LOS ANGELES — Removing polarization and politics from the conversation might be the key to stopping homegrown violent extremism, experts said Tuesday, Nov. 14, as they attempted to deconstruct a problem that has flummoxed cities and nations around the world.
“The extremist mindset is all about positing superiority over another,” said Sasha Havlicek, director of the London-based Institute of Strategic Dialogue, speaking at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy’s Global Summit on Homegrown Violent Extremism.
“The ‘othering’ of people, the dehumanizing of groups of people; is the precursor to mass murder and turns mentally able people into killers.”
While governments and non-governmental organizations have tried programs to counter violent extremism, experts view such efforts as a a narrow approach to a much larger problem.
“People don’t start out as lone wolves, they start out angry and bitter,” said Tony McAleer, co-founder of Life After Hate, a support group for former extremists. Before he started working to pull people away from violence, McAleer was a skinhead recruiter and manager of a white supremacist rock band, Odin’s Law.
McAleer compared himself to Dylann Roof, the self-proclaimed neo-Nazi who in 2015 gunned down nine people at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., ostensibly to start a race war.
“He had rage, which is a big part of the radicalization process,” McAleer said. “He found an ideology that gave him justification, which is what I did.”
Dehumanizing others is also one of the first baby steps extremists take, McAleer said.
“But it’s important to understand that we dehumanize others because we feel dehumanized ourselves,” he said. “In the neo-Nazi movement, I found power where I was powerless and found acceptance where there was none.”
What’s even more frightening in today’s world is the mainstreaming of extremism, said Havlicek, whose organization partners with the Newport Beach Gen Next Foundation, a group of entrepreneurs who help connect grassroots organizations with resources that provide alternative ideas for people who might be susceptible to radicalization.
“Different variants of these extremist ideologies are on the rise and playing a symbiotic role with each other,” Havlicek said.
“For example, the Islamist and far right extremists are wonderfully mobilizing each other’s fan bases.”
She noted that the far right has started to use terms…