How People Are Being Radicalized

The following is a transcript of my documentary on YouTube.

Voltaire once said, ‘Anyone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.’

He was right because people don’t just suddenly become violent.

There’s a gradual process of being introduced to an ideology, adopting its beliefs in an extreme way, and then some of those people will commit horrendous crimes.

Now, if someone we care about is being radicalized, it will probably go unnoticed. When we realize what’s happening, it’s very difficult to bring them back to who they were.

So, in this video, we’ll discuss how the average Joe can transform into a mindless, spiteful, and violent person. I believe that by recognizing radicalization, you can prevent it from happening to you or someone you care about.

Let’s begin with one of the most popular psychology studies.

Chapter 1: The Asch Experiment

Solomon Asch conducted a series of experiments in the 1950s about group conformity that can explain a lot about our behavior today.

The experiment starts with a volunteer while the rest are all fake participants or actors. Of course, he doesn’t know it; He’s told this is a vision test.

Then, the researcher shows a card with one line, followed by another card with three lines. And everyone has to say out loud which line on the second card matches the first one.

It’s very simple. The answer is always clear.

Now, at first, everyone picks the correct line. Yet, as the experiment continues, the actors unanimously give wrong answers.

We can see on his face that he’s struggling… He knows the answer is wrong but everyone else is responding differently. Eventually, he gives up and goes along with the group.

He wasn’t the only one. Asch found that a lot of people—about 75%—ended up giving the wrong answer when they felt pressure from the group.

But when they weren’t pressured, hardly anyone got it wrong.

He also found that if one or two actors gave the correct answer, it encouraged the volunteer to stick to what he knew was right.

This shows that even minor defiance in a group can have a significant effect on reducing conformity.

The problem nowadays is that social media algorithms are designed to give us content we already agree with, and traditional media is no better. They often present a biased view of reality based on their financial interests.

This can make people believe they are being informed when in fact they are being isolated.

So when you’ve entered this information bubble, are you going to listen to those few individuals who’re actually telling you the truth?

Chapter 2: The (Gradual) Process of Radicalization

Let’s examine how a situation similar to the Asch Experiments unfold in real life, but on a much larger scale — and is something you’ve probably noticed.

Consider a malevolent yet very charismatic individual who repeatedly makes hateful statements.

He begins by targeting a specific group of people.

In general, these are people who find themselves at a low point in their lives: feeling powerless, lonely, and prone to extreme thoughts about why they’re in this mess. Meaning they either place the blame entirely on themselves or on others for their situation.

They also have a high sense of entitlement. They believe that life should be easier for them.

In other words, it’s a situation where things are going wrong for them or they perceive it as such, while at the same time, they believe the world owes them a lot.

So this creates a huge internal conflict.

Now, for our charismatic individual, this internal conflict is precious because he can exploit it to recruit these people. He’ll give them what they crave the most… a sense of security, certainty, and comfort.

That’s the core audience.

Right now, he is only talking to them.

That’s why, to the rest of us, what he’s saying sounds superficial or even downright dumb.

But those words mean a lot to his followers. And since they’ve finally found someone who seems to understand them, they’ll do their best to spread his message. They are very vocal, and some of them will say weird things.

Naturally, the media will give them more coverage because conflict and weird behavior or statements increase viewership.

As a result, we ALL form the impression that he has a lot of followers. You know, it creates the illusion of popularity.

What’s worse is that it also creates the impression that more people agree with his disturbing statements or behavior than they actually do.

I mean just because you support someone by voting or buying his products doesn’t mean you agree with everything he says.

But what ends up happening is that we condemn that behavior less and less because most of us are afraid of going against the opinion of the majority.

Even though, it’s just an illusion. Most people are not okay with his behavior. But, as time goes by, we learn to consider it as normal, at least, when an authority figure does it.

Now, let’s say that I start paying attention to this person because I’m curious about why is he popular!

At first, even though I find some of his statements repulsive, as more and more people follow him, I begin to question my own reaction.

I say to myself, “Maybe I am overreacting. Let me listen to him to get more context.”

It turns out that most of his messages resonate with what I’m facing right now, with what I’m going through.

Those words give me comfort and motivation to face the day, but most importantly, they give me a sense of hope that I’ll make it… that I’ll achieve my dreams, become successful, and not feel like this anymore.

Sure he does say some controversial stuff but he doesn’t really mean it. He just does it for publicity. Other people don’t understand him and that’s why they are doomed to fail.

That’s how some of us, who initially felt repulsed by this individual or ideology, can gradually talk ourselves into becoming part of that group.

It’s a result of constant exposure to their content, coupled with feeling exhausted and hopeless by constant life challenges.

For example, there’s a great documentary called “The Brainwashing of My Dad” by Jen Senko

She tells the story of how her dad transformed from a non-political democrat to a right-wing fanatic. She explains the rise of right-wing media and how they influenced her dad’s beliefs.

Her research is solid, throughout the years, the right-wing media developed a systematic approach to brainwashing people.

But I want to add that any ideology taken to the extreme will harm its followers and others.

We’ll talk more about it, a bit later in the video.

Senko also shares stories of people who experienced a similar situation… that their loved ones were radicalized from consuming toxic content on TV or Radio. And if you look at the comments, you’ll see many more examples of this happening.

It’s scary and sad to see someone you love transform into a different person. It really messes with your head.

Now, let’s return to our example. How does this malevolent individual keep me part of the group?

Because initially, joining his group is a lot of fun. However, as I get more involved, I start rationalizing his disturbing behavior which drains my energy and I also waste my money on his worthless products.

It’s like an addiction – what starts as fun, gradually consumes your entire day. Your primary goal becomes feeding that little monster you have inside.

And trust me, the more you feed that monster; the bigger it becomes. No matter how much you give; it’s never enough.

So considering that this situation sucks for me, how does he keep me trapped?

Well, he doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. He just needs to follow the playbook of dictators and cult leaders.

This leads us to…

Chapter 3: Mind Control Techniques

Robert Jay Lifton is a psychiatrist who dedicated his life to studying brainwashing. In 1960, he published the book, Thought Reform and The Psychology of Totalism

Since then, it has been an important book to understand how regimes, cults, and extremist groups recruit and keep their members.

Lifton coined the term “Ideological Totalism”, describing it as the absolute conviction in an ideology.

In other words, it’s when people believe that this is the ONLY and the PERFECT way of… living, running a country, or understanding how the world works.

He explained that each of us has the potential for ideological totalism.

However, he added that absolute convictions are “most likely to occur with those ideologies which are most sweeping in their content and most ambitious – or messianic in their claims, whether religious, political, or scientific. Where totalism exists, a religion, a political movement, or even a scientific organization becomes little more than an exclusive cult.”

Now, there are 8 mind-control methods or techniques that destructive groups use to entrap their followers.

When you recognize that a particular group is using multiple methods, then it’s a huge sign to get the fuck out.

#1 Milieu control

It’s when the leader and the inner circle of that group have complete control over the information. They consistently emphasize the importance of only trusting news or information from specific sources.

Eventually, the followers will resist legitimate information that contradicts the beliefs or teachings of the group.

#2 Mystical Manipulation

Each group has a high-stakes mission, usually given by a supernatural entity like God, and they also have a leader who’s blinded by grandiosity.

So manipulating the group members, other people, or even institutions is completely justified.

On the other hand, any thought or action that questions the higher purpose is considered backward, selfish, and petty.

#3 Good vs Evil

The third method is dividing the world into pure good and evil. This is common with any totalist ideology.

They attribute pure goodness to everything associated with the ideology, while everything else is deemed bad or impure.

In addition, when followers experience doubts or when they fail to reach the unreasonable standards of the group, they’ll fear and guilt.

And to alleviate these feelings, they create an environment with minimal temptations that could move them away from the group.

That’s why they avoid talking to people who think differently… Even if those people are their own blood.

They basically isolate themselves as much as possible.

What’s even more problematic is that to deal with that internal conflict, they dial up the hatred toward people they consider enemies.

#4 Confession

Followers are required to confess their inadequacies and how they have let the movement down. It’s usually conducted in group meetings. The goal is to make them surrender to the group and strip their remaining individuality.

#5 Sacred Science

They try to connect the group ideology with science so going against it is not only immoral but also unscientific.

#6 Loading the Language

Followers learn new words that are easily memorized and expressed.

This is known as the language of non-thought because complex issues are reduced to clichés.

Now since language is integral to human experience, it dramatically narrows their capacity for thinking and feeling.

#7 Doctrine Over Person

The identity of the follower… how they see themselves and the world is reshaped not based on their personality but by the beliefs and rules of the group.

And if a follower doubts those beliefs, they make him feel like there’s something wrong with him; not with the doctrine.

As Lifton explained in his book, “The underlying assumption is that the doctrine—including its mythological elements (their BS stories about the past) —is ultimately more valid, true, and real than is any aspect of actual human character or experience.”

#8 Dispensing of Existence

The doctrine creates a clear distinction between those who belong to the group and those who don’t.

The Ultimate Managed Hosting Platform

Followers believe that their entire existence depends on being part of this group and they view others as unworthy or unenlightened.

Moreover, they may attempt to recruit others, hoping to bring them into this special group or save their souls.

For instance, my cousin, who is a devout Muslim, attempted to persuade me to embrace religion. When he failed, he would often say things like, “I’m not explaining it properly; I’m not knowledgeable enough to describe the beauty of Islam…”

I reassured him that he had explained it well and that I had tried to learn about it a few years ago when I was in a desperate state.

However, the more I listened to people preaching Islam, the more distant I became. I feared that, given my obsessive, addictive nature, I might become a fundamentalist.

Looking back, I realize my fear was irrational because you can be a religious person and have a calm life. You know, you don’t have to hate other people.

Still, I believe I made the right decision about staying away from religion.

Now, what’s scary about the technique of dividing people into insiders and outsiders is that it can lead followers to dehumanize others.

This way of thinking can lead to violence, as we’ve seen with communists, nazis, and religious fundamentalists.

The bottom line is to pay attention to groups who use most of these mind-control methods.

The rule of thumb is to be careful of people who claim to have all the answers, reject criticism, and demonize others with different beliefs.

Alright, let’s move on…

Throughout the years, I have developed two simple habits that have helped me maintain a sense of calm in this noisy world.

Chapter 4: Two Habits to Stay Calm

The first habit is that I consume less polarizing content, particularly less political debates.

I used to get very angry and upset at these debates even though at the end of the day, it had no real impact on my life. So I got rid of that unnecessary stress.

The second habit is that I don’t idealize or demonize people. In the sense that this person is perfect while this one is pure evil.

Here’s why…

When you idealize someone, you tend to trust them a lot and you might get disappointed or make wrong decisions.

On the other hand, when you decide that someone you watch on TV is evil, you’ll obsess over them and make yourself unnecessarily angry. And having those negative thoughts for a long time might affect your psychological or physical health.

Keep this in mind when dealing with everyday people as well.

For example, it’s tempting to categorize someone who has wronged you as a terrible person. However, this mindset can be very limiting because you will overestimate his power and it will be difficult to outsmart him.

Now, of course, there have been and will be some truly horrible, evil people.

There’s no arguing about that.

But for the most part… for the rest of us… it’s beneficial to look at them as flawed, complex, and driven by self-interest.

This perspective can help prevent or reduce negative feelings toward others.

Again, it has worked for me; it might work for you too.

This brings us to the next chapter.

Chapter 5: Nothing Personal; It’s Just Business

In 2020, Fox News was the first to project that Biden would become the next President of the US.

This move caused a sharp decline in their ratings after the election, especially after President Trump didn’t admit defeat.

Then Fox News, in an attempt to bring back their viewers, focused entirely on spreading those ridiculous lies.

Presenters like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity were adamant on the screen that Trump was right, and they gave a lot of space to his advisers.

But behind the screen, all of these employees and their producers didn’t believe that narrative at all.

Throughout the years, they even claimed that Fox News was an entertainment company… Which is true.

What they do is not journalism; it’s reality TV. It’s no different than Kitchen Nightmares.

They have perfected this format of people lying, shouting, and complaining to each other while selling it as news; as if they are really informing their audience.

And it has been insanely profitable for them.

For this reason, I think other media outlets around the world are copying Fox.

They have shifted their focus to creating cheap, polarizing content because it’s easy to create and can bring them a lot of money. Many people who watch these shows believe that the channel or the host will present the truth or at least try to figure out the truth.

But that’s not the case.

These shows constantly promote extreme political or religious views, conspiracy theories, and scams.

And they all justify it by regurgitating the idea of presenting a fair and balanced view.

In the online world, the equivalent of these TV shows is some podcasts.

I’m a big fan of podcasts. It’s a way to understand a subject or a person more intimately. They are also simple to follow and entertaining.

However, many episodes might be entertaining but they disinform you and sometimes serve as a platform for demagogues to recruit people.

For example, many young men in vulnerable situations started watching the interviews of Andrew Tate.

Then, they ended up paying $5000 to watch how human traffickers operate behind the scenes.

Do you think those men who watched his interviews and bought his courses will close the computer and treat the women in their lives with respect?

Maybe.

But I don’t believe it.

Now, to continue the line of argument I presented in the previous chapter, I don’t perceive people who work in the media or politics as evil. But I try to consider their self-interest.

If you lead a business or a political movement, your primary goal is to maximize profits or the number of followers.

However, the key is whether you can effectively align your interests with those of your followers.

If you achieve this goal, it means you’re truly capable at your job; you can have a positive impact on others and most importantly, sleep well at night.

But many politicians and media figures can’t achieve this level or don’t care.

So I don’t judge the media for giving a lot of coverage to people like Donald Trump, Alex Jones, Andrew Tate, or even Putain.

Think about it this way… Let’s say that you are the owner of a huge media.

If you invite a demagogue, the viewership will skyrocket and you won’t lose a lot of current viewers…

If they say, why would you invite this guy? You can justify it by saying “It’s important to hear the other side of the story…” We should protect free speech and stuff like that.

This reasoning won’t be enough for some of your viewers and they will leave you.

However, if you play your cards right, which of course it’s not easy; Losing those viewers is nothing compared to the exposure you’ll get from the ensuing debate.

So the biggest downside to inviting these people to your TV Show or Podcast is that some of your viewers will get indoctrinated and go through a path where they’ll lose themselves.

Another problem is that it will weigh on your conscience.

But it probably won’t last long because you’ll start believing those lies that you’re doing it for them; that you’re trying to inform your viewers…

So you’ll become just as clueless and lost as those viewers but with a lot of money.

Basically, you would be a rich, useful idiot!

If you want to learn more about Indoctrination, I highly recommend watching my documentaries.

Hiding in Plain Sight: How Cult Leaders Entrap People

The Dangerous Mind of Edward Bernays

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