POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 79 Youth Online and at Risk: Radicalization Facilitated by the Internet continued... ...continued Recently, we have seen a number of youth radicalized not because of a direct experience but because of trends and events that sometimes occur in distant regions. Overwhelming guilt or a grievance that comes to a head can lead an individual to act violently domestically. A common refrain among militant Muslims in the West is the sense of moral outrage at conflicts in Chechnya, Kashmir, Iraq, and Afghanistan. South of the Canadian border, similar reasoning was seen in the cases of Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh. Motivated by a desire to alter trends in technological development, Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, sent letter bombs to affect change. Timothy McVeigh, held beliefs that the U.S. federal government was conspiring to remove individual liberties and sought revenge for government raids on militant groups. Individuals that become part of a radical group are susceptible to the “slippery slope” and the development of group cohesion can push them toward increasingly radical behaviour. Seeking to belong to a larger movement, groups can start by viewing extremist material online and radicalize from there. One militant described his slide to radicalization as “a step-by-step evolution” where there was never “a choice made... such as I will become a terrorist.” In conversing with peers and developing strong relationships, sliding down the slope toward radicalization becomes easier when the group shares common goals or is under threat. Research has shown that group solidarity proves to be a powerful bond. A violent radical from Ireland shared in one study “There’s times I’ve said to myself, ‘why?’ You’re mad in the head… but I just can’t turn my back on it.” As seen in Canada, there have been a number of individuals that have radicalized together over time and plotted attacks as a group. Like an individual who radicalizes because a group is under threat, a collection of like-minded individuals form strong relationships when under pressure. Sharing sentiments of frustration, unaddressed grievances, and anger only intensifies the bonds of a group and can result in “mutual encouragement and escalation.” Group cohesion only grows as the group becomes radicalized as there are fewer people to trust and confide in. Capitalizing on a desire of young people to take action or misleading sometimes naïve youth, extremist groups are purposely “manipulating the grievances” of youth to drive their agenda forward. By “cynically exploiting” the grievances held by the targeted disaffected youth, these groups seek to undermine traditional authority. Aiding in the radicalization of youth—whether as an individual or a group—is when the messages come from a role model figure. Messages will resonate more if the source is perceived to be a family member, close friend, spiritual leader, or someone respected for their role within a group. This may have been a factor in the pace of the radicalization found in the suspects that sought to use liquid bombs to destroy intercontinental flights in 2006. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police observed that the suspects went “from what would appear to be ordinary lives in a matter of some weeks and months, not years” to be willing to launch a suicide attack that would have killed hundreds, if not thousands. More and more, messages are being shared and social bonding between young people is happening online. As such, it is no surprise that the internet is playing a role in the radicalization of youth. Benjamin Smith, a white supremacist who killed two and injured 9 on a racially motivated shooting spree in 1999, confirmed this when he stated “It wasn’t really ‘til I got on the Internet, read some literature… that it really all came together.”