The War on Error 1. What is De-radicalisation?

This week (Feb 22-28) UK primetime news ran a story for several days as a headliner item about three schoolgirls from an East London school who had flown to Turkey and crossed into ISIS-held Syrian territories so as to offer themselves as ‘Jihadi’ brides to fighters fighting there.

The girls were 15, 15, and 16 years and described as ‘straight A’ students.

The ensuing discussions and inquests aired into why and what and how these young girls had fled threw up a cluster of concepts expressed as the unwieldy terms ‘radicalise’, ‘de-radicalise’ and ‘counter-radicalisation’.

It became clear that the UK government administration is spending more than £2 billion annually on ‘security services’ meaning the Intelligence Services – what used to be called ‘The Secret Service’.  Much of this £2 billion is spent on monitoring and gathering data about  persons who are considered ‘threats to the safety of the nation’.

‘Radicalised’ Muslims are high up on this agenda, and this then is the activity which is called ‘counter-radicalisation’

There is also money for trusted partners who run through a course of ‘de-radicalisation’ those who have been sentenced to jail terms under offences listed in various Acts of Parliament which apply to what might loosely be called ‘terrorism activities’. The aim is to teach and internalise in these prisoners an understanding and repudiation of the mistaken world-outlook which led to their imprisonment.

The three girls who fled were probably well-travelled and used to journeys to their aboriginal ethnic lands of origin. Most second or third generation families of migrants to the UK who have come from ex-Empire nations get back ‘home’ for a visit to wider family once or twice a year.  The girls themselves might well be the daughters of professional people, I don’t know? Many such families are headed by highly respected and qualified professionals in law, medicine, education here.

Without doubt they gave up a lot to go to Syria. They were brave to go also, some would say foolhardy. They may well have married by arrangement had they stayed in the UK, each to a bridegroom approved by parents. This means that wedding a stranger like an ISIS ‘jihadist’ would not be too strange a prospect for them from what was ‘normally’ to be culturally accepted.

What the news media overlooked, maybe from blindness, maybe from careful deliberation, was the opening of any debate that examined the critique of UK ways of life and cultural norms that is implicit in the girls’ defection, and presumed disaffection. In short, there was no consciousness displayed in our UK media that possibly a rational and valuable self-critique might be called for from the nation.

Of course there is nameless fear and danger at play which causes media ‘opinion formers’ to huddle together and form an informal and tacit cabal; one that ‘holds to fort’ and closes down creaks and cracks that might appear in a united front against ‘terror’.  The cabal does this of course by blanking these creaks and cracks as they arise before them; and by not passing on any indication of their having arisen to their general readers and listeners.

At least some of the cabal justifies its reticence as protective to its audiences – ‘what the eye doesn’t see the heart doesn’t grieve over’. To have opened up such a debate would have been in its view opening a proverbial ‘can of worms’; and possibly destabilising many people whose sense of security depends on not knowing and not wanting any fuller story.

At least some of the cabal, perhaps some of the same people, probably felt that its is the safe preserve of such ‘destabilising’ understanding and enquiry that such debate might ignite. That to spoon feed the populace with a pale orthodoxy of views acts to defend its own initiated positions of eminence and power?

Whatever the motivation of the suggested media cabal, even if benevolently intended and yet self-contradictory out of its inherent self-deception, its united front message is the same: God forbid! That the ‘radicalised’ in the community should have any sound reasons for them being so. Heavens above! That such views that they might hold should contain anything of truth, of value, of good use, to we British. Was it not us who brought Sweetness and Light to the world single-handedly and with great and selfless benevolence?

‘Radicalised’ views are just not aired in the UK media. Views which air and which run against orthodoxy are never associated with or mentioned in the same breath as ‘radicalisation’. Their airing is generally in the preserve of academe, and they are voiced, if at all, usually in lofty abstract terms on minority art-culture radio from time to time. The occasional ‘exotic’ professor or intellectual talking on the ‘wireless’  is tolerated by our betters as an example of our Open Society.

I want to leave the discussion here right now. I do not want this article to overrun and move into territory looking at what a ‘radicalised’ critique of UK life might discuss and put forward as its ideas. There is a critique, though, and it is ‘radical’. It begins in the next article in this series

Its analogue, to the minds of the founders of, is situated in the parallel closing down by media and ‘opinion-formers’ of alternative ideas for novel social aggregations in doing business; and this is, of course, what is about. The vested interests of corporations and their political backers require that new ways of looking at trading, and providing services have to be steered and kept mainstream; in the places where their money is being made and their predominance is therefore assured  for the future.

We at refuse the ‘thirty pieces of silver’ and abjure ‘the gold rush’.

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