Guns and Grievances: A Rhetorical Analysis of Populism in Syrian Militant Social Media Communications Restricted; Files Only

Bader, Leah (Spring 2023)

Permanent URL:


Populism is on the rise globally, with significant impacts on electoral outcomes and political power. However, the study of this prominent political ideology and communication style within the literature is concerned with electoral contexts and does not present sufficient analysis of populism within civil conflict. This thesis represents one of the first attempts to evaluate militant group populist rhetoric by constructing a theoretical framework of electoral populist theory and evaluating its applicability to militant group populist rhetoric. In conducting qualitative research utilizing dictionary- and process tracing methodology, I find that militant group use of populist rhetoric differs from electoral populism and warrants further study. My temporal analysis of militant group social media posts and militant group activity over time explores militant engagement in populist rhetoric and identifies ties between different manifestations of populist rhetoric. As usage of populist rhetoric and civil conflict increase, analysis of how actors in civil conflict engage in populist rhetoric is crucial. 

Table of Contents

Introduction     1

Chapter 1: What Makes a Populist?     3

Literature Review of Populism Study     3

Conceptualizations of Militant Group Capacity     3

Understanding Populism     5

Defining Populism     7

Chapter 2: Theoretical Framework of Populism        9

Articulation of Grievance    10

In-Group Definition     12

Target of Culpability       13

Populism and Social Media          15

Alternate Explanations    16

Chapter 3: Methodology     19

Dictionary Research Design    19

Process Tracing Research Design    21

Case Selection    21

Militant Articulations of Populism    23

Threats    24

Rectification of Inequalities    25

Legitimization of Information Sources    26

Legitimization of Governance    27

Data    29

HTS Group Level Analysis     30

Chapter 4: Results    32

Exploration of Militant Populist Rhetoric: Manifestations of Populist Rhetoric 32

Exploration of Militant Populist Rhetoric: Aims of Populist Rhetoric         35

Impact of Populist Rhetoric on Capacity    40

Chapter 5: Discussion    51

Bibliography    54

Appendices    65

Appendix A: HTS Social Media Claim Coding Ontology     65

Appendix B: HTS Group Activity Timeline 2017- 2018    75

About this Honors Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Last modified Preview image embargoed

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files