Heal­ing from Hate: How Young Men Get Into – and Out of – Vi­o­lent Ex­trem­ism

THE (Times Higher Education) - - BOOKS - Matthew Feldman is direc­tor of the Cen­tre for Anal­y­sis of the Rad­i­cal Right, and co-direc­tor of Aca­demic Con­sult­ing Ser­vices.

By Michel Kim­mel Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Press 280pp, £25.00

ISBN 9780520292635 Pub­lished 17 April 2018

Mas­culin­ity. Or, more ex­pan­sively, “the ef­fort to es­tab­lish and sus­tain a hy­per­mas­cu­line iden­tity as a hedge against feel­ings of psy­cho­log­i­cal emas­cu­la­tion”. That is the pu­ta­tive miss­ing link in stud­ies of vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism, both ji­hadi Is­lamist and rad­i­cal right. If the ex­pla­na­tion sounds shrink-ish, it is: just don’t tell the au­thor, who is chaf­ing to avoid any whiff of be­ing “psy­cho­log­i­cally re­duc­tion­ist”. That is a pity, since his study – part gonzo jour­nal­ism, part ethno­graphic re­search – could use a bit more the­o­ret­i­cal meat.

The dis­cus­sion of the se­duc­tive per­ver­sions of ji­hadi Is­lamism is skin and bone, too. The chap­ter ti­tled “Bri­tain: The Ex-ji­hadists Next Door”, which ex­plores the de­rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion ef­forts of the Quil­liam think­tank, makes a gen­uine con­tri­bu­tion to schol­ar­ship and in­cludes 64 ref­er­ences. The pre­ced­ing chap­ter about the in­for­mant to the “Toronto 18” 2006 ter­ror­ist plot is less than six pages long, with only six ref­er­ences de­riv­ing from a sin­gle source.

At the risk of psy­chol­o­gis­ing my­self, this lop­sid­ed­ness is in­dica­tive of the book’s greater fa­mil­iar­ity with rad­i­cal right ex­trem­ists. The lat­ter pop­u­late the first six chap­ters – two on Swe­den, two on Ger­many and two on the US – which make use of ex­ten­sive in­di­vid­ual in­ter­views. The fi­nal two chap­ters on vi­o­lent ji­hadis of­fer a coun­ter­point rather than ro­bust bases for com­par­i­son – and that is par­tic­u­larly true for the fo­cus on mas­culin­ity, which seems over­stated (not least given the – once more, psy­cho­dy­namic – stress upon the al­legedly cru­cial need for moth­ers’ con­sent be­fore re­cruits join al-Qaeda or Daesh).

That said, the case-study chap­ters on gen­der and the rad­i­cal right are ex­cel­lent, as is the epi­logue. The book may also cor­rect an im­bal­ance in ap­proaches to the rad­i­cal right scene. Shame, vic­tim­hood, dys­func­tional fam­i­lies, “para­noid pol­i­tics” and rad­i­cal ide­olo­gies are well cov­ered as sup­port­ing agents for rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion. Un­like ji­hadi Is­lamists, how­ever, most neo-Nazi “con­verts” are ado­les­cent, even pre­pubescents. These “babyskins” learn to drink and fight be­fore shav­ing; yet they are no less con­ver­sant with what the “real men” of the “Fourth Re­ich” should look and act like.

In just such “thick de­scrip­tion”, to use Clif­ford Geertz’s ter­mi­nol­ogy, Heal­ing from Hate is at its most con­vinc­ing, mem­o­rable and, at times, down­right bizarre. Take Jackie Ark­löv: a neo-Nazi given a life sen­tence for killing two po­lice of­fi­cers, ex­e­cu­tion-style, fol­low­ing a bank rob­bery gone awry. His vi­o­lent past was shaped by the 1990s Yu­goslav Wars, where he com­mit­ted atroc­i­ties against Bos­nian Mus­lims. Shock­ing stuff, but per­haps not sur­pris­ing for a white su­prem­a­cist. Ex­cept that Jackie’s dad is Bri­tish and his mum is Liberian. A mixed-race neo-Nazi – imag­ine the psy­cho­log­i­cal depths there.

That en­try into (and exit from) revo­lu­tion­ary ide­olo­gies is played out psy­cho­log­i­cally is given wel­come at­ten­tion by Michel Kim­mel, even if the idea of mas­culin­ity as primus in­ter pares feels forced in places. In keep­ing with re­cent schol­ar­ship, the im­por­tance of in­di­vid­ual ex­pe­ri­ences rather than ab­struse dog­mas as drivers is reaf­firmed here, both in Kim­mel’s case stud­ies and in his dis­cus­sions with “for­m­ers” in groups such as Quil­liam and EXIT.

The lat­ter ac­tively grasps this psy­cho­pathic net­tle in de­rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion, for ex­am­ple by hand­ing out neo-Nazi T-shirts at “white power” mu­sic fes­ti­vals. When washed, the shirts’ rad­i­cal right slo­gans dis­ap­pear and are re­placed by the mes­sage “What your T-shirt can do, you can too.” Pre­cisely this kind of in­no­va­tive think­ing is ur­gently needed as flames are in­creas­ingly fanned around us.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.