Hate groups (extremism)

For me too, it’s easy to feel anger toward extremists. But the picture is not always as black and white as it is painted by the media. Society also bears part of the blame when it resolutely rejects groups of people and their views.

According to neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, it’s metabolically advantageous for the brain to reject what we are not familiar with instead of to feel empathy.

Extremists have a tendency to go after people in groups that are already otherized in society. They rarely attack people who are in their own demographic. The only exception that instantly comes to my mind is Anders Breivik.

Worrisome! How do we draw these teenagers back from the danger they are getting into? Getting a 9+ year prison sentence at 20 or being arrested and sentenced at 16 is not a good way to start one’s life as an adult.

Within this context, it is important to remember that particularly autistic people can have a tendency to be drawn into activities that actually go against their nature. An example is the case of Rhianan Rudd, a young teenager who was groomed online by an American neo-Nazi called Christopher Cook. She was was charged with terrorism offenses and took her life when she was 16.

On 21 September 2022, the British Psychological Society highlighted research that found that people will look for evidence that supports their views and will reject evidence that contradicts those views and thus can be pushed into extreme ideologies.

This also happens in scientific research. In the 1980s, I carried out a study of bias in sociobiological research and discovered that there was a great deal of male/female bias in it. To a degree, these researchers were looking to have their opinions confirmed.

I believe that extremism and other forms of unwanted behaviors can also come about because people who feel immensely otherized (pushed into the fringes of society) are looking for support instead of more rejection.

A lot of hate comes from the online forums 4chan and 8chan. Here are a few pages that explain how they operate:

  • Wikipedia : Gamergate (harassment campaign)
  • CNET : “8chan, 8kun, 4chan, Endchan: What you need to know. 8chan, the site linked to mass-shooting screeds, has returned under a new name”.
  • The Independent : “What is QAnon? The origins of bizarre conspiracy theory spreading online”
  • BuzzFeed : “Activists Are Outing Hundreds Of Twitter Users Believed To Be 4chan Trolls Posing As Feminists”
  • The Independent : “Police warn of homophobic 4chan cyber attack on LGBT+ Pride month celebrations”
  • Time : “What to Know About Pizzagate, the Fake News Story With Real Consequences”
  • Wikipedia : Pizzagate conspiracy theory

These groups – including “Anonymous” – are nowhere near the benevolent force for good that some people mistake them for (see for example in The Guardian: “WikiLeaks: Who are the hackers behind Operation Payback?”).

“anything goes”

That is their motto.

This often happens closer to home than we tend to expect.

A male business owner in Portsmouth was targeted in 2018 in what the Sunday Times called it a “xenophobic campaign”. It has clear echoes of Pizzagate.

Businessman falsely branded a paedophile by online bully forced to close vape shop after losing £75,000 in trade | The Newshttps://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/businessman-ruined-after-false-online-claims-of-paedophilia-dnkddg93x

He is Scottish, not English, and that certainly played a role.

The rumor began to be spread that he was a pedophile. His turnover tanked. This business man became suicidal, developed rapid-onset alopecia and became afraid to leave his home. He has left Portsmouth, the trademark he took out for his undertaking still running for many years.

Before he became targeted, he had been a hip, relaxed and “with it” business man and a dad. This is him before he became targeted:

This case actually went to court, which is exceedingly rare.

Here is a recent example of the misogynistic hate that abounds locally (5 May 2022):

(This headline appeared in the locals news in Portsmouth on 5 May 2022, about abuse that may have happened slightly to the north on England’s mainland, in Widley near Waterlooville, as there is no “Widley Street” in Portsmouth, but I don’t have access to the actual article. Widley is part of the Greater Portsmouth conurbation, part of three municipalities, including Portsmouth.)


Groups like 4chan and 8chan also organize that for example 100 pizzas get delivered to your door and that the police’s SWAT team shows up.

Hackers are often also into lock-picking and things like knowing how to walk up to unsuspecting people from behind without them noticing, so that they can startle them or pick their pockets. (I found out about this by watching a few DefCon videos on YouTube.)

It’s my impression that many of these 4chan, 8chan and incel types are painfully insecure and have a tendency to lash out at anyone who makes them more aware of their insecurities.

Many of them desperately want to be seen and heard, are after a sense of belonging, a sense that they matter and that their lives have meaning.

Others are merely bored.

Remember Payton Gendron? Of the Buffalo shooting? He targeted black people and it is very easy, for me too, to condemn him and leave it at that. That does not solve the problem, however.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/05/15/buffalo-shooter-great-replacement-extremism/

Extreme boredom…

After the 2011 riots in England, some of the participants also indicated that boredom had been an important driver and that merely providing access to sports facilities can help prevent such escalations.

Leaders who want to learn about how big a role boredom plays should watch the video about the “Philmarillion”, a person who for months documented every breath, move and twitch of a particular online user based in England.

This person created an entire world made up of the posts of said user, and even engaged in performance art to simulate that said user was living with him. There was for example food for him in the fridge with stickers with his name on it. He posted photos etc of that.

We should be grateful that the Philmarillion was artistically inclined.

Warning: This is pretty sad and depressing, at best.

After watching a Channel 4 documentary about incels, in which the presenter said that there are around 2500 incels from the UK on one particular forum, I realized that it could be useful to look at the proportion of incels per country to see if there are any structural problems in a particular country’s society that could be promoting it.

I experience England as a desert in many respects, and certainly socially, but I am based in a pretty crazy town that is not representative for the UK as it is considered pretty insular and hostile throughout the UK. (I also experience it as highly misogynistic and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more incels here than elsewhere in the UK.)

That said, when the UK was still in the EU, research revealed that the UK had the loneliest people of the EU. Possibly of the entire western world? This does not only concern older adults but young people too. There is a lot of boredom and misery here; that can drive people online and get them locked into these internet bubbles.

There is an EU report on the incel phenomenon, but that too lists numbers, not proportions. https://home-affairs.ec.europa.eu/system/files/2021-10/ran_incels_first_scan_of_phenomen_and_relevance_challenges_for_p-cve_202110_en.pdf

This EU report contains numbers of users of a specific forum by self-reported country. I took the 2022 population sizes given by Macrotrends for the first five countries at the top of the list to calculate a proportion. Turns out that the UK may not have that many incels, relatively speaking, so my impression/suspicion appears to have been wrong. Germany and the Netherlands rank similarly, in this calculation, and slightly higher than the UK, but Sweden ranks much higher. What I don’t know is whether many more incels in the UK may be dwelling on a different forum and more incels in Sweden on that particular forum.

Why do incels claim to have such bonkers beliefs? They may do this merely to feel special, to gain some significance. I’ve already mentioned this elsewhere on this page, but there is a book by Seth Godin (This is marketing) in which he talks about conspiracy theories and so on and says that any fool can see that Elvis Presley or Princess Diana cannot possibly be both dead and still alive, yet this is spouted by some folks. He then points to research in Germany that looked into this phenomenon. It may not be that different from the exclusive “clubs” that exist at some Ivy League universities. These people all seem to feel that they are special and have access to information that others don’t have. Maybe it gives people a sense of belonging.

What’s highly worrisome is the amount of extreme cruelty these incels get exposed to on the online forums, as shown at the start of the second part of the Channel 4 video. This lowers the threshold to cruelty in real life. You cannot and should not block the forums, but you can and should block the extreme content. Easier said than done.

CNN interviewed a would-be shooter about what stopped him:

‘Cheering section’ for violence: the attacks that show 4chan is still a threat


“The Washington DC shooting was the most recent to spawn out of the extremist culture of unregulated ‘chan’ message boards”

8chan returns with a new name and a reminder not to do illegal stuff


“The imageboard was taken off the clearnet after being linked to several mass shootings.”

The people who engage in this kind of abuse are extremely adept at blaming their victims. They tend to see the fact that they abuse and attack others as the fault of those others.

This guy who accosted Chris Whitty (the UK’s version of Anthony Fauci) also tried to blame his target for his own actions. He called Whitty shy and timid and said that if his victim had said “Get off me!” he would have left him in peace.

No, he would not. First of all, he had already accosted him at that point. Second, he would likely have taken it as a provocation and might have started punching or kicking his victim next. It was later claimed that he was autistic, but he was an estate agent, wasn’t he? One of the first things I heard after I moved to England is that estate agents are “lying scumbags”. That would not combine well with autism at all.

The onus for changing and preventing many negative developments in society is mostly on politicians because it is often politicians who set them in motion by using otherising language.

As neuroscientist Kathleen Taylor points out in her book “Cruelty. Human evil and the human brain”:

“even mild otherisation primes people for aggression”


“Talking about cruelty makes it easier to be cruel – unless one’s talk incurs swift punishment. Acting out the otherising ideas, especially in a group whose members compete for status and egg each other on, can push people into extreme otherisation with remarkable speed.”

One of her starting points for her book was this:

the difference between someone hurling verbal abuse at an immigrant and someone beating an immigrant to death is a difference of degree, not a difference in kind.”

Politicians must avoid otherising language and otherising (discriminatory) policies as much as possible and seek to increase equality and seek to enable everyone to flourish.

To flourish is to be respected as a human being, to be as healthy and content as possible – housed and fed well – and able to support themselves financially – or be supported, free from authoritarian demands and threats and, if able, to have the opportunity to choose work that is not punishment for being alive at a pitiful pay but enjoyable or at least paid well enough to enable people to support themselves and make work worth their while.

“If I was still in the EDL today, being banned from Facebook would have done nothing to deradicalise me”

“As a former advocate of the far-right group, it’s clear to me that by removing extremist forums, social media platforms may inadvertently drive vulnerable people underground and straight into the echo chambers we want them to avoid”


When people feel utterly powerless and ignored, they look for places and activities that make them feel they that they matter.

Remember Jake Davison, of the Plymouth shooting? He too felt that his life was a complete waste and that there was nothing left to do do for him.

In his book “This is marketing”, Seth Godin talks about the strange phenomenon that some people stick to wildly contrasting beliefs, such as believing that Princess Diana is still alive yet also believing that she was murdered.

They apparently do this because it affords them membership of a very select club of people. This way, they gain significance, but it not the main thing they are after. They also want to feel that they are unique. This is also why some people believe in conspiracy theories about Covid. (Godin referred to research done at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, if you want to know more about that. Look for work by Roland Imhoff.)

We should probably all pay more attention to what Seth Godin advocates on page 64 in that book:

“If we can accept that people have embraced who they have become, it gets a lot easier to dance with them. Not transform them, not get them to admit that they were wrong. Simply to dance with them, to have a chance to connect with them, to add our story to what they see and add our beliefs to what they hear.”

Below is a video by a so-called malignant narcissist called Sam Vaknin. He was born in Israel. He had an unpleasant childhood and for a long time focused on hurting people, on pressing their pain buttons. (I think that one reason why people with NPD do that may be to express how much they are hurting inside, which they may not be aware of at all. They project their feelings onto others and express their own feelings by trying to make others feel them.) He worked mainly in finance, then went to prison for fraud. Next, he repeatedly tried to prove that he was a psychopath. He is not.

Thankfully, he is very intelligent, eventually accepted that he had merely a narcissistic personality disorder, developed more insight and started educating people. He wrote a book. He also moved to Macedonia and married a Macedonian woman. These days, he seems to make mostly videos. He often cooperates with Richard Grannon, who himself was a victim of a narcissist, apparently. Grannon knows how to talk to Vaknin without triggering him into angry outbursts. Vaknin likes respect and doesn’t like to be doubted.

Over the years, he has started to mellow out. Self-acceptance is the key factor in addressing NPD, teaching people how to embrace themselves as they are. This starts with acceptance coming from others, however. The more acceptance they receive, the better they can learn to accept themselves. (Reflection plays a role again. Others tell them who they are, what they are like.) This is tricky because you should not use flattery, but pure, calm acceptance.

In this video below, Vaknin talks about the importance of being seen. The first three minutes alone tell you a lot about how young people who feel unseen can get manipulated and dragged along into extremism.

This also echoes what Thích Nhất Hạnh used to say, namely, to tell people “I hear you, I am here for you, I am listening, without judging.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh also told us to look after ourselves well, too, and advised us to retreat to the island withing to replenish our energy and shut out the noise.

It’s important to remember that many zen masters live in monasteries and retreats or at least spend a lot of time there. The better you care for and look after yourself, the better you can care for and look after others.

If you think that extremism only concerns young people, you’d be wrong. I think I recently read somewhere that in the UK, the terrorism threat also increasingly often comes from men and women in their 60s. That didn’t really surprise me, in view of the shocking level of hate against older men and women there is in the UK. These people too have nowhere to go with their anger, frustration and powerlessness.

It’s not just in the UK, though, where some men turn toxic, and for example start targeting women, later in life:

They become supporters of the “alpha male” ideology — a term adopted by the “manosphere” to describe what they consider the ideal version of manhood.