Surveillance and Resistance: Online Radicalization and the Political Response

Surveillance and Resistance: Online Radicalization and the Political Response

David Martin Jones (University of Queensland, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7669-3.ch044


This chapter provides readers with an overview and discussion of the manner in which the Internet and social media has facilitated movements, ranging from Aryan Nations and the various European Defence Leagues, to the Global Jihadist Movement and anarchist groups. As the phenomenon of netwar and online recruitment evolved after 9/11, extremist movements motivated by illiberal and apocalyptic ideologies have found the Internet a congenial space for organization, dissemination, education and radicalization. This chapter examines the difficulty liberal political democracies have in censoring these groups and the ideas they promote. Civil rights organizations immediately condemn state electronic surveillance as an invasion of civil liberties, and present the liberal democrat with an acute moral and political dilemma. This chapter finally considers the tactics democratic states might prudently adopt in order to preserve the national interest.
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The security of a nation relies not only on officials who maintain the physical protection of assets, but also on the ways in which personnel protect the nation from harmful mindsets that seek to cause havoc or destruction. Voegelin, the Austrian philosopher who fled the Third Reich in the wake of the Anschluss (1938) argued that the ideological fanaticism of the Nazis was not only a moral and political mistake, but also a spiritual perversion. More precisely, so far as the political religions of the twentieth century, fascism, Stalinism, Maoism and more recently the Salafism of the Global Jihadist Movement (GJM) are concerned, the meaning or substance of religious phenomena moved from a spiritual concern with transcending the mundane world towards the realisation of imaginary fantasies of immanent apocalypse and the fashioning of this worldly utopias. These fantasies, as Barry Cooper observes, are not “always recognized for what they are because the image of an earthly condition of perfected humanity” was, in Europe, before 1990, expressed in scientific, or, more accurately, “scientistic” language (1999, p.4). This was not, of course, the case with revolutionary Islamic thought, but it remains the case with other ideological social movements of both left and right that have evolved since 9/11, whose animating political religions focus upon the renunciation of God. This is the case with both race based and anti-capitalist social movements, which, like al-Qaeda also pursue, what Ernest Sternberg terms, “world purificationism” (2010, p.64). We will briefly discuss the commonalities between these evolving political religions and Islamism before examining the western state response and its implications both for future war and the future of western, secular, liberal democracy.

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