“The author is dead” –Unknown
Over the last decade the UK Government have made significant advancements in the identification and support of vulnerable people at risk of becoming radicalised. From its publication and constant revisions of the Prevent Strategy(2011) to the assembly of multi-agency panels to review and support at risk individuals. In my role as a safeguarding nurse I have received specific training in radicalisation however lock down has presented some interesting new spikes in “Self Radicalisation”.
I should probably start by describing what I mean by radicalisation. In the context of my work radicalisation is the exploitation of vulnerable persons, coercing or manipulating them into adopting an extremist ideology or undertaking tasks in the name of an extremist ideology. This is not exclusively about Islamic Extremism, any extreme religious or political ideology counts, be it the IRA in the eighties, or Basque Extremists in mainland europe until 2011. A strong argument has been made to include the INCEL group as extremist, especially after the events in Toronto. The UK Government maintain a “Proscribed Organisations List”. As a rule, you’ll likely have an easier life if you do not become affiliated with any of the organisations on this list. It is not uncommon for some of these organisations to target individuals with deficits in their social awareness, particularly individuals with autism as the lack of social awareness increases the chance of successful indoctrination.
Self Radicalisation is where an at risk individual encounters extremist materials without having been targeted and without guiding begins to engage or adopt the organisations ideologies. In this case the author is dead, their intentions when writing the material are irrelevant, the reader has found extremist meaning in there whether it was intended or not and may undertake acts of domestic terrorism in line with their newly adopted beliefs.
So how to you protect against this? Removal of any inflammatory material would probably help but that would be state censorship and I have a bit of an issue with that. Normally I would have an issue with the state legislating against membership of a particular organisation but take a look at the list, I don’t think anyone could argue how dangerous these groups are.
Its slightly easier with Radicalisation where you have identified dangerous groups and if they start interacting with at risk individuals. With Self-Radicalisation all the individual needs is access to the internet. Many individuals most at risk are socially isolated so they don’t have friends and family noticing the subtle changes in behaviour or picking up alarm cues in conversation. Fortunately however many of these individuals do have some level of health and social need. At the moment the most effective identification method we use is simply asking health staff or social workers to consider the risk of radicalisation when interacting with their patients. They are then supported to put their emerging ideologies into the proper context and understand it. Which frankly is a concept that could be lifted directly out of Brave New World.
I guess my question here is how do we find the line between protecting society and oppressing an individual? when is it ok to cross that line? is it ever ok to cross that line?
I am extremely proud to live in a plural society, I can believe anything I want, within reason I am able to express that belief openly as long as it doesn’t impact anyone else. Individuals may discriminate against me for my beliefs but at least on paper the state cant legislate against whats in my head. However it is clear from our management of individuals in PREVENT cases that the state want us to think a certain way and will take steps to ensure that when belief approaches extremism.
Things I couldn’t find a place for
There were a number of comments I wanted to make that I couldn’t introduce into the text above without breaking its flow.
Firstly I have no idea who said “the author is dead” I thought it was either Oscar Wilde or Roland Barthes, if anyone knows can you let me know.
There is an absolutely amazing episode of The West Wing in which they draw the religious comparison “Islam is to Islamic Extremist as Christianity is to the KKK”. Its an entirely valid religious comparison. The episode is the first episode in season three and is called Issac and Ishmael, I highly recommend you watch it.
Its really important to recognise that radicalisation is safeguarding, terrorism is criminal. Radicalisation is about protecting vulnerable individuals from indoctrination before they go any further.
When Lenin and Mao read Karl Marx Communist Manifesto they could be broadly described as self radicalising. Both were believed to have significant mental health issues which would have made them more likely to adopt extremist ideologies. Their interpretation and execution of the Communist Manifesto was almost certainly not what Karl Marx had intended.