Simon Cottee

Academic and Author


Are Mass Shooters Really Radicalized Online? My Research Says No

There is a demand for crazy on the internet that we need to grapple with," former President Barack Obama said in April at an event on disinformation hosted by the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics and The Atlantic. He could not have known that Payton Gendron, who says he became a racist online, would brutally murder 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo in a racially motivated mass shooting just one month later, making the task of grappling with the dark side of the internet even more urgent.

The Word ‘Radicalization’ Has Lost All Meaning

In 2008, back when politics in America and Western Europe was polarized but not completely unhinged, the terrorism scholar Peter Neumann nicely summarized radicalization as "what goes on before the bomb goes off." While this left a lot of blanks to fill in, it had the distinct merit of underscoring the link between radicalization and political violence: If you want to figure out how someone commits an act of terrorism, you need to understand how, prior to this, they became convinced that killing people for politics is a good idea.

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