In the last decade, extremism has become a global industry on a par with organized crime and paedophilia. The appeal of extremism for those running it is simple enough- money, and a lot of it. A real extremist is a businessman, not an idealist.
How society infiltrates, distorts and influences societies, however, is less obvious. Extremist groups generate credibility they couldn’t possibly otherwise have on the basis of attaching themselves to “popular movements”. These popular movements are cosmetic, publicity-addicted and staged. They start as issue-based operations, taking any position on any subject, then develop themselves into paying operations with “members” and acquire some level of respectability by claiming to be acting for the benefit of the people. A new study has shown how these groups gain traction within societies:
Science Daily’s article “Minority rules”, a report on a study which shows how minority groups can change majority views, explains:
"In general, people do not like to have an unpopular opinion and are always seeking to try locally to come to consensus. We set up this dynamic in each of our models," said SCNARC Research Associate and corresponding paper author Sameet Sreenivasan. To accomplish this, each of the individuals in the models "talked" to each other about their opinion. If the listener held the same opinions as the speaker, it reinforced the listener's belief. If the opinion was different, the listener considered it and moved on to talk to another person. If that person also held this new belief, the listener then adopted that belief.
"As agents of change start to convince more and more people, the situation begins to change," Sreenivasan said. "People begin to question their own views at first and then completely adopt the new view to spread it even further. If the true believers just influenced their neighbors, that wouldn't change anything within the larger system, as we saw with percentages less than 10."
In other words, a perception that an opinion is popular is sufficient for it to get traction in a society. If your society happens to be an undereducated nuthouse with a lot of problems and the opinions are vague enough, something like “justice”, “liberty” or that faithful old standby “defending the faith”, which started the Crusades, the Inquisition and various jihads, arguing with these substance-less ideals is more or less impossible. Extremists, like all politicians, claim to be acting in the wider interests of others.
There are some interesting current forms of extremism which have moved a long way from their original bases into commercially and politically acceptable mainstreams within their societies. Interestingly, the measure of departure from the original forms also seems to be the best measure of their commercial success.
Libertarianism, for example, wasn’t originally about money. This extremely broad based idea has been associated with both communism and conservatism. Its original incarnation was as in the Enlightenment, in which it was simply a demand for human rights in monarchy-laden Europe. It devolved into a vast range of different modes, by far the most profitable of which is the American version of modern libertarianism.
Communism and socialism followed a similar path, evolving their original social bases into dead-end, nitpicking and extremely long-winded exercises as their societies collapsed. Interestingly, the fall of communism can be directly linked to the rise of corruption in these stagnant, oppressive societies.
Islamic extremism, which is derived from “conspicuously Islamic” media behaviour and apparently endless dogma, is the far end of a chain of departures from its original religious roots. One of the reasons extremism has now become a lip service exercise in many Islamic countries is that this type of “religion” is really political. Political associations in these countries are actually business exercises.
There’s no indication that the “ideals” of modern extremism have any practical social applications at all. The Islamic extremists set up shop, take over the most profitable parts of commerce, and their economies routinely fall to pieces. The Taliban are the best known exponents of these ideas. In Gaza, smugglers gouge Palestinians for prices three times higher than market rate. If you want to make money, get idealistic enough and fire off a few rockets and get the Israelis to close the borders so the Palestinians have to buy from smugglers.
Fraud based on ideals is extremely profitable. In America, the Tea Party didn’t even exist a few years ago. It is now a working political mechanism, with funding and access to media whenever it blows its nose. This must be one of the cheapest ideologies in history, with the vaguest of all agendas. An organization based on defending the principles of an existing constitution, with absolutely no solid objects in terms of policies, platforms or practical solutions to anything. The sole product is rhetoric, and it sells.
It’s highly doubtful that those running extremist groups in any form believe, let alone act, on the basis of their supposed ideological roots. In Gaza, the extremist “executives” seem well fed bordering on obese, unlike most Palestinians. These guys don’t blow themselves up, they get others to do that, and then get some more publicity for their noble cause. In Afghanistan, standing around looking “Islamic” and waving an AK or RPG in front of a camera is quite sufficient. The Taliban hierarchy take over the most fertile land, set up shop with opium, and get others to do the fighting. One of the reasons that the casualty rate for Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders is so low is because these guys are usually nowhere near all that nasty fighting.
In Iraq, Al Qaeda checkpoints would stop a car, fill it with explosives, and let it go with the occupants unaware of the booby trap. They’d then blow it up and claim that more “martyrs” had died for the cause. Extremism can be truly defined as the right of innocent people to die and suffer for other people’s beliefs- and money.
Many criminal organizations started on the basis of “revolutionary” beliefs, the extremists of their day. The Mafia was originally an anti-Napoleonic organization. The Triads were a pro-Ming group in China, opposed to the Qing Manchus which toppled the Ming. In the days of the nationalist government in China, the Triads were actually part of the government. The Taliban have turned into opium farmers, and they are now among the major capital bases of global crime and the arms trade. Former communists in Russia are routinely associated with Russian crime syndicates.
See any beliefs? See any noble ideals? There’s no such thing as extremism. It’s business with a social leverage derived from media. That should worry anyone a lot more than the apparent psychoses of the groups involved. Never mind the nutcases, focus on the suits. They're fanatical believers in their gravy trains at the expense of humanity, past, present and future.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com