© Eric Roset

59.9°N, 10.5°E

Transforming narratives
can be an effective means of
deradicalisation as our way
of understanding the world
is founded in the stories
we hear and believe in
Bjørn Ihler

Make my
voice heard

The stories we hear shape who we are. The emergence of mass media and social mediamade it possible to influence ideas on a mass scale. Violent extremist movements exploit the power of modern communications to spread their ideas. Whether they are ideologically on the far right, the far left, or root themselves in religion, they affirm an ideal and simplistic message, uncluttered by doubt. In this sense, violent extremism is a denial of diversity and complexity. Those who oppose violent extremism must therefore also communicate, to restore diversity and affirm the complex nature of knowledge and the richness of the world we share.


Young people are targeted every day by violent extremists, directly and through mainstream media. We are targets, but also communicators. We each walk round with equipment we can use to influence those at risk and say no to hate, division, racism, supremacy and discrimination. In this respect, we literally hold in our hands the power to do good. When counter-narratives condemn extremist narratives, they in effect recognise them. Alternative narratives are much more powerful. They set a different agenda and lead their audience to different values and ideas. They promote liberal values and diversity, highlight common ground that all religions share with human rights, endorse the rule of law, and advocate practical ways to remove grievances, respond to suffering, protect minorities from discrimination, etc.

Whether counter-narratives offer a positive alternative to extremist propaganda or deconstruct or delegitimise extremist narratives, think of them not as one-off reactions to extremist propaganda but as processes that influence the ideas of an audience over time. Counter-narrative campaigns can take many forms and reach many audiences. To be successful, you will need to understand how extremist groups work, the grievances they address, what internal structures support their narratives, and what attracts your audience to them. Remember that extremist narratives that appear absurd still have power over those they influence; arguments that directly contradict them are likely to be dismissed as lies. Counter-narratives need to reshape extremist visions of reality. To do that you have to try to understand the emotional, physical and psychological needs of those to whom the stories appeal. A successful campaign should make clear:

  • Its goals and objectives.
  • Who it wants to reach.
  • The outcome it seeks.

Take action

Ask weather you want to:

The answers to these questions will determine the shape of your campaign. In many cases, you will need to research the extremist narratives you wish to counter as well as your target audiences.

We say

All together now combats racism and promotes cultural diversity in Australia. Its Everyday Racism mobile phone app challenges players to live for a week the life of a member of an Australian minority group – an Aboriginal man, a Muslim woman, an Indian student. Participants receive texts, tweets, images and videos that challenge assumptions about race and motivate them to speak up against racism.