by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
David French of National Review Online distinguishes among different types of radicals.
Last week a bona fide Trump superfan launched a campaign of terror against the people and entities that Trump repeatedly attacks, often with rhetoric that is absurdly over the top. Also last week, a man who hates Trump launched a dreadful attack against a synagogue, killing eleven Jewish Americans in the worst anti-Semitic attack in American history. It so happens that Trump’s daughter, son-in-law, and three of his grandchildren are Jewish, and that he’s been a stalwart supporter of the nation of Israel.
Yet, despite these dramatic differences, several members of the media put blame on Trump for both attacks. This is a mistake. The attackers are different, their radicalization is different, and to allocate responsibility similarly doesn’t just hinder our ability to respond effectively to radicals, but also needlessly angers Americans who (rightly) believe that their “side” is being unjustly blamed for a terrible crime.
To understand the differences, it’s necessary to discuss the concept of radicalization itself. It’s a huge topic, one deserving book-length treatment, but I’ve found it helpful to discuss radicalization as a process similar to a religious conversion. Indeed, some radicalization actually involves a religious conversion. The result is a fundamental paradigm shift, a new way of looking at the world.
Thus, it is vital to understand the distinct paradigm for each radical community. Even communities that share common enemies can have different motivations and thus demand different responses.