Radicalization: Warm Up, Performance, Finale
Exploitation at Its Finest
Radicalization takes many different forms, but the process of it seems to be identical in each instance. In my opinion, there are two most pressing instances of radicalization at the moment: Islamic radicalization and White supremacists.
Disclaimer: I'm very cautious of including the word "Islamic" as I have no wish to contribute to or back-up the word association of Islamic to the already alarming level of Islamophobia. I researched different terminologies for talking about how ISIS fighters groom people and it came up with "Islamic fundamentalism" or "Islamic radicalization" as accepted terms. So, for that reason, I have included the word Islamic above. Like the 1.8 billion Muslims on the planet, I don't condone the acts of ISIS and advocate for the international acknowledgment that the global Muslim community are not responsible nor representative of Islamic State militants.
The warm up to radicalization seems to be identifying those who are vulnerable. For an ISIS fighter, that looks like someone who is craving peace and security. Someone who doesn't have a stable job or social circle/support network. Anything that has the capacity to encourage a desire for a simple escape from difficulties. The pathways that the internet and social media have opened up mean the Dark Web is a lot closer and predators are closer to their prey. For a White supremacist, there are numerous examples of some men in America forming this easily identifiable group that many argue suffer from toxic masculinity. For Donald Trump to say "I'll fix your problems because I'll get rid of the Muslims and Mexicans," it provides an instant solution for them. I haven't studied psychology, but the sociologist inside me sees the process as cunning because it again means the socio-economic situation of an individual is being exploited—establish a friendship or familiarity, gain trust, and begin to feed through radical ideas.
The performance is the main event of accomplishing being radicalized. It's the act of a suicide bombing or being part of a far-right rally. All in the name of a God, or place (heaven), or some warped utopia favored by White nationalists. Except it wasn't for these causes, but for the name of the individual or group who shared the initial friendship and ultimately the radical ideologies with them. Unfortunately, the group, in the case of ISIS, they drag the name of the other 1.8 billion Muslims on the planet through the mud—all for some short-lived, sadistic moment of power and control. Another version of the performance is the craving of control that is always seen at White nationalist rallies by the EDL, or Britain First, or the Charlottesville rally in 2017 organized by Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler. These gatherings of neo-nazis and members of the alt-right are generally to mourn the fight for and the rise of equality and empowerment of the Black community and immigrants.
The finale. At this point, the radicalization has obviously been successful, and the perpetrators of an attack or rally have been led to believe they will explicitly benefit from being there. In the case of ISIS, the prize of committing an attack is eternal glory in heaven. I'll always find it laughable (but still concerning because it suggests an extreme of toxic masculinity) that ISIS fighters believe they won't make it to heaven if killed by a woman. For White supremacists, it is increased social superiority and favor. Instead, they die or are imprisoned—ostracised and less likely to receive help.
Following the Charlottesville White supremacist rally in August 2017, it occurred to me that those who took part need care, that they have been brainwashed and manipulated. It is generally that those who teach how to hate are never present at these immoral rallies. I believe it's the same concept with ISIS, those who brainwash and groom vulnerable people are never present at terror attacks: they are the generators, and leave it to vulnerable people—up for psychological exploitation—to commit atrocities.
The tabloids such as the Daily Mail, or an ISIS fighter—they don't receive a scratch. They provide the means for another person to do the work for them. And to me, they are con artists who never seem to face the consequences.
I thought recently that those who radicalize have the same level of mental health as those they prey upon. It takes an overwhelming want of control and power to prey upon people who have few guards up, who also want control and power over their own lives. And yet, those who are Islamophobic and choose to generalize Islamic extremism with the entire global Muslim population, have often come from similar situations as those who become victims of radicalization. The three parties here have the same susceptibilities to manipulation, but play different roles in a global game.
A lot of the time, public anger understandably falls on the assailant and the person who commits an attack or hate crime, but they don't stand alone. There is an army of people who are keen players at twisting the minds of people who have few barriers in place, often through no fault of their own. As much as we despise those who inflict and inspire hatred and insinuate violence, they need our help. They need well-funded social services, love, and support. Whilst they feel like a burden and a stain on society, they have suffered to get to this stage. Any kind of security programme or policy put in place by any government needs to be married with well-funded social services. There's little point in having strong borders with regards to, e.g., bomb equipment if the country still holds people in weak financial or social positions. On countless occasions, it is circumstances like that which mean people are willing to do anything to obtain the peace they crave.
(This is part 1 of another blog post which will discuss rehabilitative methods used to curb crime and lower re-offending rates.)