New imaginaries of war : how Hamas and the Islamic State advance their political objectives on a virtual battlefield : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy (College of Humanities and Social Sciences) at Massey University, Albany Campus, New Zealand
This thesis argues that Hamas and the Islamic State, two non-state armed groups located in the Middle East, each carefully calibrate their own war-fighting activities with their communications approaches in order to achieve their respective political objectives. Drawing on scholarship focusing on non-state armed groups and political communication, as well as other secondary sources such as specialist journalism, the thesis critically analyses online communications material distributed by Hamas and the Islamic State through official and affiliated websites, digital publications, YouTube clips, tweets, and other social media platforms. While there is a striking degree of conformity between the sophisticated, comprehensive, and disciplined communications approaches used by these two groups, the thesis argues that key differences during especially intense periods of conflict — specifically, between June and October 2014 — reflect the divergent ways in which Hamas endorses, and the Islamic State disrupts, the prevailing world order as each pursues their own cause. It also notes that much of the recent scholarship highlighting the use of social media by non-state armed groups overestimates the impact of the virtual world on the actions of their followers in particular and attempts to influence the hearts and minds of a global audience more broadly.