This week’s CTCB State of Play Newsletter No. 5 addresses the arrest of a Great Replacement teen acolyte in Singapore, the lack of percentage-based perspective in the presentation of terrorism and terrorists, and how digital and cryptocurrency markets influence support and activities. Some excerpts of terrorist manifestos are provided, which enable placement of the current strategic landscape into an enemy’s strategic perspective. Hopefully, wider use of such documents by practitioners will be able to mitigate policy backlash and rationalise intelligence resources.
Latest prevalence and youth participation rates may need a re-look in terms of messaging design and delivery, and consideration as to how to compete with violent ideologies in addressing the same cognitive vulnerabilities.
As the causes and levels of terrorism participation are so varied, disentangling who to punish becomes harder. As far as counter-terrorism practice goes: What’s best to focus on? Entire entities or individuals? Someone involved in flagrant public displays like Enrique Tarrio, or lurking peripherals like McVeigh, Breivik, and Minassian?
The technologies capable of countering and facilitating terrorism continue to evolve rapidly, encompassing social media, messaging apps, and cryptocurrency. When combined with global socio-political upheaval, gathered data looks less and less representative – the wildness lies in wait. This has significant implications for the viability and ethicality of data led intelligence and punishments going forward, especially as the mass-threat approach will necessitate dependence on non-human analytics.
P. S., if you would like a little extra, here are some helpful concepts with simplified definitions. The ideas may be useful for you as you go through the materials for the week.
Reinforced Grouping: A loose affiliation experiences hostility or exclusion. They then move closer to those with shared beliefs or identifiers for protection and to fulfil economic or social needs – as simple as having someone to talk to. This happens in ‘extremist’ forums, prisons, urban gangs, or as a result of profile-based policy. It is mostly a reactive process.
Altruistic Punishment: The willingness to punish a social or moral norm violator increases when the punisher perceives them as similar to themselves, or as from within their own group. Consider how churches reacted to the Singapore attack planner, and how Muslim nations and religious leaders condemn jihadists, or how so many of the most publicly radical and violent ‘anti-fascists’ are white, including the Weather Underground. A practical motivator of this is a desire to prevent negative stereotyping and collective treatment / punishment.
Collective Punishment: As an extreme example, burning down a village for harbouring two militants. Nowadays, this occurs more in the policy realm via terror group designation or untargeted sanctions.
Entitativity: How alike members of a ‘group’ are perceived to be. The media has a large role to play here. If a movement is presented as undifferentiated, with limited knowledge of or attention to individual variation within its membership, willingness to collectively punish increases. It has overlap with aspects of dehumanisation.
Proactive Aggression: Aggression exists in two forms, reactive and proactive. Definitions of terrorism generally mean the proactive kind, so the specific acts are planned in advance. Mobs, riots, and spontaneous or escalatory confrontations do not quite count as proactive aggression, neither does ‘armed and ready’. There is usually also an instrumental aspect, as in, ‘I shall do this to achieve this’, although moral violence formats like punishment (e.g. kill the useless, shallow femoids) can occur too.