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Norms in the Global Struggle against Extremism: rooting for normalization vs. rooting out extremism?


Norms in the Global Struggle against Extremism
Rooting out extremists
Concept of "extremism"
Extremism as a quality control problem (Six Sigma methodology)
Social deviance as extremism
Other possible understandings of extremism
Methodological reservations regarding a statistical approach
Terrorizing others by extremism
Condoning extremism and its potential for terrorism
Struggle against extremism: the ultimate global challenge for norms
Human quality control: activities susceptible to extremism
Physical manifestations of extremism
Cultural manifestations of extremism
Psychological, religious and ideological manifestations of extremism
Lifestyle manifestations of extremism
Socio-political manifestations of extremism
Scientific and technological manifestations of extremism
Economic manifestations of extremism
Possible implications
Moderation as extremism -- norms as extremist?

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This is a review of some of the challenges arising from the reframing of the "global war against terrorism" as a "global struggle against extremism" -- or as a "global struggle against violent extremism".

Curiously, in July 2005, US officials indicated that the phrase "global war on terror" (known by the acronym GWOT), used by the Coalition of the Willing for four years and predicted to last one or more decades, was to be "phased out in favor of more nuanced language" (cf Tom Regan, The 'rebranding' of the war on terror, Christian Science Monitor, 28 July 2005). The newly preferred phrase was indicated as being "struggle against violent extremism" [more] -- presumably to be known by the acronym SAVE as a natural reflection of "faith-based" strategic thinking.

The strategic transition from "war" to "struggle", and from "terrorism" to "extremism", was variously articulated in July 2005 by the Bush regime and in August through the legislative proposals of Tony Blair (Blair vows to root out extermism, The Guardian, 6 August 2005). It could be considered an extremely farsighted proposal that anticipates constraints that citizens and consumers may need to impose on their behaviour as the challenges of society (global warming, scarcity of resources, social unrest, etc) become more acute.

Tony Blair's announcement was however made on the occasion of the largest arts festival in the world, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and the World Science Fiction Convention (Glasgow, August 2005) -- both celebrations of extremism. It also immediately followed London's winning of the highly competitive bid for the Olympic Games in 2012 -- surely an extremist process in support of the ultimate celebration of extremism. It also coincided with a moment of reality TV described by editorialists as the nadir of British TV [more]. Unfortunately recent years have also seen admiration for anything "extreme" as an admirable lifestyle choice by which people affirm their identity and enhance their status in society -- being extreme has become a lifestyle frontier. Many commercial enterprises are as a result glorifying "extremism" by promoting their initiatives with "extreme" in the name of their company or product.

In Britain these moves against extremism are being proposed and taken in response to a very limited number of deaths, resulting from a particular form of violent crime, a number that is a small fraction of the number of deaths associated with road traffic, alcoholism, drugs, suicide, murder, etc. It is an even smaller fraction of the number of deaths associated with political and economic positions maintained by the UK over long years in relation to developing countries.

It might be asked whether the "struggle against extremism" is a consequence of the binary logic that has characterized the strategic leadership of the Coalition of the Willing: "If you are not with us, you are against us". Do we now have a case of the "Norms" vs the "Extremists"?

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