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Research Paper

Terrorism, Diplomacy, and State Communications

22 Mar 2018
Long read by William Maley

In countering the communications of terrorist organisations, states face a number of distinct challenges. Blatant lying can be at the expense of a state's authority, credibility, and instrumental effectiveness. Effective state communications need to be integrated, multidimensional and persuasive. Often they are anything but. Messages can be poorly formulated, and can be understood in unexpected ways, not least because there may be multiple audiences for a particular message. Nonetheless, effective messaging can be of great psychological value, helping to trigger 'cascades' that can undermine even ruthless enemies. Except perhaps in the direst of existential crises, effective messaging should avoid lies; but it can be of value not to fixate on telling the whole truth.