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Beyond the lone wolf

By Darim Al Bassam

Saturday، 11 January 2020 09:58 PM

In the summer of 2018 I met with Francis Fukuyama while he was visiting Tunisia along with Larry Dimond, both as part of a Stanford University delegation reviewing the infant democratic transition in the country.
In a small gathering with both, the issue of violent extremism was raised. I told Fukuyama that radicalisation is becoming an international phenomena. While there are crucial differences between  Islamic jihadis and Christian white supremacy extremists, there are also important similarities:  in ideology, strategy and recruitment tactics, the utility and cycle of violence; use of the social media; financing; and especially, the transnational nature of the networks. Both types of violent groups, I explained, seek to implement their own versions of what they consider to be a ‘pure’ society. Also  both of them are ideologically hooked to the absolute past which is, for them, not subjected to  hermeneutics or verification.
He disagreed with me. For him, it is unfair to put the two movements in the same category. The difference between the two is vast. Islamic Jihadists, he emphasised, are in the killing industry while the white supremacists do not resort to that kind of atrocity and brutality.
A year later from debating that argument a white extremist in New Zealand was accused of committing a devastating act of terrorism, attacking two mosques and killing at least 50 Muslim  worshippers. And as attacks in Charleston, El Paso, Pittsburgh, and Poway have demonstrated, white supremacist extremists pose a clear terrorist threat to the United States and to the west in general. As a political scientist, Fukuyama was not able to understand the mindset of violent extremists worldwide.
To prove similarities, we find that in describing their mission, white supremacists have used the term ‘white jihad’ and one neo-Nazi group recently adopted the name ‘the Base,’ which translated into Arabic is ‘Al Qaeda.’ White supremacy extremism like ISIS is a transnational challenge — its tentacles reach from Australia to Ukraine, and Norway to New Zealand — but it has evolved at a different pace in different parts of the world.  In fact about 17,000 foreigners from 50 countries, including the US, have gone to fight in Ukraine to topple the pro-Russia regime, including with the  neo Nazi Azov Battalion Ukrainian movement .
Ideology always matters with violent extremist movements, be it Islamic fundamentalism or  Christian white supremacy but not necessarily its core messaging. Radical groups use religion and ideologies to legitimise grievances, placing themselves as agents of change and promising empowerment and a sense of purpose. The ideology is simply a vehicle to be violent.
To understand the violent extremists mind sets, in recent times, the clear manifestations is that they  have in common some combination of the following:
(1) Glorifying the past, in reference to one’s group. If one’s group is currently frustrated from reaching its potential, the present might provide too little evidence for the special importance of the group. The best claim for special importance might then be found in a glorious past, and a theme that a “former golden age of our people should be restored” is found  frequently among militant extremists. Glorification  is also linked to dying for the cause. Militant extremists are prone to distinguish between relatively meaningful and meaningless deaths. A meaningful death is one that occurs as a direct result of heroic actions promoting the cause. There is a tendency to associate immortality with dying for the cause, this immortality achieved either within a theological system (eg, in heaven) or through lasting fame and repute.
Glorifying the past means also complete unwillingness to compromise with those who disagree and a declared certainty of the correctness of one’s religious vision. This is usually done through adopting  numerous defensive methods for avoiding dialogue and serious encounters with conflicting systems of belief and their adherents with powerful denunciation of people with different lifestyles . Implicit in all of such beliefs, is the willingness to assume the role of God’s ‘hit man’, defending the deity and his representatives against all perceived insults.
(2) Utopianising. There is frequently reference to concepts of a better,  just state and a promise of a long and glorious future. That utopian thinking, comes with the belief that it lays within the divine power that people are able to remake society and refashion human nature. Such thinking is foundational to the ideological style of politics within which violent extremists operate.
From a psychological standpoint, such ideas build up for group members an anticipation of future reward and function as motivator. Those who obey heaven shall be amply rewarded. They can create a new basis for civilisation, a new paradise on earth. Thus, this theme is a way of harnessing the pleasure principle – the near-inevitable tendency for individuals to seek maximisation of pleasure – into the service of the cause.
(3) The necessity of unconventional and extreme measures to force change. The theme here is that one cannot work through the system; instead one must resort to tactics that might seem unconventional and extreme. The perceived necessity of unconventional and extreme measures is integrally related to part of the definition of violent  extremism – advocacy of measures beyond the norm. Because norms might curb violent behaviour, and this theme sets up exceptions to typical normative standards, this theme could be violence-promoting
(4) Prominent mixtures of military terminology into areas of discourse where it is ordinarily rarely found. The typical  violent extremist is like a soldier outside of time and space living in a reality of war that exists only in his or her fantasy, actively trying to persuade others that a state of war/ jihad  already exists – so aggression is permitted. Such military concepts are mixed with religious ones. Often the mixing occurs in very salient ways, as in the names of organisations (eg the Army of God)  or in the term “holy war.”
(5) Anticipation of supernatural intervention: Miraculous powers attributed to one’s side, miraculous events coming to help one’s side, or commands coming from supernatural entities. Violent  extremists are idealists. For them to fight against the powerful institutions and entities they oppose, bravery against great odds is sometimes required.
Most typically, these beliefs have to do with supernatural help coming when group members initiate aggressive actions; in a limited way, then, this is another way of mixing military and religious content as we mentioned above.
This theme may be related to the common tendency for violent extremists to believe that “God is on our side” in any conflict.
(6) A felt imperative to annihilate (exterminate, crush, destroy) evil and/or purify the world entirely from evil. These are attitudes of acceptance and resignation not characteristic of a violent extremist, who not only perceives but is obsessed by evils in the world, and who seeks to rid the world of these evils or otherwise to cleanse or purify the world in drastic ways. That evil exists and that we should try to reduce evil influences in the world are common sentiments. The violent extremist differs by being unusually impatient and in a rush, seeking to accomplish this goal quickly and dramatically
In the second part of this article and in order  to fully  understand the mindsets of violent extremists , I will   seek to articulate not only what they think, but how they come to think what they think , and, ultimately, how they progress — or not — from thinking to action.
I have chosen a psychological theory of extremism and analyse violent extremists mindset as a special case of it.  The theory identifies  three  general drivers of violent extremism: namely (a)  Need (politics of recognition, quest for significance and belonging), (b) Narrative (production of meaning), and (c) Network (insurgent public sphere and/or  private sphere).
Research evidence suggests that the greater the degree of radicalisation present in one’s social network, the greater one’s personal involvement in violence.
The theory asserts that the need for personal significance — the desire to matter, to “be someone,” and to have meaning in one’s life — is the dominant need that underlies violent extremists mindset.  The theory  suggests that the quest for significance in the mindset  can be satisfied by any extreme activity for a worthy cause. When the quest for significance is activated, to the point of dominating other concerns, various forms of extreme behaviours become more appealing when they offer a route toward earning significance.
A violence-justifying ideological narrative contributes to radicalisation by delineating a collective cause that can earn an individual the significance and meaning he or she desires, as well as an appropriate means with which to pursue that cause.
Lastly, a network of people who subscribe to that narrative leads individuals to perceive the violence-justifying narrative as cognitively accessible and morally acceptable. Youths who are the most susceptible to radical narratives  constitute those who perceive themselves to be politically and/or economically marginalised, resulting in a pervasive sense of purposelessness and lack of hope for the future.
However, it was not poor socio-economic status itself that point toward susceptibility, but rather a sense of relative deprivation, coupled with feelings of political and/or social exclusion
It is the narratives, in turn, that ultimately serve as the platforms for actions. Thus, the greater one’s exposure to narratives that justify acts of violence, the greater the likelihood that individuals will become personally involved in violence. Narratives often serve as a bridge that connects feelings of insignificance and injustice to violent forms of remediation.
One reason violence can be attractive to individuals searching for significance is that it sends an unambiguous message about the importance of a cause. Violence draws attention to a cause: Nonviolent protests often go unnoticed, but ones that turn violent garner attention from the media and the authorities.
Thus, violent actions are almost sure to make one feel noticed and agentic immediately, two factors that are likely to appeal to someone who feels ignored and powerless (ie, insignificant).
Though this theory rests on a solid base of evidence to understand the mindset of violent extremists, it has important implications for further research, particularly in reference to the nexus relations and feedbacks between the need, narrative, and network factors discussed above.
Last but not least in importance, this theory offers a general blueprint that may be used to systematically guide deradicalisation and counterradicalisation efforts in an effort to address a pernicious trend that is currently threatening to destroy civilised societies worldwide.

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By: Chris

الأحد، 12 يناير 2020 06:00 ص

Interesting to read of ‘Occidentalists’’ views of the Occident. They show up the poor grasp they have of the ‘other’ every bit as much, if not egregiously worse, as ‘Orientalists’. White supremacists are resisting enforced change, and do not have an ideology as such. Writings and dogma are limited, they have poor intellectual credentials, and unlike real ideologies, they have not developed literature, rhetoric, sophistry and casuistry. For this reason they cannot sustain a broad following. The evolution of their ideas is reactive, not progressive, and unlike Islamists, their ideas are not rooted in their religion’s doctrines. They do NOT place “themselves as agents of change” but as agents of conservatism. The “former golden age of our people should be restored” is a false analogy since ‘white supremacists’ resist change such as diversity (contrary to the instinct for ingroup defence) or Marxism (contrary to the instinct for esteem and self-actualisation) which have failed in every application. References to white supremacists as some sort of force to be reckoned with is a straw man argument targeting a tiny dead-end cohort. Nonetheless, they are the only ones actively defending Western civilisation, by a wide margin the greatest the world has ever seen. And that is why it is doomed to succumb to the Left’s untried extreme idealism and Islam’s tried and tested failures.

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