Watch this space. Counter-radicalisation: Beyond Appearances. New thinking urgently required.

This is a subject of which States of Mind has considerable experience. It's an issue where everyone believes their own (strong) opinion is correct. And it's also an issue about which governments and many academic researchers in "terrorism studies" departments understand very little that is of real value to counter-radicalisation practitioners. If you doubt this, just ask them (the practitioners).With few exceptions, most "terrorism studies" experts who claim their analysis and classifications are "science" are simply deluded and deceiving policy-makers that their models or analysis carry any genuine practical weight. When dealing with volatile and extreme states of mind, managing only that which can be observed, verified and measured is not going to take you where you need to go.

States of Mind will be publishing a series of articles, think-pieces and reflections examining the practical limitations of many academic theories and analysis, and looking at the ineffectiveness of governments' policies in "Prevent" strategies for radicalisation and terrorist recruitment. Although things are starting to improve slightly, since 9/11 the field has been high-jacked by security-obsessed political ideologues, right-wing media and blogs, liberal "useful idiots" and a cottage industry of shallow "experts" who repeat each other's mantras and latest, questionable, research. Yes: practitioners know that academic research is often partial and misleading. We need to understand "why?" this has been a systemic problem.

One such academic blind spot lies in failing to understand the role of deep psychology and the power of - and latent desire within - hidden emotions and the imaginary power of shame. And then there is the tired old mythology of the all-powerful "evil ideology" which is simply not borne out by the evidence. How has this lazy myth - long favoured by Islamophobes and the far-right -- endured for so long? We will be looking at and exposing their claims for "science" and turning the debate on its head.

Counter-Radicalisation cannot - and does not need to - reverse the causal inputs and processes of radicalisation. It's not the causes of the radicalisation that we should concentrating on but the science of influence - at a distance. This is the key to framing what we are trying to achieve within the context of what is really going on, namely, a low-intensity asymmetric psychological war that has given democracies an auto-immune disease. And if we fail to understand this we will be reduced to simply trying to manage an already bad situation rather than making a sustainable positive impact. 

Countering terrorist recruitment is primarily a psychological struggle for influence -  that is our theatre of action. And arguments around facts and beliefs are simply not helpful in that endeavour simply because they are not effective means of influence.

If you would like to contribute to this - insights, thoughts, experiences and "lessons-learned" -- please send us your submissions. This issue is too important to get wrong... and for far too long, the mythologies have been driving the strategies.  Time for push-back.


This jihadist recruitment poster is appealing to those with a criminal past. Ideology is an after-thought