Safeguarding: Self Radicalisation

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.


Safeguarding : Incest

Some of my readers are aware that I am an Adult Safeguarding Nurse for a large hospital in the south of England. This work leads to a lot of exposure to (among other things) the weird and wonderful diversity of human nature. I will relay some of the more interesting experiences in these posts if it is possible to anonymise the details enough to prevent a breech of confidentiality. In the case of this post I have changed some of the smaller details which don’t in any way impact the learning I have taken from it.

I received a call for advice from a department in the hospital regarding a patient in her early twenties who reported to being in a consensual sexual relationship with her biological father who was in his late thirties. Realistically this does not constitute a safeguarding concern as defined by Section 42 of the Care Act(2014) given neither individual was considered to have a cognitive impairment that would suggest an exploitative relationship. However as rule anything that doesn’t really fit anywhere else comes to my team. and I am going to be honest the research necessary for this case has fucked my browser history up and I am really looking forward to how it impacts my targeted adverts on sites.

My immediate reaction when the basic details were described to me was “ewwww” however that was a very quick instinctive reaction which led to me thinking “blimey, that felt like a programmed response”. I did some digging and stumbled across a psychosocial mechanism called The Westermark Effect. This is sort of like a a reverse imprinting from a young age. Sexual attraction is suppressed with people you live closely with, this is believed to be a clever biological mechanism to limit the damage inbreeding can do to any gene pool. I am from Cornish stock, my people are famous for inbreeding on a borderline industrial level however its usually not immediate family members. As a professional this led me to wonder how effectively I could support these patients given I am biologically programmed with a bias preventing me from understanding their situation.

There were some obvious human rights and criminal considerations so the obvious place to start was Section 64 of the Sexual Offences Act(2003). This led to a number of interesting incidental findings –

  1. Adoptive family are covered by this section. I presumed the reason for the Act was to legislate in a way that would prevent damage to the gene pool and prevent the birth of children with potentially avoidable life limiting physical health problems. Which thinking about it feels like legislating for Eugenics. However preventing intercourse with an adoptive family member who in theory has no genetic tie to you doesn’t fit that theory so I have no idea of the aim of this section.
  2. My patients believed they were not breaking the law because they apparently didn’t have penetrative vaginal intercourse, only anal and oral sex. It turns out according to the Act any sexual penetration is unlawful. Which again doesn’t support the theory that the purpose of the section is to protect against the consequences of a close familial pregnancy.
  3. The punishment for violation of this section is a custodial sentence of not more than eight months AND a fine OR a custodial sentence of not longer than two years.

This got me wondering how many people have actually been prosecuted under this section of the Act. I found a response to a freedom of information request submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service(CPS) indicating that between 2003 and 2017 eighteen people have been prosecuted. This doesn’t include arrests without prosecution. I know this is over a period of fifteen years but that was still considerably higher than I was expecting. I do however remember listening to a podcast which outlined a situation with some similarities to the case I had. I think it was RedHanded but I am afraid I cant remember which episode. However I do highly recommend this podcast, it is truly outstanding.

So the next question that presented itself was – Is legislating against sexual relationships with close family members a violation of a persons rights under the European Convention on Human Rights(ECHR) or the Human Rights Act(1998). The key article in question would be Article 8, the right to a private and family life. Honestly I have no answers here. In my work I assess situations against Article 5 (The Right to Liberty and Security) and Article 8 (The Right to a Private and Family Life) on almost a daily basis. If the spirit of the law was to protect society and the well being of hypothetical unborn children I would argue there is no violation in legislating against incest. However for the reasons listed above I have no idea what the spirit of this act is but it doesn’t appear to be about protecting genetic diversity or unborn children.

This case has offered a lot of reflection and learning. Both academically and in considering how I as a person respond to situations that I don’t understand or that don’t conform to even the broadest social-norms. I would totally invite discussion and debate around this issue.