Most people who join social movements, political movements, or religious movements are not mentally ill or stupid. They have adopted an ideology and constructed an identity that in their view justifies their actions--whether these actions are deemed constructive or destructive by society.
The vast majority of movement activists never engage in violence.
This is an interview with Roger Griffin, Professor in Modern History at Oxford Brookes University in the UK, who has turned his expertise in modelling the dynamics of fascist support to understanding the psychological mechanisms which drive terrors fanaticism. In this interview he explains the phenomenon of what he calls 'heroic doubling' which can turn a 'normal' individual into someone who carries out acts of fanatical violence which may make no sense to the victims or the media-spectators to whom it is supposed to act as as a message. His analysis has a direct bearing on the 'inexplicable' acts of the Boston Marathon Bombers:
People who join social movements are engaging in a basic process of democratic civil society.
Starting in the 1970s, sociologists rejected the idea that movement activists were engaged in irrational collective behavior,
but began studying social movements as collections of people with complaints
who develop a plan to make the larger society respond to their needs.
When discussing social movements it is important to see ideology and methodology as separate facets of social movements.
Esposito and Mogahed suggest looking at political radicalization instead of piety: “The real difference between those who condone terrorist acts and all others is about politics, not piety” (p. 74). The authors give examples from radicals’ views/perspectives on colonization and American Empire.
How then could we explain ever-increasing combination of religious rhetoric and political radicalism? [Read More]
What's Islamic Apocalyptic Prophesies
Got To Do With It?
...and conspiracy theories, demagoguery,
and millennial excitement?
Islamic Totalitarians, Apocalypse, and Terrorism
Walk a mile in the shoes of those who claim to honor God and yet cheer the bombing of the Boston Marathon. They represent only a tiny fraction of the Muslims on our planet, yet they see themselves as carrying out the will of God.
Fanatics such as these can be found in many of the World’s religions. They shoot abortion providers in the United States; blast apart buses in Israel; and murder Muslims and Hindus in India.
These religious fanatics often combine a totalitarian political mindset with a belief in sacred prophecy that they are mandated by God to rule the world, and they must act now against their enemies because time is running out. In fact they believe that we are approaching the end of time itself, the literal end of the world as we know it. This worldview is call apocalypticism. [Read More]
Contributors to this essay dialogue were asked to evaluate the relationship between terrorism and social movements. Is terrorism an expression/tactic/tool of social movements? Are suicide bombing, mass suicides, and other tactics commonly associated with terrorism forms of activism/contentious action? If so, do our theoretical tools for analyzing social movements work well for understanding terrorism and its contentious forms of action? If not, why not, and what might some alternative perspectives be? [Read More]
The Tools of Fear Used by Demagogues
Using a Demagogic Form of "Consitutive Rhetoric"
...by which the ideolgical demagogue, through various media, uses frames and narratives to develop an identity structure. This creates a constitutency who learn who the enemy is and
what needs to be done to stop them before it is to late
--a timetable that generates apocalyptic aggression--
Can Mobilize a Consituency to
Generate These Outcomes
This Process is Called Apocalyptic Demagoguery
The negative effects can be woven into systems, structures, and insitutions in a society and can create durable:
We need to unpack the concepts of ‘constitutive rhetoric’; the vilification, demonization, and scapegoating of a named ‘Other’; coded rhetorical incitement by demagogues; the relationship between conspiracism and apocalyptic aggression; and the process of scripted violence by which a leader need not directly exhort violence to create a constituency that hears a call to take action against the named enemy.
These processes can and do motivate some individuals, especially “Lone Wolves” to adopt a ‘superhero complex’ which justifies their pre-emptive acts of violence or terrorism to ‘save society’ from imminent threats by named enemies ‘before it is too late.’
===Terrorists embody a “Superhero Complex, A number of terrorists in the US fall into that pattern. Stressor factors that can create a Superhero Complex that leads to violence can include zealous political goals, anxiety over changing racial, gender, or religious dynamics, a sense of being persecuted, fear and depression over collapsing economic viability, a belief in conspiracy theories of impending attack by dark forces, or other factors. For Salvi, Loughner, and Breivik, stress was focused on targeted scapegoats by right-wing fearmongering from marginal sources and demonization of liberal ideas.
===The claim of mental illness in a terrorist is often used incorrectly, and sometimes used to dismiss any societal motivating factors in a violent act. Most people who struggle with mental illness do not act out in violence. Some convicted terrorists said to be “obviously” mentally ill do not have a diagnostic condition recognized by the medical community; while juries convict terrorists who display clear signs of mental distress.
Expanded in: Chip Berlet. 2014. “Heroes Know Which Villains to Kill: How Coded Rhetoric Incites Scripted Violence,” in Matthew Feldman and Paul Jackson (eds), Doublespeak: Rhetoric of the Far-Right Since 1945, Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag.
Don't let terrorism stampede us into further eroding civil liberties in the United States. Expanding freedom is the best payback. Resistance is not futile.
Spirit House Project uses the arts, research, education, action, and spirituality to bring diverse peoples together to work for racial, economic, and social justice, as well as for spiritual maturity.
Featured Physical Archives
Marquette University has acquired a large collection of FBI files on US right-wing organizations and individuals. The files were released under the federal Freedom of Information Act to researcher Ernie Lazar. The Lazar Collection is also ONLINE!
The goal of the website is to provide online linkages to a variety of existing and new transatlantic resources for the study of social movements that seek to expand or restrict access to full democratic human rights for all people. The mission is to illuminate the relationship of hierarchies of race, gender, and class to societal conflicts, especially those involving social movement organizations and their specific ideologies, frames, and narratives.
This website is sponsored by a group of scholars in the United States and Europe for the purpose of providing reliable resources for scholars, researchers, students, journalists, and organizers for human rights as defined by various international documents and United Nations declarations.
The Social Movement Study Website is an independent collaborative non-profit endeavor that receives no funding from governments or partisan political organizations.
The global human rights movement challenges the
systems, structures, and institutions that create, defend, and extend
oppression and repression in a society.
“Without a struggle, there can be no progress.” --Frederick Douglass
“There Is No Hierarchy of Oppressions.”
"The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly, or quiet. It requires a certain relish for confusion." --
Democracy is not a specific set of institutions but a process that requires dissent.
Democracy is a process that assumes the majority of people,
given enough accurate information, the ability to participate in a free and open public debate,
and can vote without intimidation, reach constructive decisions that benefit the whole of society, and
preserve liberty, protect our freedoms, extend equality, and defend democracy.
Without dissent there is no progress in a society: Dissent is Essential