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Dialogue About Radicalisation and Equality

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - DARE (Dialogue About Radicalisation and Equality)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-04-30

DARE (Dialogue about Radicalisation and Equality) is a major EU funded research project which aims to broaden our understanding of radicalisation as a societal, as opposed to a purely security-related, phenomenon. The consortium involves 17 partners in 13 countries - Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Malta, Norway, Poland, Russian Federation, The Netherlands, Tunisia, Turkey and the UK.
Project aims:
DARE aims to develop a distinctively social research agenda on radicalisation that focuses not on terrorist events or individuals, but on the milieus in which radicalisation messages are encountered. Specifically, it focuses on Islamist and anti-Islamist (extreme-right) radicalisation and investigates young people’s encounters with messages and agents of radicalisation, how they receive and respond to those calls, and how they make choices about the paths they take.
The project focuses on people aged between 12 and 30, as they are a key target of recruiters and existing research suggests they may be particularly receptive to radicalising messages. It approaches young people neither as victims nor perpetrators of radicalisation, but as engaged, reflexive, often passionate social actors who seek information they can trust, as they navigate a world in which calls to radicalisation are numerous.
DARE employs a multi-method research approach including meta-analysis, digital ‘big data’ analysis, an experimental survey and micro-level ethnographic studies of radicalising milieus. By observing young people’s everyday encounters, researchers are able to study people who hold radical ideas without becoming extremists – i.e. the process of non-radicalisation – and thus help to understand what pushes others across the threshold into violence. This social approach also allows the researchers to map and understand the everyday strategies already used to challenge radicalisation, and to recognise the potential for people to influence their peers positively.
DARE has critically reviewed existing, and is starting to generate high quality new, empirical data that will significantly improve our understanding of the scope, origins, causes and psychological, emotional and social dynamics of radicalisation and non-radicalisation.
At the 36-month point of the project, the work of the DARE consortium is on target and making progress towards the overall objectives. Some deviation to the specified timetable has occurred due, in particular, due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. However, the overall timetable of the project is unaltered and the central fieldwork phase of DARE has now been completed. Partners are already engaged in the dissemination of DARE messages to diverse groups using a range of traditional, creative and digital platforms to influence policy, practice and academic discussions.
DARE has produced substantive reports in four areas: the role of (in)equality in radicalisation; the analysis of European counter-radicalisation policies; historical case studies of interactive radicalisation; and communication in online radicalisation milieus.
As part of a rigorous systematic review of studies on the relationship between inequality and radicalisation, a meta-ethnographic synthesis of 94 published qualitative empirical studies was completed. It confirmed the finding of the systematic review of quantitative studies that perceived socio-political inequality is more consistently related to radicalisation than objectively measured socio-economic inequality. It also found that inequality can be an outcome as a well as a cause of radicalisation. The relationship between inequality and radicalisation was explored also through a major secondary data analysis of seven European survey data sets (EVS 2008, 2017; WVS 2010-14; ESS 2014; Eurobarometer 2015; ISSP 2008; FP7 MYPLACE 2012-13; Young in Oslo 2015). This confirmed no significant relationship between economic inequality (measured by the Gini coefficient) and cognitive radicalisation but did find that personally and collectively experienced discrimination was consistently associated with support for political violence and opposition to democracy.
A comparative analysis of European counter-radicalisation policies was completed based on the study of 100 policy documents and 25 expert interviews. The findings led to a series of policy recommendations at EU, Member State and civil society levels emphasising the importance of: adopting a societal approach to countering radicalisation; developing context-sensitive community level programmes to address radicalisation; reliable impact assessment and evaluation tools for counter-radicalisation policies and programmes.
Reflecting recent policy concerns with the potential for ‘cumulative extremism’ to occur as opposing movements (e.g. Islamist and anti-Islamist/extreme-right movements) interact, five historical case studies were conducted tracing the dynamics of radicalisation in the context of contests between opposing movements and the state. In all cases the important role of the ‘state’ in framing, controlling or even provoking violence (through tactics deployed at demonstrations or in institutional responses to radicalisation) was identified. This is an important finding as the role of the ‘state’ and its agencies is often omitted from analysis despite the fact that the state is the main target for many radical actors. All the studies also indicate that the dynamics of political violence do not follow a linear pattern towards ever greater violence; a wide range of internal and external restraints act upon individuals and organisations. ‘Spikes’ of violence rather than ‘spirals’ are the norm.
The study of media-assisted radicalisation through social media participation in Islamist and extreme-right milieus based on just under 600 Twitter accounts (2010-2019) in seven European countries has been completed. The accounts vary widely across the two strands of extremism and within each sample but, over the period studied, right-wing extremist Twitter activity was found to have increased while Islamist extremist Twitter activity was scattered. The network structure and role of influencers are also markedly different across the two types of milieus. Right-wing accounts tend to be more radical in their messaging and more engaged with one another (through sharing materials or retweeting) and demonstrate a set of shared ideological positions. In contrast, the Islamist accounts appear more as a ‘store front’ to reroute users to other online platforms rather than constituting a milieu in themselves. Material mainly promotes favoured religious fundamentalist beliefs and associated lifestyles and there are low levels of sharing or retweeting of content.
In addition, DARE has made two substantive steps towards the realisation of its practical tools. Its De-radicalisation programme integrity evaluation tool (DPIEC) has been tested by a number of NGOs implementing relevant programmes and revised based on the feedback. A web-based application of the DPIEC has been developed and will be publicly launched in autumn 2020. Substantive progress has been made also on the production of educational toolkits including generating input from young people through a series of community dialogue events in three countries which provided space for young people to interact with DARE materials and reflect on how to draw young people into constructive discussion of radicalisation and extremism.