Seeds of right-wing terrorism

A new study on the psychological processes common to social conservatism and terrorism, by Lazar Stankov, identifies one trait in particular of rising concern. Tom Jacobs writes: He calls this “grudge,” which he defines as “a generalized belief in a vile world.” One obvious example: Radical Islamists view the world as having been polluted by immorality. “Without grudge,” Stankov writes, “the militant extremist mindset is incomplete.”

Thus it is hugely concerning that there are “suggestions in the political climate” that this mindset may be on the rise in Western nations. Stankov points to “the emergence of Donald Trump in the U.S.” and the success of right-wing populist parties in some European countries, including Hungary.

As the right becomes more radicalized, “Political correctness may be interpreted as the implementation of morally rotten policies in our social lives,” he warns. “As a consequence, social institutions—including universities, which are perceived to promote or tolerate such dissenting views—might become targets of terrorist attacks.”

Nastiness and religiosity are believed to be genetically influenced, and thus difficult to modify. But Stankov argues that the “grudge” mindset can potentially be reduced through “the engagement of media, community groups, and education.” Religious leaders, he writes, need to spend more time “debunking the proposition that the West is evil, and promoting the value of life.” [Continue reading…]

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  1. Jacobs writes: But Stankov argues that the “grudge” mindset can potentially be reduced through “the engagement of media, community groups, and education.”

    It’s reasonable to ask if this tactic has ever worked. Cognitive psychology tells us that attempts to refute typically strengthen a belief, because they emphasize its content.

  2. Paul Woodward says:

    This is a run-of-the-mill example of the type of thinking found in most programs designed to prevent radicalization. They show about as much imagination and insight as Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign to prevent drug use.

    The most compelling evidence indicates that people generally belong to communities of belief and the idea that external agencies can overtly or covertly manipulate those beliefs other than on the broadest possible front isn’t plausible. Which is to say, for instance, the only way of addressing cynicism about politicians and political institutions isn’t through promoting the value of democracy but through internal reform. The more honest politicians are and the less corrupt the system is, the less cynical the public will become.

    And yet, voters need a certain level of discrimination such that they are not calling out to be duped. A nation that fails to adequately educate its citizenry is the only one in which an individual like Trump could campaign successfully and rise on a groundswell of mass stupidity. It’s ok to want to “drain the swamp,” but to imagine that would be accomplished by a man like Donald Trump is plain daft.

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