“In Hungary one quarter of the respondents believe that democracy and political violence are compatible, one fifth believe that in some cases ‘the end justifies the means’, and twelve per cent believe that under certain circumstances, terrorism is acceptable. Voters of the far-right Jobbik party were more supportive towards violence. . . . (C)lose to one third (29 percent) of the [Hungarian] respondents consider using violence against the Roma acceptable, and 35 per cent said so for drug addicts . . . People showing more activism and interest in politics, holding stronger anti-Semitic and anti-Roma attitudes, and those characterized by robust authoritarian attitudes (right-wing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation) were more open to justifying different forms of political violence”. – Political Capital
Radicalization can take place in many forms and manifests itself in a multitude of extremist ideologies, ranging from violent right-wing authoritarianism to violent Islamic extremism.
But what is it that causes people to have radical beliefs? What role does society at large play in the perpetuation (or prevention) of radical attitudes? How are authority figures (political, religious, educational, etc.) able to influence extremist views in society? How should society respond to violent radicalization? Is it possible to measure and forecast the emergence of violent radicalism?
The twentieth century has taught us that mankind is capable of committing unconscionable acts in the name of religion and politics. Social scientists have spent the better part of a century trying to find a correlation between certain behavioral characteristics and extremist political and/or religious convictions in hopes of identifying the traits that carry a high risk for violent radicalization.
As violent radicalization continues to be on the rise around the world, researchers are exploring innovative ways to utilize datasets and new technologies to help provide social scientists with information that can assist in identifying individuals and groups prone to violent radicalization.
Social media mapping, hate crime statistics, real-time tracking of extremist communication outlets, community engagement, and comparative legal analysis are just some of the tools used by researchers to try to analyze violent radicalization at the level of root causes.
By looking at the root causes, social scientists hope to help policy makers and society at large find ways to stop the problem at its source.
This was the theme of an international conference hosted in Brussels on Wednesday titled “Developing innovative methods for comparative research on violent radicalization among the youth to help prevention”. The project, which was jointly funded by the European Commission’s Directorate-General on Home and Migration Affairs and George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, was held at the latter’s offices in Brussels.
Hungarian policy research and consulting institute Political Capital teamed up with Britain’s DEMOS UK on a project which looks at the political violence aspect of violent radicalism.
The project summary Measuring Political Violence summarizes the legal situation related to the definition and measurement of various standards and indicators of discrimination in the European Union, available datasets on political violence, opinions on political violence (as assessed through CAPI and CAWI research), and social media mapping via Facebook and Twitter research.
What is political violence and what kind of people are inclined to support it?
“Political violence is ideologically motivated violence or violence against certain groups. It differs from other forms of violence in that its goal is not to propagate interpersonal conflicts, nor does it have an underlying economic motivation [immediate financial gain],” says Péter Krekó of Political Capital.
According to the findings in Measuring Political Violence, groups demonstrating a pronounced social dominance orientation (i.e., those who view out-groups as competing for scarce resources in a tough, competitive world) and authoritarian personality tendencies (i.e., those who view out-groups as having deviant values) are generally more open to justifying different forms of political violence toward out-groups.
According to a survey contained in the study, in Hungary “one quarter of the respondents believe that democracy and political violence are compatible, one fifth believe that in some cases ‘the end justifies the means’, and twelve per cent believe that under certain circumstances, terrorism is acceptable. Voters of the far-right Jobbik party were more supportive towards violence”.
The surveys also show surprisingly high figures for justification of violence for some ideological goals and against some groups.
“More abstract objectives, such as the protection of the Hungarian nation and action to protect personal freedoms, enjoy relatively strong support (39 and 35 percent, respectively). The number of supporters even for the least approved cases (social inequality becomes unbearable; natural resources and the prospects of future generations come under threat) is 29 percent, although in these scenarios 35-36 per cent of respondents refuse the use of violence, which exceeds the ratio of supporters”.
The study also found that a considerable proportion of Hungarian respondents believe violence can be justified against terrorists and criminals, 63 and 47 percent, respectively.
Furthermore, 40 percent of the Hungarian respondents believe that violence is acceptable against traitors and enemies of the nation.
According to the Hungarian study “An even more shocking figure is that close to one third (29 percent) of the [Hungarian] respondents consider using violence against the Roma acceptable, and 35 per cent said so for drug addicts”.
The study found that party preference may also be an important factor behind the justification of violence, although its authors do point out that party preference is more likely a symptom of the “acceptance of violence as a function of the respondent’s extremist, authoritarian and prejudicial attitudes”.
“People showing more activism and interest in politics, holding stronger anti-Semitic and anti-Roma attitudes, and those characterized by robust authoritarian attitudes (right-wing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation) were more open to justifying different forms of political violence,” writes Political Capital.