This book is an extension of Chris Bail’s sociology PhD thesis he defended at Harvard in 2011. Bail in the book sheds light on how civil society organizations create a cultural change after major crises by forming a theory what he calls as the evolutionary theory of collective behavior and cultural change, and he is testing it upon the shared understanding of Islam in the U.S. in the following decade of September 11, 2001 attacks.
The theory draws upon the emotional bias of the media, which is exploited by some (anti-Muslim) fringe organizations in the aftermath of major crises (such as 9/11). This exploitation, Bail argues, creates the misperception that such groups have substantial support. Mainstream (Muslim) organizations then angrily denounce the fringe (while they were not that passionate in condemning terrorism acts), which only increase the profile and visibility of the fringe. From this privileged position, Bail concludes, these once obscure civil society organizations attack the legitimacy of the mainstream (and hence replace them).
In order to empirically test this theory, the author collects data from a diverse set of sources including surveys, press releases, newspaper articles, television transcripts, in-depth interviews, Twitter posts, Facebook pages, IRS filings, and legislative texts. Using these datasets, he then employs various quantitative and computational social science methods such as social network theory (clustering/MDS/visualization), text mining (plagiarism & sentiment analysis), and regression models.
I recommend this book not only to the academics who are interested in how cultural changes occur post major crises, but also to general public who are looking for a plausible explanation of the rise of Islamophobia in the U.S.
I hope my book review in presentation format below help getting a better sense of the book: