This morning, yet again, the political and personal discussion of the day continues to be plastered all over social media; in an unprecedented POTUS style, Donald Trump has attacked Theresa May on Twitter after she condemned his sharing of far-right propaganda videos. Most national newspapers have picked up the tweets from the United States President and speculated over how the Prime Minister, Theresa May, will respond. Some papers have consequently launched into a discussion as to how the “vortex” or “echo-chamber” is harming our ability to be rational, to engage in debate, to be challenged, as members of the far-right supporting parties launch to Donald Trump’s defence.

We continually talk about this social media narrative and how it isn’t appropriate for politicians to be openly attacking each other, or reacting to serious global events in 140 characters. However, this is the forum on which young people are active, and through which they engage most.

It has been the main source of recruitment for extremist parties for several years, for example; the sharing of videos like those retweeted by the President, encourages a sensationalist culture and breeds a new following. Extremist propaganda works, it is proposed, because of its simplicity, use of scapegoating and by playing on identity issues young people may have; self-esteem, isolation, anger or fear.

Their use of social media is advanced and sophisticated, with high production values; those seeking to radicalise young people are not hiding on the “Dark Net” but are openly operating through mainstream sites. Here, they can target most of the world’s population of affluent young people and create narratives that relate to them.

To start to prevent this, politicians need to, if anything, become more active on social media. They need to create accessible, desirable and relatable alternative narratives to prevent these extremist messages reaching vulnerable young people. This is something the UK Government has so far struggled to do, and with Brexit discussions over-powering everything else, is there a risk that extremism will be given the freedom to thrive?

 

IARS is hosting a roundtable discussion on their Youth Innovation and Empowerment Project (YEIP). YEIP aims to design a positive policy prevention framework for tackling and preventing marginalisation and violent radicalisation among young people in Europe. For more information visit yeip.org.  

At this roundtable we will be discussing the UK’s approach to tacking radicalisation in young people (the Prevent strategy) and the alternatives proposed by the project. We will also be reflecting on European practices and approaches, with a view to developing one cohesive strategy. Please see attached for more details on how to attend.