Outsmarting Propaganda: Combatting the Lure of Extremist Recruitment Strategies

Bias, Discrimination & Hate
Lyndon B. Johnson TV Ad Daisy 1964
Grade Level:
High School
Common Core Standards:
Reading, Speaking and Listening, Language
SEL Standards*:
Self-Awareness, Social Awareness, Responsible Decision-Making
Bias, Discrimination & Hate

Right-Wing Extremists and Others Storm the U.S. Capitol

On January 6, 2021, Congress met in the U.S. Capitol to count electoral votes and certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election. While this took place, a violent mob of right-wing extremists and others stormed the Capitol. They came to Washington, D.C. (and several state capitals) to disrupt and overturn the results of the Presidential election. As House and Senate lawmakers held their floor debates, angry rioters—many wearing and carrying white supremacist symbolism—invaded the Capitol building, spewing rage and hate. Five people were killed, including one Capitol Police officer. Many have been arrested and the search for suspects continues.  

Terrorist and Extremist Groups: Recruiting Young People

Other well-known incidents involving white supremacy and domestic extremism include Charlottesville’s ‘Unite the Right’ rally in 2017, and the mass shooting of nine Black parishioners in a Charleston, SC church in 2015 by Dylann Roof, a man who espoused white supremacist ideology. There have also been various international incidents that were inspired by the terrorist groups ISIS and Al Qaeda. Terrorist and extremist groups actively try to recruit new members to join their causes in a variety of ways and the internet and social media have been a powerful tool in their arsenal, especially when trying to entice young people to their cause. Terrorist and extremist groups and their supporters use websites and social media platforms to share propaganda, spread disinformation and misinformation and to foster a sense of community for supporters, which serves to amplify their influence.

About the Lesson Plan

This high school lesson provides an opportunity for students to understand what propaganda is and how it is used, learn about extremism and terrorism and their recruitment methodology and consider actions they can take to counter those strategies.

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will understand what propaganda is and the ways it is both similar to and different from advertising.
  • Students will explore some of the most common elements of propaganda.
  • Students will learn about extremism and terrorism and the recruitment methods used, especially those targeting young people.
  • Students will reflect on actions they can take to counter the propaganda and recruitment methods of extremists and terrorists.
* Based on CASEL's SEL Framework

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