Revealed – Open Source Center Master Narratives Country Report: Syria

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Understanding master narratives can be the difference between analytic anticipation and unwanted surprise, as well as the difference between communications successes and messaging gaffes. Master narratives are the historically grounded stories that reflect a community’s identity and experiences, or explain its hopes, aspirations, and concerns. These narratives help groups understand who they are and where they come from, and how to make sense of unfolding developments around them. As they do in all countries, effective communicators in Syria invoke master narratives in order to move audiences in a preferred direction. Syrian influencers rely on their native familiarity with these master narratives to use them effectively. This task is considerably more challenging for US communicators and analysts because they must place themselves in the mindset of foreign audiences who believe stories that — from an American vantage point — may appear surprising, conspiratorial, or even outlandish.

This report serves as a resource for addressing this challenge in two ways. First, it identifies a set of eight master narratives carefully selected based on their potency in the Syrian context and relevance to US strategic interests. Second, this report follows a consistent structure for articulating these narratives and explicitly identifies initial implications for US communicators and analysts. The set outlined here is not exhaustive: these eight master narratives represent a first step that communicators and analysts can efficiently apply to the specific messaging need or analytic question at hand. For seasoned Syria experts, these narratives will already be familiar — the content contained in this report can be used to help check assumptions, surface tacit knowledge, and aid customer communications. For newcomers to Syria accounts, these narratives offer deep insights into the stories and perceptions that shape the Syrian political context that may otherwise take years to accumulate.

Some master narratives cut across broad stretches of the Syrian populace, while others are held only by particular audience segments. This study divides Syria into six audience segments that demonstrate how different master narratives resonate with different sections of the populace. Each of the six master narratives aligns with one or more of the following segments: Regime Insiders, Wealthy Urbanites, Rural Sunnis, Urban Working Classes, Alawites, and Kurds (See the Appendix for a detailed description of these audience segments.)

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OSC-SyriaMasterNarratives