Our chief finding, in a nutshell, is that despite the potential connectivity between radicalising networks like Al-Qaeda and ‘vulnerable’ youth and ‘terrorised’ publics, there is in fact a profound and structural disconnection. Security policymakers, journalists and audiences have little agreed understanding of what ‘radicalisation’ might mean, but a residual sense of anxiety that there is something threatening out there, possibly close to home. That diffuse threat is often spoken about as radicalisation through the internet, over the web, which could happen anywhere, to anyone, “at the click of a button”. Such statements do not aid public understanding of how individual opinions are shaped by on- and offline experiences, nor offer any evidence base of how and why individuals have turned to violence. Caught in the middle of this confusion are mainstream Security Journalists who deliver to audiences spasmodic episodes of bombings, arrests and warnings, the occasional, subtitled glimpse of an angry jihadist, but little insight or explanation of how political and religious violence is generated or prevented. Such news contributes to assumptions about an enduring social mainstream and radical margin; this may indeed feed back into potential disaffection by those identified as potentially radical. In short, we suggest that discourse about radicalisation may be as significant for Western societies as discourses of radicalisation, i.e. actual jihadist propaganda.
The study offers a cross-section of global (un)connectivities across a series of critical security events since 2006 by integrating three strands of data: audience research from the UK, France, Denmark and Australia, an ethnography of jihadist culture, and analysis of English and Arabic-language news.
Please contact Ben.OLoughlin@rhul.ac.uk
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