ARTIS Seminar Series on Political Violence

Each seminar, hosted by the Center on Terrorism and sponsored ARTIS, focuses on a singular aspect of terrorism. An invited speaker presents on a topic and a question-and-answer period follows. The seminars are free and open to the public, they are also a core component of the Advanced Certificate in Terrorism Studies curriculum offered through the center. We warmly welcome all those interested in  or currently working in the field of terrorism. This is an excellent forum for the exchange of ideas helpful to the academic and practitioner alike.

Fall 2018 Events

Friday, September 7 - Mia Bloom

Time - 3:00 - 5:00 PM       Location - 630, Haaren Hall

Title: The ways in which jihadis foster online social media addiction. ISIS's use of Telegram

Reading: "Assessing the Future Threat: ISIS's Virtual Caliphate"

Online media platforms blend graphic audiovisual content with ideological religious writings to sanction and justify their violent terrorist tactics. In recent years, Jihadi groups have increasingly relied on open API platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Tumblr. However, the messaging app, Telegram has increasingly become the platform of choice for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and its supporters. Telegram has been used to recruit and coordinate terrorist attacks in France and Brussels and, unlike other messaging apps like Whatsapp, cannot be traced by authorities after an attack. The prevalence of peer-to-peer encrypted messaging by ISIS does not show signs of decline despite predictions that the group is in its final death throes. As social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have been increasingly policed and engaged in aggressive deletions, Telegram remains the group’s platform of choice. This begs questions about how Telegram is used, as well as what kinds of threat it poses for the future. 

This presentation is based on materials from the semi dark web of encrypted applications, commonly known as apps. As part of Minerva research project, Bloom has charted and analyzed ISIS Telegram channels and chat rooms, with special emphasis on the addictive and persuasive qualities of the online social media. While analyzing user behavior, theories of social identity, individual vulnerabilities, recruitment susceptibility, desensitization, and moral disengagement have been considered. The presentation endeavors to provide new insights into how ISIS deliberately fosters addiction to social media, and how consumers of this material might move from passive support to active involvement. Understanding how the group disseminates material and interacts with its supporters is vital to countering ISIS’ messaging strategies, as well as impeding future recruitment efforts.

Friday, September 21 - Hammad Sheikh

Time - 3:00 - 5:00 PM       Location - 630, Haaren Hall

Title: Devotion to Cause and Comrades - The Psychological Underpinnings of Violent Extremism

Readings: "Empirical Evidence for the Devoted Actor Model", "The Devoted Actor's Will to Fight and the Spiritual Dimension of Human Conflict", & "The Islamic State's Lingering Legacy among Young Men from the Mosul Area"

Hammad Sheikh received a PhD in Social Psychology from the New School for Social Research and is currently a visiting scholar at the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Oxford University. He will present work - published in CTC Sentinel - from the Mosul area (Iraq) just after it was liberated from ISIL rule. This work suggests that preventing violence outbreaks in the future will require more than merely defeating ISIL militarily. He will contextualize these findings within his broader research on ideologically driven violence. While the efforts of researchers (and policymakers) are often focused on specific forms of militancy which are are tied to space and culture (e.g., Jihadism and right-wing extremism), Hammad Sheik’s research spans from Northern Ireland the North of Iraq examining factors that extremists across ideologies have in common. To this end, he collaborates with field-based researchers and regional experts and uses a multi-method approach, ranging from data collections among combatants in active conflict zones to psychological experiments in field settings, lab experiments, and more recently neuro-imaging studies. His work has garnered interest from the press and policy makers and has informed reports and briefings to the Department of Defense, State Department, Special Operations Command Central, Central Command, FBI, and the United Nations.

Friday, October 12 - Joby Warrick

Time - 3:00 - 5:00 PM       Location - L2.84, New Building

Title: Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS

Reading: Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS

Joby Warrick is a best-selling author and a national security reporter for The Washington Post. A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, he served for 20 years with the Post’s national and investigative staffs, focusing primarily on intelligence, diplomacy and security in the Middle East and South Asia. His first book, “The Triple Agent” (Doubleday, 2011), is the best-selling true story of an al-Qaeda spy who led the CIA into a deadly trap at Khost, Afghanistan, in the agency’s bloodiest day in a quarter-century. Warrick’s second book, “Black Flags” (Knopf-Doubleday, September 2015), is a narrative account of the personalities and events that gave rise to the Islamic State, or ISIS. It was listed as one of the best books of 2015 by the New York Times, The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and numerous other publications. The book was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction in April 2016. It is currently in development for a television miniseries produced by actor Bradley Cooper.

As an investigative reporter at The Post, Warrick led the newspaper’s coverage of WMD proliferation and weapons trafficking after 2001, and was among the first American journalists to question pre-war claims about Iraq’s nuclear program. Later, his articles about international proliferation threats earned him the Overseas Press Club of America’s  Bob Considine Award in 2004 for best newspaper interpretation of international affairs.

Before coming to The Post, Warrick was an enterprise reporter for The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., where he co-authored “Boss Hog,” a series of investigative stories that documented the political and environmental fallout caused by factory farming in the Southeast. The series won the 1996 “Gold Medal” Pulitzer Prize for public service and nine other national and regional awards, including citations by Investigative Reporters & Editors and the White House Correspondents’ Association.

Warrick worked for five years as a reporter for United Press International, and at age 29 was appointed UPI bureau chief in Vienna, Austria. While in Europe he covered the fall of the Berlin Wall, the overthrow of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu and the collapse of other communist regimes in the former East Bloc. He also previously worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Delaware County (Pa.) Daily Times.

Warrick graduated summa cum laude from Temple University in 1982 with a B.A. in journalism. A native of North Carolina, he lives in Centreville, Va., with his wife and two children.

Friday, November 9 - Steve Coll

Time - 3:00 - 5:00 PM       Location - L2.84, New Building

Title: America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2016

Reading: Directorate S

Steve Coll is a leading American journalist, who is currently the dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he also serves as the Henry R. Luce Professor of Journalism. He is also a staff writer for The New Yorker.

Coll’s highly respected books include Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10 (2004); The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century (2008); and Private Empire : ExxonMobil and American Power (2012).  His most recent book, in 2018, is Directorate S : the C.I.A. and America's secret wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001–2016.

 Coll is the recipient of two Pulitzer Prize awards, two Overseas Press Club Awards, a PEN American Center John Kenneth Galbraith Award, an Arthur Ross Book Award, a Livingston Award, a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, a Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award, and the Lionel Gelber Prize.

Friday, December 7 - Stephen Tankel

Time - 3:00 - 5:00 PM       Location - 630, Haaren Hall
Title: With Us And Against Us: How America's Partners Help and Hinder the War on Terror
Reading: With Us And Against Us: How America's Partners Help and Hinder the War on Terror

Stephen Tankel is an assistant professor in the School of International Service at American University and an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. Dr. Tankel specializes in international security with a focus on terrorism and counterterrorism, political and military affairs in South Asia, the changing nature of alliances, and security cooperation. He has published widely on these topics and conducted field research in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Lebanon, Pakistan, and the Balkans. Dr. Tankel is the author of numerous works, including With Us And Against Us: How America’s Partners Help and Hinder the War on Terror (forthcoming in spring 2018) and Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar-e-Taiba (Oxford University Press, 2011). He is also a senior editor of the web magazine War on the Rocks, associate editor of the Texas National Security Review, on the editorial boards of Terrorism and Political Violence and Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, and a frequent media commentator. Dr. Tankel previously served as a Senior Advisor at the Department of Defense and frequently advises U.S. policymakers, practitioners, and members of the Intelligence Community.