Signals, Screens, and Spin: The Use of Information and Misinformation to Reduce Violent Activism
48 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2002
Date Written: March 13, 2002
This paper considers a model in which an activist or terrorist uses violence to signal commitment to a political agenda. We examine how this violent signaling may be countered and reduced by the use of information-gathering mechanisms. Signaling through violent activism does not necessarily fully reveal an activist's true intentions. A signal is only partially informative if an activist has several pieces of private information like the value he assigns to his political agenda, and the attitude he has toward taking extreme action. We look at a unified theoretical model in which several information-gathering mechanisms are used in succession: signaling, screening, and spin control. The signaling is only partially separating so a role exists for subsequent screening. This screening both adds information and removes incentives to use violent activism as a signal. Adding spin control to the highest, separating signal used in equilibrium further reduces the incentives to signal. We conclude by showing that spin control and screening may - perhaps surprisingly - be both used in succession after a high signal to reduce signaling incentives. It may be effective to both inform and misinform the public to reduce signaling through violent activism.
Keywords: Activism, Terrorism, Signaling, Screening, Spin Control
JEL Classification: C72, D74, D78, D82,
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation