America just got a step closer to understanding how terrorist propaganda is penetrating the minds of new ISIS recruits across the U.S.
Researchers at the University of Chicago have recently discovered that ISIS is using the same 12-step formula as Hollywood filmmakers to produce recruitment videos, ABC7 Chicago reports. This study is being funded by the U.S. Department of Defense in hopes of developing new tactics to fight terrorism.
“They have an understanding of what will produce emotions in people and what arguments are going to resonate,” Dana Rovang, a research director at the University of Chicago, told ABC7.
Rovang spent hours watching ISIS recruitment videos before she discovered the connection to Hollywood.
“What we found was that the Abu Muslim video strictly followed the 12-step progression of the Chris Vogler Hollywood memo,” said Rovang. “Now, what we are seeing is ISIS teaching itself Hollywood techniques.”
The 12-step guide Rovang refers to is also known as “The Hero’s Journey,” a strategy that has been used in popular films such as “Star Wars,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Titanic.”
The formula begins by introducing the hero in a normal setting, and then proceeds to take the hero through an adventure where he faces challenges and tests, but ultimately ends up coming home with a reward.
This study will continue to search for what makes people most susceptible to ISIS recruitment using a grant of nearly $3.5 million given to them by the Pentagon.
Robert Pape, a professor of political science and expert on terrorism studies, directs the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism.
“The ultimate goal really is to understand in a powerful way what inspires individuals to have sympathy for ISIS and other terrorist groups by watching videos,” said Pape.
“One of the early warning signs of people who have ended up becoming arrested is watching videos, jihadi videos,” Pape said. Over the past three months, ISIS has released at least 150 propaganda videos.
Researchers will dig deeper into this study by using fMRI images to examine the brain and determine which areas are active while watching these videos.
In efforts to continue our fight against terrorism, the Pentagon expects to spend $7.5 billion next year, requiring a 50 percent budget increase.