The Role of the Internet in Facilitating Violent Extremism: Insights from Former Right-Wing Extremists
While a growing body of evidence suggests that the Internet is a key facilitator of violent extremism, research in this area has rarely incorporated former extremists’ experiences with the Internet when they were involved in violent extremism. To address this gap, in-depth interviews were conducted with ten Canadian former right-wing extremists who were involved in violent racist skinhead groups, with interview questions provided by thirty Canadian law enforcement officials and ten community activists. Participants were asked about their use of the Internet and the connection between their on- and offline worlds during their involvement in the violent right-wing extremist movement. Overall, our study findings highlight the interplay between the Internet and violent extremism as well as the interactions between the on- and offline worlds of violent extremists. We conclude with a discussion of study limitations and avenues for future research.
We examined whether and how social media play a role in the process of radicalization, and whether and for what purposes extremists use social media after they become radicalized within a sample of fifty-one Canadian extremists. Differences between converts and non-converts in terms of their radicalization process, involvement in terrorism, and social media usage were also investigated. Data were collected from a combination of media reports via an in-depth LexisNexis search and court records obtained from The Canadian Legal Information Institute database. The results confirm that social media played a role either during or after the radicalization process of the majority of the sample and converts are more vulnerable to online radicalization than non-converts.
A repeated cross-sectional study of sympathy for violent radicalization in Canadian college students
The upsurge in violent radicalization is associated with a global increase in social inequalities and conflicts related to different markers of identity. To date, literature on the factors associated with legitimizing violence toward others is cross-sectional and does not provide information on the possible change of this phenomenon over time. Such information is necessary to design primary prevention programs that are adapted to and address a rapidly evolving social context. We use a repeated cross-sectional study design to explore the association between sociodemographic characteristics and scores on the Sympathy for Violent Radicalization Scale (SVR) in Quebec (Canada) college students at 2 times points. Results from an online survey completed by students of 6 colleges in 2015 (n = 854) and 2017 (n = 702) indicate that although overall scores on the SVR scale remained stable, there were changes in the association between age, identity, and the outcome at the two time points. Specifically, scores on the SVR were significantly higher among younger students in 2017 than in 2015. In addition, in 2017 we observed a relationship between collective identity and SVR that was not present in 2015. These results align with other recent studies in Canada and the U.S. documenting the emergence of new forms of youth politicized bullying associated with race, ethnicity, and religion. A close monitoring of the phenomenon is warranted to both better understand the impact of populist policies on the increase in hate incidents and crimes and develop programs to address these forms of violence from a public health perspective.
This article explores ISIS’s concept of education and teaching. More precisely, we examine how religious elements were integrated into textbooks written and published by the group. We then present the results of codifying religious elements found in textbooks. We conducted a precise, targeted study of religion-integrated teachings through a didactic and critical lens. The textbooks analyzed in this article were published by ISIS. Printed copies were found and recovered by our team in a number of schools around Kirkuk after its liberation. The dogmatism of these teaching methods is apparent because it meant not to develop students’ critical thinking.
This book comprehensively examines right-wing extremism (RWE) in Canada, discussing the lengthy history of violence and distribution, ideological bases, actions, organizational capacity and connectivity of these extremist groups. It explores the current landscape, the factors that give rise to and minimise these extremist groups, strategies for countering these groups, and the emergence of the ‘Alt-Right’. It draws on interviews with law enforcement officials, community activists, and current and former right-wing activists to inform and offer practical advice, paired with analyses of open source intelligence on the state of the RWE movement in Canada. The historical and contemporary contours of right-wing extremism in Canada are situated within the social, political, and cultural landscape that has shaped the movement. It will be of particular interest to students and researchers of criminology, sociology, social justice, terrorism and political violence.
Converging Patterns in Pathways in and out of Violent Extremism: Insights from Former Canadian Right-Wing Extremists
In recent years, research on pathways in and out of violent extremism has grown at a staggering rate. Yet much of what is known about these oftentimes “mysterious” processes does not necessarily shed light on the specific aspects of right-wing extremism, and especially not from a Canadian perspective. In an effort to bridge this gap, we use a life-course criminology approach to draw from the voices of former extremists to gain insights into their respective trajectories in and out of violent extremism. A total of 10 life course interviews were conducted with former Canadian members of violent right-wing extremist groups. Analyses of these data suggest that even if there is no single trajectory in and out of violent extremism, there are still converging patterns such as the attraction for common pull factors and a profound dedication to the right-wing cause. Our analyses also demonstrate that the emotional toll of leaving the movement is often characterized by exhaustion, isolation and regrets.
While it has become increasingly common for researchers, practitioners and policymakers to draw from the insights of former extremists to combat violent extremism, overlooked in this evolving space has been an in-depth look at how formers perceive such efforts. To address this gap, interviews were conducted with 10 Canadian former right-wing extremists based on a series of questions provided by 30 Canadian law enforcement officials and 10 community activists. Overall, formers suggest that combating violent extremism requires a multidimensional response, largely consisting of support from parents and families, teachers and educators, law enforcement officials, and other credible formers.
Transnational Radicalization, Diaspora Groups, and Within-group Sentiment Pools: Young Tamil and Somali Canadians on the LTTE and al Shabaab
In recent years, the Tamil and Somali diasporas have come under intense scrutiny by the media and national security agencies in Canada. This is due to concerns that members of both communities may hold political grievances associated with their respective homelands that could be acted upon by joining or supporting transnational terrorist groups. Drawing on 168 in-depth interviews with youth and young adults in Toronto’s Tamil and Somali diasporas, we provide a comparative analysis of the varying ways that existing sentiment pools can operate to mobilize broad-levels of support for, or vilification of, the framing strategies of the LTTE and al Shabaab, respectively. Our findings show that frames that portray the LTTE in a positive light resonate deeply with the young Tamil-Canadians we interviewed, characterizing a “narrative fidelity” between these frames and the existing sentiment pool. By contrast, there exists considerable disconnect between the framing strategies of al Shabaab, their supporters, and existing sentiment within the Somali diaspora – a divide that illustrates the notion of “framing failure”. We conclude with a discussion of the dynamic nature and inherent malleability of group-level sentiment pools, and highlight why this may be important from a national security standpoint.