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The Far-Right Radicalisation Pipeline and State War-Fighting Capacity

Jackson Oliver Webster
RUSI Defence Systems, 16 April 2020
Tackling Extremism, Information
Online radicalisation is a key feature of contemporary far-right movements, and is not only a worrying domestic security concern for increasing numbers of Western countries, but points to deeper Defence vulnerabilities in future state-on-state crises.

Radicalisation is not a single event, but is understood to be a process during which a target individual is guided through various steps of extremism, possibly culminating in violence. Recently, far-right radicalisation has been described as a pipeline, referring to the way in which the algorithms used by online platforms naturally drive users from mainstream conservative and libertarian content towards the depths of the so-called ‘intellectual dark web’.

The way in which researchers have come to understand the Salafi radicalisation pipeline over the past two decades grafts well onto the pipeline for the new online far-right. What starts as a reasonable exploration of discourse within the political mainstream quickly turns into a vicious circle of conspiratorial thinking, paranoia, and aggression. This process is accelerated by an information environment dominated by algorithmic recommendations and echo chambers.

In his 2019 book, Antisocial, American journalist Andrew Marantz explores the ways in which the far-right radicalisation pipeline is inextricably linked with the ‘new media’ and the online economy. Tech moguls including the founders of Buzzfeed and Reddit are contrasted with far-right online figures ranging from the fringes of mainstream politics all the way to die-hard anti-semites and neo-nazis.

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