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EU : violent extremism in Europe is society's fault.

Editorial Staff

On 23 November, the Council of the EU published a set of "conclusions" of the council and Representatives of the governments of Member States on "the prevention of radicalisation leading to violent extremism." If there was ever a subject that was more fraught with danger in relation to definitions and concepts, it's hard to think of one. But the conclusions are based on a premise that is very familiar:that criminals aren't to blame for their actions - it's society's fault.

The EU nimbly avoids being pejorative as follows: "Many terrorist suspects were radicalised European Union nationals often subverted by externally- driven, ideological influences employing potent and nimble technological means of recruitment and inducement in addition to face-to-face methods."

The important point about this statement is that it does not limit the EU's approach to religion - it relates to all forms of extremism in the name of an ideology. That, it is important to note, includes political extremism.

However, one has to question another statement: "The human and social conditions which provide fertile ground for radicalisation, particularly in young people, are complex and multifaceted and may include: a profound sense of personal and/or cultural alienation, real and/or perceived grievances, xenophobia and discrimination, limited education, training or employment opportunities, social marginalisation, urban and rural degradation, geo-political interests, distorted ideological and religious beliefs, unstructured family ties, personal trauma or mental health issues."

This follows a trend of blaming society for the actions of criminals. Is that right? Is it right to blame poverty for theft, for example?

Having based the conclusions on this dubious received wisdom as to the cause of crime, the conclusions follow a well-worn pattern and agenda: it's about education, inclusion, the promotion of common values including human rights and citizenship education and all taxpayer funded as a discrete item, not integrated into the social and educational development of all.

There are restatements of the obvious "NOTE the need to involve and cooperate with service providers in the fight against illegal hate speech online, in full respect of freedom of expression, in view of the role of social media as a prime vehicle for targeting, grooming and triggering potential radicals to commit violent acts, and UNDERLINE the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach." First, the statement implies that there is "legal hate speech." That's a line that is impossible to define because the way laws are phrased is far too subjective. Secondly, the concept of requiring service providers is next to useless without the involvement of e.g. search engine providers and they have been given a free pass by courts across the EU so they are not required to vet any content they publicise. Some individual platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft) did, in May 2016, enter into a code of conduct with the Commission under which they would attempt to counter hate-speech on line. The ability, indeed willingness, of e.g. Facebook to monitor and control content has been laid bare by the fake news scandal in the US elections. Also, what Facebook regards as offensive promotes its own agenda, and does not adopt an objective stance).

The sad thing is that the statement of 23 November demonstrates much of what is wrong with the EU. All the preparation, plus a two days meeting of more than a dozen senior members of government and their entourages has produced an anodyne document that takes us no further towards dealing with the issues it purports to address.

Read it for yourself: it's shameful that so much public money has been spent on achieving nothing of merit except everyone agreeing everyone should be doing what everyone is already doing and talking about it more.


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For more reading on the use of the internet by terrorist / criminal groups, see