All Radicalization Is Local: Media Influence on Local Islamist Radicalization Processes in Five German and Austrian Hotspots
Given the paucity of research on media influence on radicalized individuals, this study explored journalism’s influence on the dynamics of local Islamist scenes in five German and Austrian hotspots. Theoretically, based on the concept of key events, we conducted 21 interviews with local deradicalization workers and former Islamists. Our findings show that sensational media coverage of key events that exaggerated the local scene’s dangerousness fostered local Islamist radicalization by bolstering the propagandistic narrative of Muslim victimhood. Moreover, the news media contributed to state authorities’ repression of the local scene. This caused the local Salafis to retreat from the public in all five hotspots. In three hotspots, the more moderate legalist Islamists benefited from sensational and undifferentiated media coverage of the Salafis and accused the society of Islamophobia. In this climate of accusations, critical reporting on Islamist activities seemed lacking, explaining why some participants perceived indications of a public Salafist comeback.