Women, children and violent extremism

Why do terrorist organizations use women and children to support their cause and carry out their activities? Bloom presents the facts behind the mobilization of women and children by terrorist groups. Bloom will discuss how a society can allow and even encourage the use of children to conduct terrorist activities. For terrorist groups the use of children carries many benefits: Children possess skills that adults lack, they often bring innovation and creativity including the use of new technology. Children are a superb demographic from which to recruit if you are a terrorist. The presentation will discuss recruitment strategies and tactics, chart the ways in which terrorist organizations exploit children, and how to interrupt the process.

Mia Bloom is a Professor of Communication and Middle East Studies. She conducts ethnographic field research in Europe, the Middle East and South Asia and speaks eight languages. Author of Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror (2005), Living Together After Ethnic Killing [with Roy Licklider] (2007), Bombshell: Women and Terror (2011), and Small Arms: Children and Terror [with John Horgan] (2019), Bloom is a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has held research or teaching appointments at Princeton, Cornell, Harvard and McGill Universities. Bloom is the editor for Stanford University Press’ new series on terrorism and political violence. She is regularly featured as an expert contributor on CNN, CNN International, MSNBC and Fox News for terrorism and national security issues. Bloom is a member of the UN terrorism research network (UNCTED) and a member of the radicalization expert advisory board for the Anti- Defamation League (ADL). Bloom holds a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University, an M.A. in Arab Studies from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a B.A. from McGill University in Russian, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies.

School shootings and Online Communities

School shooters have been online prior their attacks since the Columbine shootings. In the 2000s web sources demonstrated their attractiveness to people plotting atrocities, school shootings or similar acts of terror. Oksanen’s presentation focuses on the role Internet and social media in school shooting cases and fan culture starting from Columbine attacks. He uses empirical evidence of research on online communities deeply devoted on school shootings. These school shooting online communities have existed for long time on different social media platforms. The school shooting followers or fans form a global network including also female members. Although most members of these communities are not likely to become shooters themselves, they circulate material that creates fame for the shooters and may hence influence others. The presentation will discuss what kind of threat these informal and unorganized communities pose and how to find tools to prevent future school attacks.

Atte Oksanen is professor of social psychology at the Tampere University in Finland and the leader of Emerging Technologies Lab. Oksanen’s research focuses on deviant behavior online, emerging technologies and social interaction. Oksanen, is the leading social science scholar in comparative studies on cyberhate who has directed several cross-national projects over his career. His work includes as well work on school shootings and local and online communities. Oksanen has led major research projects funded by the Academy of Finland, the Kone Foundation, Finnish Cultural Foundation, Finnish Work Environment Fund, Helsingin Sanomat Foundation and the Aaltonen Foundation. Oksanen has published over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and he has over 260 publications to his name. Publications include articles in flagship journals such as Criminology, Addiction and Pediatrics and monographs published by Routledge and Springer. 

The Round Table on Conspiracy Thinking and Conspiracy Theories discusses the interlinkages between conspiracy theories and extremism from perspectives of media studies, international relations and religious studies. Bringing together an interdisciplinary panel of esteemed specialists the round table explores such questions as: To what extent does conspiracy thinking feed extremism? How are e.g. conspiracy theories used in extremist propaganda? What are the contemporary particularities in the circulation of conspiracy theories? For instance. what is the role of our contemporary media environment in the spread of conspiracy theories? Has the visibility of conspiracy theories increased during the pandemic or are we just imagining things?

Participants:

Amarnath Amarasingam is Assistant Professor in the School of Religion, and is cross-appointed to the Department of Political Studies, at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, an Associate Fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, and an Associate Fellow at the Global Network on Extremism and Technology. His research interests are in terrorism, radicalization and extremism, diaspora politics, post-war reconstruction, and the sociology of religion. He is the author of Pain, Pride, and Politics: Sri Lankan Tamil Activism in Canada (2015), and the co-editor of Sri Lanka: The Struggle for Peace in the Aftermath of War (2016).

Dr. Emily Blout is a media scholar and historian. She is the author of the upcoming book Media and Power in Iran: Mass Communication, Ideology, and the State (IB Tauris Bloomsbury, 2022). Blout is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University where she teaches courses on antisemitic propaganda and conspiracism. Her most recent article, "White Supremacist Terrorism in Charlottesville," was coauthored with Patrick Burkart and published in Conflict and Terrorism Studies. Dr. Blout is a contributing writer for the Atlantic Council, Responsible Statecraft, The ConversationUS, and IranWire. Her scholarship can be found in the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, the Communication Review, Conflict and Terrorism Studies, and the SAIS Review of International Affairs.

David G. Robertson is Lecturer in Religious Studies at the Open University, UK. He is co-founder of the Religious Studies Project, and co-editor of the journal Implicit Religion. His work applies critical theory to the study of alternative and emerging religions, "conspiracy theory" narratives and the disciplinary history of the study of religions, with a particular interest in claims of special knowledge. He is the author of UFOs, the New Age and Conspiracy Theories (Bloomsbury, 2016) and co-editor of After World Religions: Reconstructing Religious Studies (Equinox, 2016) and the Handbook of Conspiracy Theories and Contemporary Religion (Brill, 2018).

Chair:

Katja Valaskivi is Associate Professor at the University of Helsinki where she teaches in religion, media and societal change. Her research focuses on circulation of belief systems, ideas and meanings in the contemporary media environment. She currently heads research projects on media and terrorism, politics of conspiracy theories as well as circulation of extremism in the dark web and beyond. Her recent and forthcoming co-authored articles deal with the circulation of hate speech in 4chan after terror attacks (First Monday 2021), the news desk as an attention apparatus in terrorism news coverage (Journalism Practice 2020) and countermedia as an integral part of the hybrid media environment (New Media and Society, 2021). She has coauthored Hybrid Media Events: The Charlie Hebdo Attacks and the Global Circulation of Terrorist Violence (Emerald, 2018).

Radicalisation has been a major focus of research on violent extremism in recent years. It has become a key lense through which we view the causes of political violence, consequently transforming the way in which researchers, policymakers and societies think about how to counter terrorism and political violence. This roundtable takes stock of radicalisation research thus far. The aim is to identify its main strengths, weaknesses and blind spots, as well as to map ways forward.

Participants:

Associate Professor Noémie Bouhana (University College London) 

Dr Noémie Bouhana is Associate Professor in Security and Crime Science at University College London, where she co-leads the Counter-Terrorism Research Group. Her work centres on the processes involved in the emergence of extremist ecologies in complex social systems, the role that these ecologies play in the development of a terrorist propensity, and the implications of this understanding for risk analysis.  

Professor of Practice Stijn Sieckelinck (Hogeschool van Amsterdam) 

Stijn Sieckelinck (1980, Belgium) is Professor of Practice at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam, The Netherlands where he coordinates the research on Youth Work. He holds a PhD in Social Educational Theory. He publishes on social pedagogy, citizenship education, polarization, radicalisation, and idealism.    

Executive Director Jeppe Albers (Nordic Safe Cities) 

Jeppe Albers is the founder and executive director of the Nordic Safe Cities Alliance. He has previously been a partner and director at a Copenhagen based social entrepreneur agency and has worked in the Danish Foreign Ministry and the Danish Arts Council. He holds an M.Sc. in Sociology and Political Science from studies at the University of Copenhagen, Sciences Po Paris and Yale University. 

Head of Development Tarja Mankkinen (Ministry of the Interior, Finland)

Tarja Mankkinen has been working for the Ministry of the Interior, Finland, since December 1996 in various strategic positions. Ms. Mankkinen has a long experience in prevention of violent radicalisation and extremism.   Upon the initiative and under the lead of Ms Mankkinen, Finland has created a comprehensive framework for preventing violent radicalisation and extremism.

Chair:

University Lecturer Leena Malkki (University of Helsinki)

Dr. Leena Malkki is Senior Lecturer at the Centre for European Studies, University of Helsinki. She has specialised in terrorism and political violence in western countries. Her fields of interest include societal resilience to violent extremism, radicalization and counterradicalisation in the European context, disengagement from terrorist campaigns and lone actor violence.