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Understanding Extremist Recruitment

Erin Saltman Considers Youth in Her Talk on Violent Extremism

— September 19, 2017 — Keynote Trends
Erin Marie Saltman, a researcher whose work surrounds counter-extremism efforts, delivers a talk on violent extremism and how young people are recruited into terrorist organizations by way of a process of radicalization.

Saltman continues by considering the kind of people that are often viewed as likely to join such organizations, however she disputes these ideas by showing that it's almost impossible to profile someone who's likely to become an extremist. She says that a large part of recruiting extremists starts with taking advantage of one's identity struggles, telling someone that they're "in-group" is under attack, and convincing them that larger powers aren't going to prevent them from being harmed. In addition to these so-called "push factors," Saltman explains the "pull factors" that these recruiters often use. This includes the promise of a community, a spiritual purpose, as well as a sense of empowerment and adventure.

As these extremist groups make use of propaganda that simplifies things for confused individuals who are looking for a sense of purpose, they're able to take advantage of common weak spots in people by making them feel strong. Saltman explains that the Internet has played a large role in humanizing the faces behind extremist organizations as well, something that only becomes more difficult to track when censorship is used as a means to prevent it. In order to prevent radicalization from occurring, one needs to be aware of the ways in which people are targeted online, and use marketing tools that directly engage with people who are searching violent groups, in order to start a positive conversation with them.

With her talk on violent extremism, Saltman shows how the Internet can be used to effectively challenge radicalization by offering information to those who've displayed interest in such groups, and by making them aware of the manipulation that they're experiencing.