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Ajit Maan wrote for Foreign Policy on confusion about the distinction between ideas and narratives:
"There is considerable confusion about ideas and narratives — about the difference and which does what. We constantly see comments such as:
“We Are Losing the Narrative Battle”
“We Are Losing the Battle of Ideas”
“ISIS Is Not Winning The War Of Ideas”
That ambiguity leaves us unable to determine what is working and what is not. If we are not clear about what sort of non-kinetic battle we are in, claims about winning and losing are premature. Worse, the vast power of narrative remains untapped and relegated to the domain of Information Operations and “messaging” within it. Messaging is associated with “spin” or propaganda, and then leaves some disillusioned with the potential of any kind of non-kinetic approach to counter extremism.
The title of a recent Atlantic article, and its primary assertion, “ISIS is Not Winning the War of Ideas,” is followed by the subtitle and secondary assertion, “The Islamic State isn’t succeeding because of the strength of its narrative. It’s succeeding because it can mobilize a microscopic minority.” These paired assertions evidence the common conflation between ideas and narratives and a misunderstanding about how each functions. It is the narrative that is doing the mobilizing."