Molly Wood: What are the things that move people, ultimately, to violence?
Fathali Moghaddam: It's a slow process sometimes, but it can also be rapid. The key issues are that individuals feel that they are being mistreated, that there is injustice in the world. Particularly nowadays, through the internet, an echo chamber has developed and isolation takes place, so this group radicalizes. The radicalization takes place in relation to other groups. It's what I call mutual radicalization. Gradually they get to a stage where one or two of them are ready for actual violent behavior.
Wood: It sounds like what you're saying is that, not only is the internet particularly ripe for this type of behavior, but that, in fact, as online communities become radicalized, they radicalize each other. They up the ante.
Moghaddam: Absolutely. This is becoming the norm. We see this in politics. We see it in extremist ideology. There is a relationship between these radicalizing movements and the internet. This is taking place in the wider context of globalization.
People are easily propagandized because of what historically we have called "peer pressure." People want to fit in and belong to something larger than themselves. The norms of the group which influence compliance and obedience can be for positive social good or negative social good.
Perhaps the dangerious step up the ladder of radicalization is when the sense of social justice becomes self righteously personal. The sense of grievance rises to high levels which compels attack on those perceived as being the perpetrators of the injustice. In these situaions, violence and terrorisism seems not only justified but holy to an insane ego. Most of the U.S. public engaged in this behavior when they supported the Afghani and Iraq war back in 2001. The indiscriminate bombing characterized as "shock and awe" by the media was based on the delusional belief that the Iraqis had WMD.
There was one dissenting vote in the congress on the resolution to engage in this delusional behavior. That was Congress woman Barbara Lee. She was the one healthy person in the whole congress and history will remember her brave and courageous behavior in taking a principled stand against trememdous propaganda and social pressure.
The ego likes to play the game of "one or the other." Americans are quick to project their guilt onto people they perceive as different from themselves. The antidote for this radicalization of populations is to provide personal experience of a positive nature with the person perceived as "different" and a reduction in fear with methods other than self righteous attack
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