SXSW 2021

Understanding the Motivation Behind Extremism


Even before COVID-19 struck, extremism was on the rise globally. From Christchurch to El Paso, white supremacists were targeting minority communities in an effort to start a race war. In Syria and Iraq, ISIS volunteers from 100+ countries enslaved, tortured and murdered those who disagreed with their extremist worldview. While our first inclination could be to call these people “monsters” or “brainwashed,” the reality is much more complex. This expert panel will bring a psychiatrist, a child psychologist and a former neo-Nazi together to discuss the personal, societal and environmental factors that lead people to join extremist groups and how the tech industry can work with intervention providers to steer people away from such violent movements.

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  1. What makes someone more vulnerable to extremist propaganda than others? And what role do conspiracy theories play in the radicalization process?
  2. Do external factors (e.g. personal/collective sense of victimhood) contribute to the radicalization process? And how can they be mitigated?
  3. How can the tech & video game industries work with mental health professionals to ensure vulnerable individuals are not recruited by extremist groups?



Michael Duffin, Policy Advisor, U.S. Department of State

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