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The Multiple Faces Of Radicalisation

By   /  April 11, 2019  /  20 Comments

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The readiness to withhold empathy from those whose values the radical extremist abhors has always been the first step on the staircase that leads to terrorist atrocity. The second is the radical’s hate and rage when those deemed to hold abhorrent values refuse to be silent.

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RADICALISATION, it’s a thing. A brand new academic discipline is growing up around investigating the ideas and experiences that lead individuals towards acts of terroristic violence. The national security apparatuses of the Western powers are snapping-up every graduate in radicalisation studies they can lay their hands on. The idea, presumably, is to intercept and redirect those en route to events like 9/11 and 3/15. To recognise the plant biology of extremism and nip it in the bud.

The problem with radicalisation, as a concept, is that it comes loaded down with all manner of assumptions. The most obvious of these is the assumption that to be possessed of radical impulses; to subscribe to radical ideas; to advocate radical solutions; is ipso facto to be considered both psychologically dysfunctional and politically dangerous. To be a radical of any sort in this age of neoliberal orthodoxy, is instantly to become ‘a suitable case for treatment’.

Given that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), several years ago registered Oppositional Defiant Disorder as a form of mental illness, the redefinition of radicalism as a form of political sickness is entirely unsurprising. What better way to prevent people from getting to the root of society’s ills (the word radical is derived from radix,  the Latin word for root) than by more-or-less criminalising the acquisition of radical ideas.

No doubt the spooks and their academic supporters would object that their use of the term ‘radicalisation’ is limited to the specific process of inculcating extreme political and/or religious beliefs in individuals carefully selected by and subsequently inducted into terrorist organisations. When they talk about radicalisation, the groups they have in mind are Islamic State and Boko Haram.

Except, of course, like all such initiatives, the drive against radicalisation is prone to “mission creep”. If radicalising individuals to serve the purposes of Islamic extremism is considered a bad thing, then so, too, must be the radicalisation of individuals to serve the purposes of the burgeoning white supremacist ‘international’. Then, of course, there are all those tiny Marxist-Leninist and Trotskyist organisations filling their followers heads with dreams of proletarian revolution and capitalism’s imminent demise. Not forgetting, of course, the anarchists, animal rights activists and deep ecologists. Presumably, they too must be nipped in the bud – before they can burst into flowers of fire and blood.

But why should the war against radicalisation stop there? What about the radicalisation taking place under our very noses in the sociology, women’s, indigenous, political and communication studies departments of the country’s universities? Where do they sit on the threat spectrum? Are the young men and women being taught to hate the racist, sexist, Islamophobic and homophobic bigots who threaten their proudly diverse, multicultural society, more or less dangerous than the “fascists” they seek to de-platform with such extreme prejudice?

What to do, when glib YouTube philosophers reassure their ‘antifa’ acolytes that all political philosophies are ultimately grounded in violence, and that in extremis even liberal democracies are held in place by the policeman’s baton and the soldier’s gun? Call the cops? E-mail the GCSB?

If radicalisation really is a thing, and radicals – regardless of their ideology or religion – warrant the closest surveillance, then extreme Islamists, white supremacists, Marxists and environmental activists cannot possibly represent the full extent of the authorities’ watchlist.

The readiness to withhold empathy from those whose values the radical extremist abhors has always been the first step on the staircase that leads to terrorist atrocity. The second is the radical’s hate and rage when those deemed to hold abhorrent values refuse to be silent.

The question the spooks and their academic advisers must ask themselves is: how far up the staircase should the enemies of liberal democracy and freedom of expression be permitted to climb before their escalating radicalisation becomes a threat to their fellow citizens?


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  1. WILD KATIPO says:

    Um ,… sorta circular there Chris,…

    I reckon old fashioned commonsense and decency should be the dictate. One may be radical about many things that cause no harm, whereas anything that does cause harm to people , – be it physical, financial , or social … needs to be looked into. If not , radicalism then becomes benign.

    One can be a radical mountain climber- do things that are outrageously dangerous and new… the characters who climb buildings, or a radical car collector, what we are talking about here is extremism.

    If people operated more out of decency and good motive, perhaps political radicalism would not have a chance to grow. That takes a certain amount of interpersonal respect. Its pretty simple. It really gets down to :

    ”If I do this, what possible negative consequences will it have on others?”

    Or ” do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

    Basic stuff.

    So simple a child can understand it.

    That is the ideal world and not the real one we live in, but it is the underlying truth of the matter. Until then we will always be stuck with this ongoing , grinding negative situation where well paid spooks and academics make small fortunes out of peddling the latest theories to demonize a group different from their own.

    It is all so pointless and negative and only really will be sorted out when Jesus comes back.

    Then it will be a ‘ hot time in the town tonight’ as all these ‘misleaders’ are finally dealt with. Of that you can be sure.

  2. Andrew says:

    Most under 25 year olds have had radical thoughts in their time. Most argue their way through it, either with themselves or with others (that’s what university is for) and get over it. A tiny few act upon it. Most of those who act on it are either intellectually weak or impaired and easily led.

    The problems *really* begin when political leaders make dog-whistle calls for violence, and we’ve seen a lot of this in the USA since 2016 when Trump was elected.

    Firstly some said his victory it didn’t count because he didn’t win the “popular vote”, whatever that is. (A bit like saying a soccer team didn’t win its game, if ice hockey rules are applied) and then it was all the fault of the Russians.

    The Democrat leadership then encouraged people on the streets to ‘resist’. This is a dog whistle call for violence against their opposition.

    And violence in many forms was the result: From radical students attacking public speakers, violent street protests, to a Democrat sniper shooting elected representatives. It’s a dark path they’ve chosen.

    • Shawn says:

      All politicians, regardless of their political loyalties, need to be careful about how they frame issues, and avoid as much as possible an “US vs THEM’ approach. Trump clearly fails in that regard, but you’re right that in the weeks following his election so did the Democrats.

    • The Informer says:

      Total Twaddle. It is Trump who is the dog whistler in chief. He is now the de facto white supremacist leader in America (Stand aside David Duke). He has helped to foster and accelerate right wing terrorism. This is known as Stochastic Terrorism. Indeed, 86% of deaths from terrorism in the USA from 2005 were from right wing, christian, violent extremists. From the Maga-bomber to the Pittsburg Synagogue shooter to the many school shooters.
      The reason why NZ missed its own right wing threat so easily was because the terrorist himself and those in the NZ intelligence agencies, were more or less playing for the same team. The personnel the SIS hire are ex cops and those on the right of the spectrum. They both saw Muslim terrorists as the main threat to NZ. Perhaps the SIS should have hired the from the Sociologists, Women’s and political departments, instead of watching them.

      • Jason says:

        The Informer,
        Please provide evidence for the following: “Indeed, 86% of deaths from terrorism in the USA from 2005 were from right wing, christian, violent extremists”. Not all right wingers are Christians. I believe most of them aren’t because I can only find 4 people total who were killed by Christian terrorists in the US since 2005.

        The NZ intelligence services were looking at Islamic terrorism because it was likely the greatest terrorism threat to NZ. It will have nothing to do with the political leanings of its officers but all to do with the intelligence information they had.

        • Lone Comet says:

          That’s right! And that intelligence that they had wasn’t worth the paper it was written on, clearly. Why? Because they didn’t have intelligence mighty white groups or intelligence they paid attention to because they didn’t see a threat there. Why not? Because as Informer points out, they are more or less batting for the same team, or somewhere on the spectrum for sure. This is evident by the police both here and in Australia dismissing without so much a jot in the daily notebook the threats two people reported about 1. The shooter threatening to kill someone on Facebook in Oz and 2. Strong concerns about the Dunedin gun club.

  3. mgray says:

    We have some bad, poor and corrupt leaders in many countries and until the world can rid themselves of these nasty hating leaders we will never have world peace i see Israel although divided like many nations now have elected the same old war monger

    • Andrew says:

      This is a good example of where we go wrong. You wish to “get rid of” nasty hating leaders so I would ask:

      Doesn’t “Get rid of” have violent undertones? There is already a process of removing unpopular leaders – voting them out.

      How do you propose to measure ‘nasty’ and ‘hating’ other than via your own personal opinion and prejudice? It’s not a reliable metric.

      A working majority of Israelis voted him back in so either they’re all wrong or maybe your understanding of Israel is only superficial. Which is it? Have you even been there?

    • Shawn says:

      Human nature is what it is. You can no more totally and finally get rid of bad or corrupt leaders than you can stop the sun rising. The only tool we have to try and minimise the damage is democracy, which at least allows us the possibility of throwing them out after a few years. Utopian schemes, especially when they involve getting rid of THEM, never end well.

  4. Keepcalmcarryon says:

    Interesting background on the shooter and potential east European links here:

  5. Sam Sam says:

    Of all the things to get tough on while Indonesia is committing genocide in West Papua we have these nobody’s in security circles inventing threats so they can level up there prestige and glory. Such an amazing pool of talent that is.

    *looks at the murder rate*

    *looks at deaths by car accident*

    *looks at the coal industry related deaths*



    Nope, I think these guys aren't coming anywhere close to being a threat with physical or mental characteristics.

  6. Castro says:

    How far up the staircase? Yeah, right! Don’t you mean sunken how low into the underclass?

  7. Marc says:

    “Given that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), several years ago registered Oppositional Defiant Disorder as a form of mental illness, the redefinition of radicalism as a form of political sickness is entirely unsurprising. What better way to prevent people from getting to the root of society’s ills (the word radical is derived from radix, the Latin word for root) than by more-or-less criminalising the acquisition of radical ideas.”

    OMG, so we have got that far already do we?

    I should warn all those that suffer mental health issues, to not trust the system as we have it all that much. It is somewhat “fashionable” now to consider persons with ‘mental health issues’ as being in need of forms of help, so we also had the debate about more resources needed to go into the system.

    That is all good, some may think, but nothing in this type of system we have, a mix of political, social and economic factor based system, nothing will come without strings and fishhooks attached.

    So while some suffering in dealing with crisis, with stress, with their own distress, depression and difficulties in getting on with their ‘fellow folks’, while they may think, good, I get help now, better be careful.

    In many criminal cases the first step taken by a court, or even by agencies dealing with the ‘suspect’ or ‘offender’ before then, that is to have a ‘mental health assessment’ done.

    A person will get examined, questioned and assessed, and forms will be completed, data records created, and files will be filled with this. The person so ‘assessed’, whether guilty of something or not, will bet put into a system drawer sooner or later, become categorised, classified and what else we may call it.

    And this goes into health records, the criminal justice record, and many other records also, held by the state agencies and even others. Let us not forget, when you want to be insured, you will have to declare ills suffered and so forth, when you apply for jobs, at least certain ones, you will be asked about health issues, that may impact on your ability to perform certain work, when you apply for a loan, they may not directly ask for your health status, but in hiding between other questions, there may be risk analysis done, and the list can go on.

    You may already see and understand, what I mean. Once you end up there, you will be ON RECORD, of course not ‘publicly’, but certainly with agencies, and they can, if so needed, under the health legislation, even pass on relevant info, all more or less acceptable under the privacy law, which is one with lots of holes in it, a bit like a Swiss Cheese.

    And once you are ‘on record’, they have you sussed, I fear.

    Your future will be bleak, unless you fully disclose, fully accept the need of ‘treatment’ and ‘recovery’ and the rules imposed on you by those who know best, for right or for wrong reasons.

    So when the DSM has this ‘condition’ already covered, wait for more to come. We are fast moving into a full control kind of society, that would have made the Stasi and NAZIs proud of themselves.

    People will be watched, checked and so forth, for their ‘well being’ and ‘health’, and that comes again with many strings attached. You will up in total dependency on the good will of the state and whosoever has you ‘on record’, as they will determine whether you are fit to do many things, to do certain work, to hold a gun or not, to drive a vehicle or not, to be trusted to go to certain places or not.

    The further this goes, the more we end up with more people diagnosed, assessed, classified, categorised and put into drawers. We will have the population divided into ‘risk categories’ and more, add the spy and surveillance services, they will fit in perfectly, to enhance this system, so any words you may say or write ‘inappropriately’, or that are in themselves ‘inappropriate’, they will send out alarm bells, alert the ‘services’ and have them look at you and check what you are doing.

    So dear TDB readers and especially commenters, always be mindful, who is watching over your shoulder, the social mind analysts are already creating profiles for each and every one of us, and they can see from comments, who may pose a ‘risk’ of sorts to ‘society’ as a whole.

    George Orwell’s 1984 is happening as we read and think and speak, it is in the making right now, we will soon have a total control society, and nobody will be allowed any means (in the extreme case guns) to pose any threat to this system, that is solidifying its hold on all of us, and that will control our every corner of the mind, body and soul, and of course our day to day lives.

    Give this some serious thought, I would be careful now, as to what info I share with health services, with WINZ, ACC, with the police of course, any agency of the state, also insurers and private companies managing accounts and what else there is.

  8. Andy says:

    So called “Anti-Fascists” at Antifa use violence and dress up in masks. However, the media hardly ever call them out.

    • Marc says:

      BS, the media does report on them all the times in countries where they have significant numbers behind them and where they are active.

      Only in Sleepy Hobbit territory here in NZ is there no reporting, as Antifa is a tiny group of people here, hardly ever noticed.

      But now we are in near hysteria about the security services not having detected activities of one violent mass shooter and terrorist who killed fifty people in Christchurch, I note police outside virtually all mosques all over the country, while the shooter was apparently and allegedly a sole actor.

      Also is there panic over ANZAC Day security for events, I wonder why? Have the police got news about intended revenge attacks???


  9. Len says:

    Right-on Chris. Those of us who hold radical anti-capitalist, pro-ecosocialism views better watch our backs. We really are the threat that counts in the long run. And We Will Overcome at some point (or perish with the rest of humanity as the earth consumes itself at the hands of our woefully blind capitalist masters).

    • Ngungukai says:

      If you are a Maori Environmentalist and Anti-1080 here in NZ it is highly likely you will be targeted by the Intelligence Services ?

  10. manfred staab says:

    Back to the class standpoint

    In times of sentimental fixation of many political debates, one should expect the left – from their tradition – being on the side of the Enlightenment. Clarity of words, in nomenclature and in thought are a kind of radical left-wing attitude, a clever left is always critical of ideology.

    The current left has dedicated itself to the non-dialectic ‘zeitgeist’, which no longer has any fear of embracing demagogies of the right. This damages the progressing development of the left, which in – case of doubt – always advocates maximum enlightenment for all participants in a political discourse.

    The left was always interested in the class standpoint and was part of a comprehensive critique of ideology. The melancholy of the back-to-the-60s perspective has only incrementally to do with a future leftist project, even if the zeitgeist says otherwise.

    The history of the left is one of confidence and progress that made the actors look curious rather than anxious into the morning.

    A smart left would redefine the emancipatory concern of social progress.

    A clever left has to regain the sovereignty of interpretation outside media-established terms and middle-class terminology.

  11. Chris says:

    The DSM-5 is an extremely dangerous manual. It medicalises ordinary everyday human emotions and behaviours as “mental illnesses”.

    Mike Adams summarised it perfectly in his article “Psychiatry Goes Insane: Every Human Emotion Now A Mental Illness”.

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