Former white supremacist says it’s never been easier to be radicalized

A former white supremacist explains why it’s never been easier to fall into dangerous territory of misinformation and hate. Crystal Laderas reports.

A former white supremacist says isolation and a constant stream of content is making it easier to draw people into a hate group or into a conspiracy.

Tony McAleer says he was radicalized in the 90s fairly slowly but nowadays it is “days and weeks, maybe months.”

“You had to mail away for a book or a videotape and you had to wait weeks for it to come and then it took it took months and years to radicalize. But now, with the speed of the internet, you can binge-watch an ideology in a weekend just like you can a Netflix show and go right down the rabbit hole,” the author of “The Cure for Hate” said.

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Ahmed Al-Rawi is with the ‘The Disinformation Project,’ which looks at fake news in media and social networks, and says there isn’t a straight line towards radicalization. The SFU assistant professor adds when it comes to COVID-19 conspiracies, for example, they could be rooted in fears.

“For instance, government control, government surveillance; they often act on these concerns and fears. Some of them are imagined from their own imaginations. Other concerns are real. Yet they take these concerns to the extreme and end up believing in these conspiracy theories.”

“It really depends on the people themselves, and how susceptible they are to such kinds of false information,” Al-Rawi said.

There can be extreme reactions to mainstream doubts, fears and pandemic isolation. Recently, RCMP seized weapons from several protesters who were illegally blocking the Coutts border crossing in Alberta.

“What’s frightening is they’ve latched themselves onto a frustration that ordinary people are feeling,” he said.

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Just as fast as some become radicalized, it can also be harder to pull people back to reality.

“Especially family and friends — try to talk to them, not cancel so they will be exposed to, as I said different types of information,” Al-Rawi said.

For McAleer, his mother helped him de-radicalize by making him quit hate groups in exchange for her help.

“When I was a single father raising two kids I needed her help to raise the kids and she used that leverage, that condition relationship to pull me out of it.”

He says listening and learning about underlying issues is how you start change. And paying closer attention doesn’t mean you’ve compromised your own beliefs.

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