In her Ted Talks Video, Erin Marie Saltman compares neo-Nazi groups and Muslim extremists, and explains how social media can be used to combat them. Yes, that’s right: people join neo-Nazi and Muslim extremists groups for similar reasons! Their members are angry at the world for various reasons, long for utopia, and think the world rejects them for it.
The Anger or Dissatisfaction of neo-Nazis and Muslim Extremists
Whether you look at the profile of recent neo-Nazis, Muslim Extremist or characters from American History X, it’s clear they’re all angry at life. In American History X, the character played by Edward Norton is angry because his father was killed by black drug dealers. Frank Meeink, the inspiration for American History X, was angry because he was neglected by his family and got in many fights with the
black boys of his neighbourhood in Philadelphia. European recruits of ISIS tend to be descendants of North African immigrants who have trouble finding work or integrating European society.
Those who join Muslim Extremist and neo-Nazi movements do so for the following reasons: a sense of purpose, acceptance, a sense of adventure, feeling important and loved. Just like any other gang or cult, recruiters from these movements give potential recruits things they long for such as attention, girls (in the case of groups like ISIS), friends and a sense of belonging. When the recruits have fully integrated the group, the leaders start indoctrinating them. Their spiel kind of goes like this:
Neo-Nazi: The problems of the world as well as yours are caused by immigrants and non-whites.
Muslim extremists: The problems of the world as well as yours are caused by the West and non-Muslims.
This indoctrination leads the recruits to adopt a victim role, which leads to…
The Utopia They Long for
The recruits in both groups are taught that the world would be a better place if whatever people they were taught to hate would disappear. That is why member of the neo-Nazi and Muslim extremist groups engage in acts of violence, theft, vandalism, and other crimes. These acts make the recruits who have convinced themselves they are victims feel some kind of power. Finally! They feel like they can do something about the groups who make them so miserable. Power is seductive: it fills the void in them created by the lack of importance and satisfaction the recruits felt before joining the groups. Of course, the changes they feel do not go unnoticed.
Criticism Leads to Paranoia
If friends or relatives notice that they have joined such groups, the recruits will consider any show of concern as a threat to their identity. They also consider this concern a rejection of their being. In other words, the group became their identity. The recruits feel that if people disagree with them, it’s also because they can’t understand them.
Not Who You Think They Are
Members of neo-Nazi groups and Muslim extremist groups are not who you think they are. They’re not necessarily mentally ill, your typical Muslim, your typical caucasian, a partisan of left-wing or right-wing politics: they’re people looking for a solution to their boring lives. Unfortunately for us and them, they found meaning in being a pain in the… and it’s everyone’s fault but their own.
Interview with Frank Meeink