Friction: How Radicalization Happens to Them and Us

Clark McCauley and Sophia Moskalenko. Oxford Univ., $35 (248p) ISBN 978-0-19-974743-6
McCauley (Why Not Kill Them All?), co-director of the Solomon Asch Center for the Study or Ethnopolitical Conflict, and Moskalenko, a research fellow at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, seek a more complex discussion of terrorism, and methodically examine radicalization by eschewing simplifying rhetoric (words like "evil" and "crazy") in favor of a framework of 12 "nested mechanisms." For example, the radicalization of Osama bin Laden, the Weather Underground, and 19th century Russian anarchists who assassinated Tsar Alexander II "were eerily similar." The authors argue against finding cause in shared ideology or individual psychopathology, aiming instead to detail how "normal people can be moved toward criminal and violent behavior by normal psychology." The authors point out that the road to terrorism is a "slippery slope" involving a series of transformations: identifying with a cause; becoming a loyal member of an opposition group; conforming to collective pressure to act in ways that before would have been unlikely. Other factors, like love and the allure of risk and status contribute as well. Finally, the authors argue against harsh government counter-terrorist measures, believing that they can contribute to radicalization; a better understanding of the mechanisms under which terrorism thrives can lead to more efficacious counter-terrorism policies. A valuable contribution to the ongoing dialogue. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/21/2011
Release date: 03/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
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