine Gorka of the Council on Global Security published a white paper on how language was developed and finessed by the American government to cultivate the moderate and discourage extremists.  While noting “The conscious effort not to insult “peaceful” Muslims and at the same time not confer legitimacy on violent Muslims,” she settles on a critique of “Social Movement Theory and Counter-Terrorism Policy,” which turns out also a criticism of the Obama Administration’s approach to “Allahu Akbar” terrorist attacks up to the approximate date of publication.

Here is an excerpt from the thesis of the work:

What are the implications of the Social Movement paradigm for U.S. counter-terrorism policy? First and foremost, it dismisses the ideas and beliefs that inspire
terrorists to act. It reduces their actions from religiously or ideologically inspired acts of will to merely reflexive reaction, little more than an involuntary response to abject circumstances. In this way it also serves to legitimize the actions of extremists, deeming them not as the unjust and horrific acts that they are but as the rational and justified response to negative circumstances, whether they be imperialism, colonialism, tyranny, or poverty.

To be clear, social movement theory can provide valuable and instructive insights into how groups form and behave, but as a unitary and all-encompassing lens through which to view Islamic terrorism and extremism, it dooms the United
States to strategic failure.

Not surprisingly, this single issue is at the heart of the current debate. Today, in the United States, the most important point of contention over U.S. counter-terrorism policy is its deliberate rejection of the ideological component, of the way in which Islam itself drives or inspires extremism or terrorism.

A large number of authors and analysts, as well as lawmakers, have criticized the systemic failure of the U.S. government to address the ideological component of Islamist terrorism.

This paper argues that the roots of that failure lie here, in the application of social movement theory to Islamic activism. If one looks closely at the policy documents that emerged from Obama’s National Security Staff around this time, one can see the influence of social movement theory as well as the criticisms these documents elicited.


Gorka, Katharine C.  “The Flawed Science Behind America’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy.” (PDF) White paper, p. 11.  The Council on Global Security, October 2014.


As a history, Gorka’s paper covers the many strategies that have been applied to detected and quelling Islamist violence — or should that be “Islamist”?

BackChannels has dropped the quotation marks for at least that much.

While dismissing the “social movement paradigm” as a foundation for counterterrorism strategy, Gorka may have overlooked other contributing variables, much including messianic-narcissistic drives in Islamist leaders and the ranks that support them, and behind that — basically taking place earlier in the formation of personality — the “narcissistic mortification” that drive compulsive wishes and actions beyond normal boundaries in belligerence and the importance of the centrality of control to proponents.

While making the “call the spade a spade argument” — ” . . . language must be used that accurately identifies and distinguishes the enemy, for example, the Global Jihadist Movement” — Gorka may have missed the extremism developing in the Red “comrade networks” of the anti-Semitic International Solidarity / Palestinian Solidarity movements and in such “Brown” and “New Nationalist” spheres as the right-wing Jobbik in Hungary and now so many name-your-nation “defense leagues” springing up in response to the goad of Islamist terrorist events.