Elusive Trope's picture

    Getting Radical


    As I was leaving my place today, Andrea Mitchell on her MSNBC show asks her guest "...so what is the process of radicalization."   I don't know what kind of answer her guest gave since I then closed my front door, but the reporting on this event has had me more than once pondering the term "radicalization" in the current discourse.

    Of course, this question is posed in the context of the Boston Marathon bombing and its aftermath.  The term radicalization in this context it is understood has a more narrowed definition than the general term 'radicalization.'

    Looking back over my days of youth and the circles in which I ran in, there was some touching upon this process.

    In my teens, the circle with which I identified could only be called the hippie skate punks*.  We were as likely to listen to the Dead and speak fondly of Abbie Hoffman as we were to listen to the Sex Pistols and spray paint the symbol of anarchy on the walls of the Man. 

    To say we as a group were disaffected and alienated from the societal status quo would be pretty much accurate.  Yet I have no recollection of anyone talking about blowing anything up, of some kind of armed rebellion against the forces of the government.  Turning on, tuning in and dropping out was enough of  a statement for us.  Ronald Raygun Reagan was going to lead us to  a nuclear winter so it was just a matter of killing time, not people, until the end times.

    Later in an adulthood when I ran within some environmental and social justice activist circles, there were a few individuals who appeared momentarily on my periphery who had started to ponder such violent confrontation as justifiable means to an end. Yet as far as I know, these individuals never went beyond the pondering stage.  They were no different, in my opinion, than that guy at the high school kegger bloviating about how if the cops were going try and get him, he would go down in a blaze of glory.

    There is a very powerful romanticization of the radical, the outlaw, the anti-hero woven into the modern Western society.  The other day I saw some young kid getting out his mom's new minivan wearing a Sons of Anarchy t-shirt.  The more things change the more they stay the same.  I doubt that this kid and his friends will turn their back on "decent society" and become cold-blooded killers, whether it is for ideological reasons or for maintaining an illegal business operation.  But who knows.

    (* upon reflection, I would say at times we were closer to yippie skater punks)


    Trope, your writing on this topic has been absolutely brilliant.  So, thank you for that.

    As for radicals -- our media needs to stop confusing "radical" with "violent."  What makes somebody violent is what they're really asking.  Salvador Dali was radical.  Picasso was a radical.  Your friend Camus was a radical.  The world needs radicals.  Radicals don't hurt people, violent people hurt people.

    First, thanks for the compliment. Second, your point about radicals is right on the head of the proverbial nail. Virginia Woolf was a radical. So was the one who thought we should all be afraid of her. And here we are, waiting. Lets go. Yes. Lets go.

    Well, I have just come across an expert DOD-sponsored study on topic for ya--take it or leave it (I haven't even finished reading the whole article myself)--

    from page 2 of Black and White and Red All Over/How the hyperkinetic media is breeding a new generation of terrorists, by Scott Atran, ForeignPolicy.com,  April 22:

    ....Under sponsorship by the Defense Department, my multidisciplinary, multinational research team has been conducting field studies and analyses of the mental and social processes involved in radicalization at home and abroad. Our findings indicate that terrorist plotters against Western civilian populations tend not to be parts of sophisticated, foreign-based command-and-control organizations. Rather, they belong to loose, homegrown networks of family and friends who die not just for a cause, but for each other. Jihadists pretty much span the population's normal distribution: There are very few psychopaths and sociopaths, few brilliant thinkers and strategists. Jihadi wannabes today are mostly emerging adults in transitional stages of their lives -- students, immigrants, in search of jobs or companions -- who are especially prone to movements that promise a meaningful cause, camaraderie, adventure, and glory. Most have a secular education, becoming "born again" into the jihadi cause in their late teens or 20s. The path to radicalization can take years, months, or just days, depending on personal vulnerabilities and the influence of others. Occasionally there is a hookup with a relative, or a friend of a friend, who has some overseas connection to someone who can get them a bit of training and motivation to pack a bag of explosives or pull a trigger, but the Internet and social media are usually sufficient for radicalization and even operational preparation.

    The result is not a hierarchic, centrally commanded terrorist movement but a decentralized, self-organizing, and constantly evolving complex of social networks based on contingent adaptations to changing events. These are no real "cells," but only clusters of mostly young men who motivate one another within "brotherhoods" of real and fictive kin. Often, in fact, there is an older brother figure, a dominant personality who mobilizes others in the group. But rarely is there an overriding authority or father figure. (Notably, for these transitional youth, there's often an absence of a real father).

    Some of the most successful plots, such as the Madrid and London bombings, are so anarchic, fluid, and improbable that they succeeded in evading detection despite the fact that intelligence and law enforcement agencies had been following some of the actors for some time.....

    Some "radicals" without a cause that fit his description in bold there:

    Sharks vs. Jets/source: The Cinema Corner Blog


    Is there something to fact that a good review for a a dance troupe would say their performance was "anarchic, fluid and improbable "?

    I was thinking Sharks and Jets about this situation, too. In fact, that's what made me think of the Romeo and Juliet analogy. 

    "Back in the day," I found the expertise of a couple of academics to be particularly helpful to my understanding:  Mary Habeck's 2007 book, Knowing the Enemy, and Marc Sageman's 2008 book, Leaderless Jihad.

    Great links.  Thanks.

    I watched the first half of this, Uncle Ruslan talking about "getting radical":


    how he saw how "it' happened in Chechnya. How he knows "it" now when he sees it. I think Uncle Reslan has a better bead on how "it" happens than Mr. Atran. Gave me chills when he knew "it" had happened with Tamerlan "when he called me that name" but he couldn't remember the word right away. And then finally remembers the name Tamerlan called him. How it's not about the word, it's about trying to force a moral code on others. Then he looks at these types understanding of another word in Islam with ridicule. Uncle Reslan seems to understand very instinctively what the difference here is between this and the Sharks and the Jets....and that one can try the strong father figure thing but it may not work, sometimes it's not enough, sometimes you have to give up on trying to fix "it," the "brainwashing."

    I don't know about the Pentagon, but Uncle Ruslan's analysis works better for me on places like Syria and Afghanistan.

    I am too lazy and sick to research right now so I went to wiki in order to refresh my memory.

    We have 30,000 gangs in this country that include some 800,000 gang members (as of 2007) and supposedly the cops maintain that almost 90% of all 'crimes' are committed by these gangs.

    How does one define the term gang or even gang member?

    Well, I have seen this phenomena as armies in continual warfare with one another and with the public in general.

    These armies are armed to the hilt.

    They sell arms to criminals and drugs to stupid kids.

    Some ten thousand deaths result from this continual warfare every year in this country including first degree murders, friendly fire and the deaths of innocents.

    Young men can be very dangerous. They have some gene that regulates all of this ardor.

    We already have 2.5 million people in our prisons and jails already.

    Should we just 'round up' another 800,000 young men?

    I think what shocks me the most about these White Russians is that they wreak havoc with no real goal in mind. They did not blow up a finish line for money or drugs.

    There is no purpose to their actions. Just like the Aurora and the Sandy Hook hoodlums.

    And how political were the actions taken at Aurora and Sandy Hook?

    Somehow we become more satisfied in our search for reasons when some radical prick in the Middle East takes the credit for the mayhem.

    Rage has got to be the primary motivator for all of these people.

    That is all I got!





    I think as a country, we have provided one too many hat racks for rage.

    Trope, I think we are in agreement here. The anti-hero is a character who has gotten out of hand in our political and legal vision. That is what the Boston case should be about, I think.

    There is a role for the anti–hero in society, providing a corporeal presence that counters the status quo. But I suppose one could say not all counters are the same, as in balancing means and ends.

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