Far-Right Online Radicalization: A Review of the Literature

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Res Ipsa
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Far-Right Online Radicalization: A Review of the Literature

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I stumbled upon this (long) article a couple days ago and found it really interesting. https://citap.pubpub.org/pub/jq7l6jny/release/1

The article's thesis is that the models that we have for radicalization (escalation from nonviolent to violent political action) were created post 9/11 to explain how people became jihadists. The authors argue that those models don't have much explanatory power in terms of explaining radicalization on the far right. Indeed, it questions whether the term "radicalization" makes sense at all in that context. They criticize use of the term "online radicalization" because it:
  • Is analytically imprecise and conflates behavior and ideology;
    Is normative and disregards that racist, misogynist, and xenophobic beliefs are popular in the United States;
    Depends on a simplistic model of media effects and the internet;
    Fails to attend to harmful effects of fringe and far-right behaviors beyond political violence;
    Ignores the role of epistemology;
    And is intimately tied to globalized security and CVE [Countering Violent Extremism]efforts.
They propose that four distinct process are involved, which they describe as:
The process of adopting a counter-normative ideology, meaning a system of belief that deviates from those typically held in society;  

The process of adopting a counter-normative epistemology, meaning a way of interpreting knowledge that deviates from that commonly held in a society;

The process of adopting an ideology or epistemology that explicitly advocates for intergroup violence or domination;

The process of adopting violent tactics to achieve political ends.
Each of the four processes may be substantially different in how they come about.

It was a different way of thinking about incidents like the recent shooting in Buffalo and similar events.
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Re: Far-Right Online Radicalization: A Review of the Literature

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makes basic sense. Sounds like "contrarianism" + "hyperbole to get attention". How much of what certain posters around here is explained by that? Like 97%?
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Re: Far-Right Online Radicalization: A Review of the Literature

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Gadianton wrote:
Tue May 17, 2022 11:28 pm
makes basic sense. Sounds like "contrarianism" + "hyperbole to get attention". How much of what certain posters around here is explained by that? Like 97%?
Contrarianism and attention seeking seem to be brothers, or at least cousins. But I don’t think they end up shooting Yup a black church.
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Re: Far-Right Online Radicalization: A Review of the Literature

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Isn't that the whole idea behind "stochastic terrorism?"

For most, I think contrarianism and attentions seeking is the personal release. And it's contagious. That's the foundation to exploit by politicians, pundits, religious leaders, even if it's an act for many of them. Maybe I'm a hopeless optimist but I'd be very surprised if any of the right-wingers I've interacted with online or in real life are dangerous. Even the Q guy in my neighborhood while quite emotional -- I just don't see it. I don't think politicians, at least at this stage of the game, have a vested interest in violence, and would prefer for there not to be any real consequences aside from their own increase in power, wealth, and popularity. I think they'd rather have a fake problem to keep them in power. Obviously, they are willing to look the other way immediately when violence happens and blame everybody else. I've mentioned before that there's this right-wing guy on the walk who is really down to earth; older guy with a sense of humor; great listener, just a great guy. There are quirks when it comes to politics. For instance, while normally just really compassionate, if there's a school shooting, the first thing out of his mouth is his concern for his guns. They're going to take his guns now and he's panicking. He doesn't even have a gun that would be on a list. He'll look the other way in such a dilemma but not a chance in hell he seeks violence.

But, we're talking tens of millions of people getting in on the act. This Buffalo guy has some personality quirks to say the least. And so for every 1,500 folks out there losing their crap online compartmentalizing, able to live normally otherwise, there's that one oddball that either takes everything ultra seriously or is just incredibly angry and willing to promote violence. Most of those probably don't dare do anything themselves, but there's that one person who really doesn't get it, and takes matters into his own hands. And so the constant circulation of memes that promote a general narrative conducive to the violence by millions and millions, and the circulation of more specific messages that are overtly violent or racist by thousands, just have to find a home with that right odd personality type. And as more incidents happen, the more people get used to it.

Here's kind of a sorta related thought. The scariest high-level thing about the Ukraine war is the fact that some of us, on day 1, couldn't accept that something like this was actually happening. All my hobbies stopped, I couldn't even watch a movie for 2 months. And then it's inevitable that as you deal with it, you start accepting that things like this can really happen. And as the death toll rises, it's more normal every day.
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Re: Far-Right Online Radicalization: A Review of the Literature

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Gadianton wrote:
Wed May 18, 2022 4:11 am
Isn't that the whole idea behind "stochastic terrorism?"

For most, I think contrarianism and attentions seeking is the personal release. And it's contagious. That's the foundation to exploit by politicians, pundits, religious leaders, even if it's an act for many of them. Maybe I'm a hopeless optimist but I'd be very surprised if any of the right-wingers I've interacted with online or in real life are dangerous. Even the Q guy in my neighborhood while quite emotional -- I just don't see it. I don't think politicians, at least at this stage of the game, have a vested interest in violence, and would prefer for there not to be any real consequences aside from their own increase in power, wealth, and popularity. I think they'd rather have a fake problem to keep them in power. Obviously, they are willing to look the other way immediately when violence happens and blame everybody else. I've mentioned before that there's this right-wing guy on the walk who is really down to earth; older guy with a sense of humor; great listener, just a great guy. There are quirks when it comes to politics. For instance, while normally just really compassionate, if there's a school shooting, the first thing out of his mouth is his concern for his guns. They're going to take his guns now and he's panicking. He doesn't even have a gun that would be on a list. He'll look the other way in such a dilemma but not a chance in hell he seeks violence.

But, we're talking tens of millions of people getting in on the act. This Buffalo guy has some personality quirks to say the least. And so for every 1,500 folks out there losing their crap online compartmentalizing, able to live normally otherwise, there's that one oddball that either takes everything ultra seriously or is just incredibly angry and willing to promote violence. Most of those probably don't dare do anything themselves, but there's that one person who really doesn't get it, and takes matters into his own hands. And so the constant circulation of memes that promote a general narrative conducive to the violence by millions and millions, and the circulation of more specific messages that are overtly violent or racist by thousands, just have to find a home with that right odd personality type. And as more incidents happen, the more people get used to it.

Here's kind of a sorta related thought. The scariest high-level thing about the Ukraine war is the fact that some of us, on day 1, couldn't accept that something like this was actually happening. All my hobbies stopped, I couldn't even watch a movie for 2 months. And then it's inevitable that as you deal with it, you start accepting that things like this can really happen. And as the death toll rises, it's more normal every day.
I'm not sure what you mean by "that." I don't see contrarianism or attention seeking as a significant part of creating stochastic terrorism. Both have been around as behavior forever. Neither has a necessary connection to the kind of political extremism represented by the Buffalo shooter.

But I'm convinced that the brain normalizes whatever situation it finds itself in as some kind of survival mechanism. It tries its hardest to make some kind of sense out of whatever bizarre situation it finds itself in. I think it's part of why abused people stay with an abusive partner and similar behavior that seems incomprehensible to outsiders. It's what has happened with COVID. The school where Ms. Ipsa teaches had more students, teachers and staff test positive last week than the total number of positive tests in the same population since the start. That's just staggering, but our brains just accept that this is "normal" now.
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Re: Far-Right Online Radicalization: A Review of the Literature

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I'm open to suggestions. That's really what I see as behind the messaging and conspiracy theories that go viral and ultimately lead to these kinds of acts of violence.

Example: Frustrated 13-year-old in 1985 expresses his anger by drawing a swastika on his homework assignment in class. Why? There's no ideology here, it's just the best bang for the buck in shock value. Maybe he wears a Slayer Jacket. Maybe he picks up a copy of the Anarchist's Cookbook at the library. He's a loner. Today, he can go online and express himself with photoshop but with hordes of others trying to outdo each other being the harshest and the coldest. I mean, you have to be pretty hard-core to say something that will grab attention on 4-chan. That's where it starts. This kid has no real-life experience with the people he disparages. But the gist of these memes and shock leak to Twitter or Facebook to get an audience of what would be more normal people. Different than the Arbery murder, for example, that from what I saw was rooted in local community tensions that have existed and festered for a couple hundred years. That could (and probably did) happen 30 years ago. That it happened now is shocking, actually, so much so that it changed citizen's arrest laws that have been laying around for decades so I don't think we can say the particulars there happen "all the time". I doubt that had anything to do with the Internet per se or any of the unique features of today's politics. It's like, three guys teleported from the sixties.

But what do you say? What fundamentally is behind conspiracy theories like replacement, pizzagate, and so on. Assuming you agree that these things lead to random terror.
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Re: Far-Right Online Radicalization: A Review of the Literature

Post by Res Ipsa »

Gadianton wrote:
Wed May 18, 2022 5:42 am
I'm open to suggestions. That's really what I see as behind the messaging and conspiracy theories that go viral and ultimately lead to these kinds of acts of violence.

Example: Frustrated 13-year-old in 1985 expresses his anger by drawing a swastika on his homework assignment in class. Why? There's no ideology here, it's just the best bang for the buck in shock value. Maybe he wears a Slayer Jacket. Maybe he picks up a copy of the Anarchist's Cookbook at the library. He's a loner. Today, he can go online and express himself with photoshop but with hordes of others trying to outdo each other being the harshest and the coldest. I mean, you have to be pretty hard-core to say something that will grab attention on 4-chan. That's where it starts. This kid has no real-life experience with the people he disparages. But the gist of these memes and shock leak to Twitter or Facebook to get an audience of what would be more normal people. Different than the Arbery murder, for example, that from what I saw was rooted in local community tensions that have existed and festered for a couple hundred years. That could (and probably did) happen 30 years ago. That it happened now is shocking, actually, so much so that it changed citizen's arrest laws that have been laying around for decades so I don't think we can say the particulars there happen "all the time". I doubt that had anything to do with the Internet per se or any of the unique features of today's politics. It's like, three guys teleported from the sixties.

But what do you say? What fundamentally is behind conspiracy theories like replacement, pizzagate, and so on. Assuming you agree that these things lead to random terror.
Fundamentally, I think I agree with Shermer that it's the brain's bias toward patternicity and intentionality. Our brains want to force connections on dots that aren't connected and then explain the connections by invoking intent by somebody. The more information our brains have to work with, the easier it is to find dots to force connections on. And we're drowning in a flood of information. Latching on to conspiracy theories or conspiratorial thinking gets easier every day. And I agree that it's much, much easier for communities to be built around conspiracy theories than it used to be.

I don't know that the Arbery case reflects conspiratorial thinking. It does seem like those three were teleported from the sixties. I'm not sure the causation there has anything to do with what the paper is describing. Dunno.

I think it would be fascinating to know about what the Buffalo shooter's home life was like. Was this kid suddenly red pilled out of the blue a couple of years ago? Or was there more to it than that? The authors seem to think there are other processes at work. I dunno.

It's possible that I'm thinking of contrarianism in a different sense than you are.
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Re: Far-Right Online Radicalization: A Review of the Literature

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The more information our brains have to work with, the easier it is to find dots to force connections on. And we're drowning in a flood of information. Latching on to conspiracy theories or conspiratorial thinking gets easier every day.
Yeah, I think this is a big item. Brave New World (too much info) vs. 1984 (too little). social media scales. The Facebook apostates say that merely turning off one feature, "forward to everybody without reading", would make a dent. I was going by your summary, I'll read the paper later. Anyway, I think I missed "fear". It's easy for me to forget about that, even with my remark about that guy who is legitimately in fear of losing his guns, because in general the best representations of unhinged behavior in the news and around here come across as angry and grandstanding, rather than legitimately afraid.

So let's start here, as I think you are correct: our brains get too much info and find simple patterns. But why does bad info get absorbed so much easier? Why is there such high production of bad material? In the Kotkin videos I've watched, he brings up the failure of those with proper understanding of things to communicate their message to the public. We have to communicate better. That's his libertarian bias. What if good messages, no matter how carefully crafted, fail to compete with bad messages?

I'm sure you need no examples, but I have a great one from yesterday. Not political either. Let's say there is a great concern over the danger that a certain household product is causing more cancer than ever and some inconvenient efforts are required to respond to the threat. I get an email with a document that looks like a collection of statements that grows as it gets past around. Some of the lines are all-caps, some are highlighted yellow. On the face of it, the basic idea seems plausible. A number of everyday things that have turned out to be a real problem from bad water to lead in gas. One of the very last items is a link to Snopes. The Snopes ruling is the claim being made is false and carefully refutes the very email it's attached to. Somebody updated an earlier version of the email with a link to Snopes refuting the email, saying that Snopes confirms the information and Snopes says we should pass it on. And there is no way I can compete with it. It takes a certain set of problems to produce crap like this, it takes another set of problems to fall victim to it.

Disclaimer: Being able to rationally sort through information doesn't mean everything. I've underestimated many things in life, some that have led to a real problem, others to potential problems, because I don't like dealing with problems. I don't like investing time into practical health / home things.
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Re: Far-Right Online Radicalization: A Review of the Literature

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I think it's because the "bad messages" are simplistic, giving that immediate shot of dopamine. The real world is complex and messy, as are the "good messages." No dopamine for you, nuanced and complicated explanation.

As for spread, I think the B.S. asymmetry principle dooms the ability of "good" messages to compete with "bad" messages online.
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