Islam, Religious Violence, "Brainwashing," and Countersubversion
Chip Berlet printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 10:22:45 AM EST
The hearing on Islamic radicalization staged by Rep. Peter King is an appalling example of the media being sucker-punched.

Where in the recent news coverage were interviews with social scientists who actually study how religious ideology can intersect with violence and terrorism? Let's start with some basics.

People do not become religious fundamentalists because they have been "brainwashed," coerced, or are mentally unstable. They become involved in social movement mobilization and recruitment built around themes of religious obligation.

Most religious fundamentalists are not violent.

There is no direct causal relationship linking religious fundamentalism and violence.

When religious fundamentalists use violence or terrorism, the single most significant common factor is a sense of humiliation. As Jessica Stern, an actual expert on religion and terrrorism, explains:

"...one of the primary tasks of a religious terrorist leader is to capitalize on some feeling of humiliation, often related to identity, that they find in potential members. It could be a personal feeling of humiliation, or it could be civilizational, national. They make their followers feel that the way to forge a new identity is by getting involved with this violent group." [More Here]
There should be serious hearings on the potential for terrorism in our society and how to protect our nation without tossing the Bill of Rights into the shredder. Actual experts should give testimony. Experts like Jessica Stern, author of Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill.

Instead we have the Lieberman hearings where ideologically-biased testimony is presented at hearings led by a smart and cynical hypocrite who uses his stage for political gain.

And we have the King hearings led by a witch-hunter so ignorant and bigoted that he probably would have lost a game of tic tac toe against Joe McCarthy.

Over at the National Catholic Reporter is an excellent article on the link between the King and McCarthy hearings by Michael Sean Winters [More Here]

The theoretical linkage is a concept called "countersubversion," which is a fancy name for a political or religious witch hunt. As readers at Talk to Action know, this is one of my pet areas of research.

Historian David Brion Davis noted that movements to counter the "threat of conspiratorial subversion acquired new meaning in a nation born in revolution and based on the sovereignty of the people," and that in the US," crusades against subversion have never been the monopoly of a single social class or ideology, but have been readily appropriated by highly diverse groups."

Frank Donner. a historian and civil libetiers attorney, perceived an institutionalized culture of countersubversion in the United States "marked by a distinct pathology: conspiracy theory, moralism, nativism, and suppressiveness." This countersubversion hysteria is linked to government attempts to disrupt and crush dissident social movements in the United States.

Donner suggeted that conspiracists in the government and private sector periodically create a "countersubversive" apparatus as a response to dissent.

The FBI's counterintelligence program of illegally spying on and disrupting dissidents from the 1950s to the 1970s, dubbed COINTELPRO, is an example of an operational conspiracy ironically based on a conspiracist worldview that suspected widespread subversion by leftists.

Davis points out that:

"genuine conspiracies have seldom been as dangerous or as powerful as have movements of countersubversion. The exposer of conspiracies necessarily adopts a victimized, self-righteous tone which masks his own meaner interests as well as his share of responsibility for a given conflict.

Accusations of conspiracy conceal or justify one's own provocative acts and thus contribute to individual or national self-deception. Still worse, they lead to overreactions, particularly to degrees of suppressive violence which normally would not be tolerated."

How long before the mainstream media repudiates this new witch hunt?



Display:
Religious fundamentalists can be quite violent, but it's an in-group thing.  They use violence to keep the members in line.

Sometimes that violence is physical.   Most of the time it is mental or emotional (or social), and I can argue that these forms of violence are real and can be just as devastating as physical violence.  

They also use fear and humiliation to keep people in line, and those are in a sense forms of violence.  

I think the distinction between fundamentalists and terrorists needs to be between in-group and outside-group violence.  Also, this would explain why fundamentalist groups can become terrorist, because if their violent tendencies are directed outward (as well as inward), they will commit terrorism.

Maybe we could say that there is a spectrum here, from the barely fundamentalist clear to the most violent terrorist.  Now, at the same time there seem to be common elements that are found in fundamentalist groups, and other elements (such as the humiliation or perception of humiliation you described) that seem to be more connected to terrorism.  This would fit right into the spectrum concept too.

Many Muslims don't even begin to fall into the fundamentalist category, and thus the whole worldview pushed by King is completely wrong.  Someone also needs to inform him that Christianity has just as much a terrorism problem as Islam, and the problem is the common elements found on the fundamentalist-to-terrorist spectrum.

One of those common elements is hatred and fear of the Other.  Another is the perception of group superiority and Other inferiority.  Many of these characteristics have been mentioned before.

by ArchaeoBob on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 01:55:37 PM EST

I see ArchaeoBob's comments as an expansion on Chip's post; I don't see a disagreement necessarily between the post and comment. Chip states that most fundamentalists are not violent. ArchaeoBob states that when there is violence there are degrees of it, and it can be directed in-group or towards outsiders.

Perhaps instead or in addition to the idea of a spectrum running from fundamentalist to terrorist would be an axis graph showing the points where where fundamentalist beliefs and use of terrorism connect. For instance, some of the most extreme forms of fundamentalist Christianity are not equally the most likely to embrace terrorism; these forms may include a withdrawal from society, nearly the opposite of terrorism.

by IseFire on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 05:00:44 PM EST
Parent

The operational connection is totalist control through intense psychological coercion.

Here is an exchange from Facebook:

Janja Lalich: Chip, You may not like the word "brainwashing," but you can't deny that some people are strongly influenced by the people around them in those social movements, who help "convince them" (dare I say, psychologically coerced?) to engage in violence. I'm not for a witch hunt, either -- but we shouldn't overlook the powerful social psychological mechanisms that sway individuals toward acts of extremism that they may not have otherwise participated in. It takes more than ideology.

- - -

Chip Berlet: Hi Janja. You know I respect your work, and I accept your criticism as constructive. I should have explained more about my frustration about how the term brainwashing was being used to suggest the average Mosque engages in it, when that is... not true.

Do I think that some small groups within Islam qualify as totalitarian and use high demand coercive psychological techniques to bind a recruit to the new identity? Yes. And we both certainly agree that such manipulative techniques are powerful in the totalist groups we have both studied.

My point is that if some member of Congress scheduled hearings about how coercive psychological techniques can be used to promote religious violence (in Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, etc,), or political violence, and invited you or any of a dozen actual experts on totalist formations that both of us could name off the top of our heads--then I would be applauding.

_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Sat Mar 12, 2011 at 01:16:10 AM EST
Parent
I doubt it would happen, because the Pentecostal/Dominionist/Fundamentalist churches wouldn't stand for being examined.

This raises the whole separation of church and state issue.   By singling out Muslims, the jackass is violating that.

Cultural pressures and issues are also important in the discussion.  Many of the things the Religious Right is ranting about concerning Muslims are actually based on local cultures and not on Islam.  The power of culture on individuals is generally misunderstood and taken too lightly.


by ArchaeoBob on Sat Mar 12, 2011 at 07:47:37 AM EST
Parent

I work with fundamentalists across several religions who agree with me.  So please paint with a finer brush.
_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Sat Mar 12, 2011 at 10:41:57 AM EST
Parent
Chip, I've read testimonies and life stories from walkaways who not only left dominionism, but from fundamentalist groups of all descriptions including ones that are considered rather peaceful (exception being Muslim - I've only known a few Muslims including a couple that are colleagues.)  Coercion is ALWAYS a characteristic of fundamentalist groups (so much so that I consider it part of the definition).  They may not show that coercion (and the mental/emotional violence) to outsiders, but the people who escape them always have similar stories of being pressured and coerced to conform to the group (or at the least face devastating changes and expulsion if they do not).

I rather imagine Muslim fundamentalist groups are similar.  I haven't talked with my colleagues about it.

Deception and putting on a false front are also characteristic of fundamentalist as well as dominionist groups.  They don't want people to see what really goes on inside.

In fact, there are fundamentalist groups (opposed to theocracy) in the US that may be as coercive and tending towards brainwashing and micromanagement of the members as the Assemblies of God or the NAR, strange as that may sound.   The stories of sexual abuse and so on are just as frequent as well.  I've 'talked' with people who walked from the UPC, and the churches they left were absolutely anti-dominionist, but they were still so coercive and abusive that the people who left could barely function.  The church did not want to take over the world or the country - they wanted to be left alone.  Yet they treated their members as badly as some NAR walkaways have reported.

I don't care that much about what they believe, because there is difference in belief within each group, not to mention the differences between the groups within a category (such as the NAR).  What I'm concerned about is how they treat people - both within the group and without.  To me that is what is critical, because I care about their victims.

On this we will have to disagree.  You say I am stereotyping and painting with too broad a brush.  From my perspective you seem to be splitting hairs and ignoring some pretty strong commonalities that I have observed over the years.  

by ArchaeoBob on Sat Mar 12, 2011 at 01:43:48 PM EST
Parent







Chip, I appreciate all of your work on government repression and terrorism issues, but I have to take issue with you claim that "[w]hen religious fundamentalists use violence or terrorism, the single most significant common factor is a sense of humiliation."  This is not the case.  Social scientists Scott Atran and Jeremy Ginges have found that humiliation is a negative predictor of involvement with terrorism, at least amongst Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. (Abstract for their paper is here).  See also Atran's recent book, Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood and the (Un)making of Terrorists.

-------------
"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Sun Mar 13, 2011 at 05:14:43 PM EST


WWW Talk To Action


Cognitive Dissonance & Dominionism Denial
There is new research on why people are averse to hearing or learning about the views of ideological opponents. Based on evaluation of five......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Will the Air Force Do Anything To Rein In Its Dynamic Duo of Gay-Bashing, Misogynistic Bloggers?
"I always get nervous when I see female pastors/chaplains. Here is why everyone should as well: "First, women are not called to be pastors,......
By Chris Rodda (0 comments)
The Legacy of Big Oil
The media is ablaze with the upcoming publication of David Grann's book, Killers of the Flower Moon. The shocking non fiction account of the......
By wilkyjr (0 comments)
Gimme That Old Time Dominionism Denial
Over the years, I have written a great deal here and in other venues about the explicitly theocratic movement called dominionism -- which has......
By Frederick Clarkson (4 comments)
History Advisor to Members of Congress Completely Twists Jefferson's Words to Support Muslim Ban
Pseudo-historian David Barton, best known for his misquoting of our country's founders to promote the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation,......
By Chris Rodda (5 comments)
"Christian Fighter Pilot" Calls First Lesbian Air Force Academy Commandant a Liar
In a new post on his "Christian Fighter Pilot" blog titled "BGen Kristin Goodwin and the USAFA Honor Code," Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan......
By Chris Rodda (0 comments)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors' -- UPDATED
Today, Donald Trump appointed C-FAM Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti to the US Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women. (C-FAM is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Controlling Information
     Yesterday I listened to Russ Limbaugh.  Rush advised listeners it would be best that they not listen to CNN,MSNBC, ABC, CBS and......
By wilkyjr (4 comments)
Is Bannon Fifth-Columning the Pope?
In December 2016 I wrote about how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who likes to flash his Catholic credentials when it comes to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (3 comments)
Ross Douthat's Hackery on the Seemingly Incongruous Alliance of Bannon & Burke
Conservative Catholic writer Ross Douthat has dissembled again. This time, in a February 15, 2017 New York Times op-ed titled The Trump Era's Catholic......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
`So-Called Patriots' Attack The Rule Of Law
Every so often, right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan lurches out of the far-right fever swamp where he has resided for the past 50 years to......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
Bad Faith from Focus on the Family
Here is one from the archives, Feb 12, 2011, that serves as a reminder of how deeply disingenuous people can be. Appeals to seek......
By Frederick Clarkson (7 comments)
The Legacy of George Wallace
"One need not accept any of those views to agree that they had appealed to real concerns of real people, not to mindless, unreasoning......
By wilkyjr (6 comments)
Betsy DeVos's Mudsill View of Public Education
My Talk to Action colleague Rachel Tabachnick has been doing yeoman's work in explaining Betsy DeVos's long-term strategy for decimating universal public education. If......
By Frank Cocozzelli (6 comments)
Prince and DeVos Families at Intersection of Radical Free Market Privatizers and Religious Right
This post from 2011 surfaces important information about President-Elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. -- FC Erik Prince, Brother of Betsy......
By Rachel Tabachnick (21 comments)

Respect for Others? or Political Correctness?
The term "political correctness" as used by Conservatives and Republicans has often puzzled me: what exactly do they mean by it? After reading Chip Berlin's piece here-- http://www.talk2action.org/story/2016/7/21/04356/9417 I thought about what he explained......
MTOLincoln (4 comments)
Fear
What I'm feeling now is fear.  I swear that it seems my nightmares are coming true with this new "president".  I'm also frustrated because so many people are not connecting all the dots! I've......
ArchaeoBob (5 comments)
"America - love it or LEAVE!"
I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
ArchaeoBob (3 comments)
"Faked!" Meme
Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
ArchaeoBob (6 comments)
More aggressive proselytizing
My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
ArchaeoBob (4 comments)
See if you recognize names on this list
This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
ArchaeoBob (3 comments)
Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (4 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (3 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (2 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (13 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (5 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (7 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (3 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (2 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (2 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.