From al-Zarqawi to al-Awlaki: The Emergence and Development of an Online Radical Milieu

Radical milieus have been described as specific social environ¬ments whose culture, narratives, and symbols shape both individuals and groups, and the social networks and relationships out of which those individuals and groups develop and emerge. Researcher Peter Waldmann and his co-authors attribute distinct and independent qualities to these environments, portraying them as social entities in their own right, that is, a collective of people sharing certain perspectives and a unitary identity: a “subculture” or a “community.” This does not mean that conflict is absent between any given radical milieu and the violent extremist or terrorist group(s) that emerges from within it. Milieus have their own interests that lead them not just to interact with, but oftentimes to criticise and sometimes even confront their violent offshoots. Perhaps most importantly, Waldmann’s conception of radical milieus appears not merely to have social relationships as a core characteristic, but necessitates, implicitly or explicitly, face-to-face interaction amongst the members of any given milieu.

Tags: Al-Qaeda, Radicalisation, Violent Jihadism