New research sheds light on the indoctrination process of radical extremist groups.
- A new study features interviews with 24 former extremists on the radicalization process.
- Financial instability, online propaganda, and reorienting events that caused them to "snap" are leading causes of indoctrination.
- The research team offers potential solutions, including exposure to diverse ideas during childhood and a tamping down of polarization and media sensationalism.
The independent news collective is teaching a new generation of journalists and citizens to spot the stories in plain sight.
Following the data<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTgxNTcwMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTQ2OTMzOX0.eH3ohur8vdt_Y1j77p4x3cjxy8rMTPbHSYb9QaIjGnc/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C6%2C0%2C254&height=700" id="fb90b" width="1245" height="700" data-rm-shortcode-id="563f9b3b5043a606b6a8c46c7fc20883" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Dutch Safety Board Chairman Tjibbe Joustra speaks in front of the MH17 wreckage to present its final report into the attack.
Balancing clarity and caution<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="003a7d0b1b60879df578fa12764355ef"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/U1QJtDCCMLA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>While today Bellingcat employs a small team of journalists and editors, it still relies on volunteers and citizen journalists willing to dedicate the time and effort to scrape the internet for leads.</p><p>This, Toler told us in our interview, is an advantage to Bellingcat's investigative methods. While traditional news outlets contend with shrinking budgets, less personnel, and more information to wrangle than ever, they simply lack the resources necessary to explore the deluge of data we call the internet. Conversely, Bellingcat can overcome these barriers by tapping into a pre-existing group of enthusiasts who thrive on a sense of devotion, interest, and personal satisfaction. And the more people who team up to solve a problem, the lighter the work becomes.</p><p>But there are challenges. "It's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you have a clear gap in information. It's just not feasible for large outlets to cover this stuff to the degree it should be. But also, the people who do have time and do it, there's not as much responsibility on them, and who knows what they could do that causes harm," Toler said.</p><p>Consider the open-sourced nature of the evidence. Bellingcat's show-your-work approach is necessary for clarity and transparency, but it also creates a set of instructions for those looking to duplicate the formula. While Bellingcat maintains the guidelines of a traditional newsroom, others may not and bad actors could locate information Bellingcat deemed sensitive enough to redact and use it to harm others by, say, doxing.</p><p>"There's really no good solution because you can't control what the mob does. If someone is angry, they can dig into this stuff because it is open source, and if you give the transparency of how you got your stuff, then you can't avoid the fact that it can then be reproduced and found," Toler said.</p><p>Because of this, Bellingcat hopes to serve as a type of intermediary. Like a traditional newsroom, it vets its sources, sets up fail-safes to catch misinformation, and writes its reports to protect bystanders and prevent libel. It hopes these practices will serve as an example for citizen journalists to emulate. On the obverse, it aims to show established news outlets the power and reach of open-sourced investigative techniques and these online communities.</p>
Recently, Bellingcat has worked to investigate the Jan.6 Capitol Riots.
Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images<p>Looking to the larger media landscape, Bellingcat doesn't see itself in competition with traditional news media. It views its position as one of cooperation. The foundation has worked with several news partners to investigate stories and promote its work, such as sharing <a href="https://www.bellingcat.com/news/americas/2021/02/24/woman-accused-of-stealing-nancy-pelosis-laptop-appears-in-video-making-nazi-salute/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the findings of its Riley June Williams investigation</a> with <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/internet/extremists-made-little-secret-ambitions-occupy-capital-weeks-attack-n1253499" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NBC</a>.</p><p>It also offers <a href="https://www.bellingcat.com/resources/events/2020/04/03/bellingcat-now-offering-online-investigation-training-workshops/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">training workshops</a> to teach open-source investigation. These are not only attended by journalists wishing to hone their skills but professionals like lawyers and finance managers looking to add these techniques to their trades. Because the foundation sees its methods as an extension of investigative journalism, not a replacement for it, it isn't looking to corner a market. Rather, it aims to evolve a profession to meet the challenges of its new 21<sup>st</sup>-century environment. </p><p>As Toler told us: "Journalism doesn't work one way or the other. It should be both. Do some open-source sleuthing to compliment and boost your on-the-ground reporting.</p><p>"Our gospel of open source, we're trying to spread that as much as we can. We want to make this a very mainstream part of traditional news. If we're made obsolete, that's a good thing because we'd like for more traditional news outlets to be doing digital investigation and verification work."</p>
One bill hopes to repeal the crime of selling sex and expand social services; the other would legalize the entire sex trade.
The Equality Model asks, criminal or victim?<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTcwMzY3OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTUxNjE3M30.g5Ln46h9dqAFsymzKPhZ22-euuhjzAqLcreFKC2oOn0/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C896%2C0%2C-1&height=700" id="06827" width="1245" height="700" data-rm-shortcode-id="454bd6e1b83ba20f97ee3e90258053c3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Advocates stand outside a courthouse to protest Ghislaine Maxwell, former girlfriend to Jeffrey Epstein, for her role in his sex-trafficking ring.
Credit: Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images<p>The most recent of the two is the Sex Trade Survivors Justice & Equality Act. Set to be introduced by Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan, the law would repeal the crime of prostitution in the state but would maintain punitive measures against buyers and pimps. The penalty for buying sex, for example, would be a sliding-scale fine based on income.<strong> </strong>The bill also aims to strengthen laws against trafficking and eliminate the so-called <a href="http://ypdcrime.com/penal.law/article230.htm#p230.03" target="_blank">ignorance defense</a>, which affords buyers legal cover if they did not have "reasonable grounds" to assume their victim was underage.</p><p>The Sex Trade Survivors Justice & Equality Act is based on <a href="https://www.equalitymodelus.org/why-the-equality-model/" target="_blank">the Equality Model</a>, first introduced in Sweden in 1999. Under the Swedish Sex Purchase Act, the country decriminalized prostitution and began targeting buyers and suppliers with the goal of lowering demand. As demand decreased, the thinking went, Sweden would witness a subsequent reduction in violence, trafficking, and the trauma associated so strongly with the illicit sex trade. And <a href="https://www.government.se/4a4908/contentassets/8f0c2ccaa84e455f8bd2b7e9c557ff3e/english-summary-of-sou-2010-49.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a 2008 report</a> did find that the strategy manifested some of those goals. </p><p>After the law's introduction, costs increased, fewer men sought to purchase sex, and the number of women in street prostitution halved—though the burgeoning internet scene likely influenced that metric as much as the law. </p><p>As for Sweden's prostituted population, the report was mixed. Fears of the law driving prostitution further underground weren't realized, nor did the risks of physical abuse or dangerous living conditions increase. However, while people who sought to leave the life favored the law, those who wished to stay in the trade denigrated it for hyping the social stigma. </p><p>After the report's release, countries such as Norway, Iceland, Canada, and Israel adopted the Equality Model, and today, many U.S. advocacy groups champion for states to institute similar laws.</p><p>"We who have been in the human-trafficking policy movement for a long time have been advocating for years that people in prostitution should not be criminalized for their exploitation," Alexi Meyers, director of anti-trafficking policy at <a href="https://sanctuaryforfamilies.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sanctuary for Families</a>, told Big Think in an interview discussing the New York bill. "It's the only law where the victim is arrested. Instead of handcuffs, [people in prostitution] need services, need housing, need support."</p><p>Critically, the Sex Trade Survivors Justice & Equality Act does more than decriminalize prostitution. It also bolsters social services such as housing, job training, and mental health care. To help finance these services, money collected by the aforementioned buyer fine will go into a victim-compensation fund. The bill also expands protections for minors arrested under safe harbor and would vacate victims' prior convictions so they could more easily find jobs. </p><p>"When someone has had no family support, have been abused their entire lives, and they haven't gotten the services they need, at the age of 18, they haven't magically transformed from a victim of trafficking into a consenting adult," Jayne Bigelsen, vice president of advocacy for Covenant House, New York, said in our interview.</p><p>Bigelsen grants that not everyone engaged in the commercial sex trade may view themselves as a victim, but she notes that a large portion of the population remains vulnerable nonetheless. To treat such people as criminals, as so many contemporary laws do, does no one any favors. The fear of arrest <a href="http://www.prostitutionresearch.com/pdf/Prostitutionin9Countries.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">actively discourages</a> victims from seeking an "off-ramp" to the life and strengthens the coercive hold their pimps and traffickers maintain on them.</p><p>"[The law helps] reframe the understanding that this is not a crime. It is a form of gender-based violence and exploitation. I think, over time, people will have a greater understanding of that," Bigelsen adds.</p>
Prostitution, an occupation like any other?<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTcwMzY1My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MTc3NjkzNX0.M_8OftwQ5yaGs4YyUPLIRNUAU7Ip-np2cNNdtEl8gLE/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C565%2C0%2C5&height=700" id="0b146" width="1245" height="700" data-rm-shortcode-id="958d700b5d663082c23f008041a153a9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Sex workers in Amsterdam's famous red-light district, where window prostitution is permitted.
Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images<p>But critics of the Equality Model believe it's disguised paternalism that robs women of the right to choose. Worse, they argue, it further stigmatizes sex workers within society and drives the sex trade further underground, where exploitation and violence can continue to fester from prying eyes.</p><p><a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s6419#:~:text=S6419%20(ACTIVE)%20%2D%20Sponsor%20Memo&text=Part%20B%20repeals%20and%20amends,are%20repealed%20under%20this%20bill." target="_blank">A second New York Senate bill</a>, currently in committee, would decriminalize the entire sex trade within the state. Called the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act, the bill would keep penal laws related to minors and sex trafficking but would make sex work between consenting adults a legal, regulated trade.</p><p>"Sex work is work and should not be criminalized by the state," Senator Julia Salazar, who introduced the bill, stated in <a href="https://www.decrimny.org/post/for-immediate-release-decrim-ny-legislators-intro-first-statewide-bill-to-decriminalize-sex-work" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a press release</a>. "Our current policies only empower traffickers and others who benefit from keeping sex work in the shadows. New York State needs to listen to sex workers and make these common-sense reforms to keep sex workers safe and empower sex workers in their workplaces."</p><p>Like the Sex Trade Survivors Justice & Equality Act, Salazar's bill draws inspiration from European laws, namely those from the Netherlands and Germany. Both countries legalized the sex trade a few years after Sweden introduced its Equality Model—though laws and regulations vary between the countries and even districts within them. For example, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/germany-introduces-unpopular-prostitution-law/a-39511761" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Germany has passed a law</a> that requires any business offering sex services to apply for a permit "that will only be granted if health, hygiene and room requirements are met," while <a href="https://www.amsterdam.nl/en/policy/policy-health-care/policy-prostitution/#:~:text=In%20Amsterdam%2C%20prostitution%20in%20private,supplying%20locations%20for%20illegal%20prostitution." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Amsterdam limits</a> window prostitution to specific city zones.</p><p>Full-decriminalization advocates hope such laws will facilitate freedom of choice, access to social services, improved health and working conditions, and the decoupling of the occupation from criminal enterprises. They also argue that full decriminalization closes the unintended consequences created by the Equality Model.</p><p>An <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/05/amnesty-international-publishes-policy-and-research-on-protection-of-sex-workers-rights/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Amnesty International</a> report notes that in Norway, sex workers are routinely evicted from their homes because landlords fear rental agreements will expose them to prosecution for promoting sex. Similar liability concerns deter third parties, such as security, from working with sex workers, too. As a result, sex workers themselves may not be prosecuted but their lives are no less secure nor more firmly established within society.</p><p>"What we have isn't working. The current model of criminalizing sex work traps sex workers and trafficking survivors in cycles of violence. The new proposed legislation referred to as the 'Equality Model' conflates sex work with sex trafficking, using the logic of broken windows policing to address trafficking by targeting sex workers," <a href="https://www.decrimny.org/post/the-equality-model-is-criminalization-by-another-name-pass-the-stop-violence-in-the-sex-trades-act" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">writes the advocacy group Decrim NY</a>.</p>
New York State to lead decriminalization<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8ac67c2bb56050a6a3b91a9c54c4510e"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jMji-YE1qVA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Of course, Equality Model advocates have their arguments against full decriminalization. Even in countries that have legalized prostitution, the sex trade retains <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46919294" target="_blank">strong ties to criminal activities</a>. Prostituted women continue to be viewed as pariah—or, in the case of Amsterdam, tourist attractions. And like the legal sex trades of the ancient world, contemporary examples have witnessed a surge in human trafficking to meet the demand. More often than not, poor women from poor countries.</p><p>"If you decriminalize people who buy sex, you're removing any legal barriers or social barriers, and the number of people who buy sex will exponentially increase, and you'll have to fill that new, legal demand with supply. And that supply is human bodies, and there aren't enough willing participants to fulfill that need. That's when trafficking occurs," Alexi Myers said.</p><p><a href="https://ec.europa.eu/anti-trafficking/sites/antitrafficking/files/federal_government_report_of_the_impact_of_the_act_regulating_the_legal_situation_of_prostitutes_2007_en_1.pdf" target="_blank">A report commissioned</a> by Germany's Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth looked into the effects of the country's 2001 law. It found the intended impacts to be lacking. According to the report, the Prostitution Act did not create measurable improvements on social protection, working conditions, reduced crime, or the means for leaving the business. The report did assuage some fears, however, by finding that legalization did not make it more difficult to prosecute sex traffickers or related violence when they occurred.</p><p>All told, data will never point to a perfect solution to this or any social concern. In the case of prostitution, emotions and moral instinct run at the redline. Often, the solution one proposes comes down to one's answer of this question: What is prostitution? Is it a violation of another human's rights and dignity? An occupation like any other? Or a moral offense old as the law itself? </p><p>Whatever your answer, you'll likely find current U.S. law lacking. It's for this reason that <a href="https://www.governing.com/archive/more-states-separate-prostitution-sex-trafficking.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">many states are reanalyzing and revamping their prostitution laws</a> to protect victims, usually with more robust safe harbor laws. Whichever law New York State chooses, its successes and failures will likely serve as a bellwether for the United States moving forward.</p>
By 2050, there may be more plastic than fish in the sea.
- 2050 is predicted to be a bleak milestone for the oceans - but it's not too late to avert disaster.
- Here are 10 actions the world can take to strengthen and preserve our oceans for generations to come.
Most people believe you can win an argument with facts - but when "facts" are so often subject to doubt, are personal experiences trusted more?
- A new study has found that people are more likely to get respect from others in moral and political conversations when sharing personal experiences instead of facts.
- The research group conducted 15 separate experiments to test this theory in order to learn more about tolerance in specifically political arguments.
- The effectiveness of facts in these conversations (even when proven true) is unclear because facts themselves are now subject to doubt, especially surrounding controversial and polarizing topics such as gun control and political beliefs.
Use personal experience, not facts, to gain respect in a disagreement<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU0OTM4OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTI2MTAzNn0.kCBmbeMe4l9pD-UK2Fwlj6Z0uPRcTqdypSP3EPEdrrc/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C974%2C0%2C720&height=700" id="bc462" width="1245" height="700" data-rm-shortcode-id="f9a814e50eb63020c34c628afc58222a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="concept of man and woman arguing political arguments disagreement" />
Do personal anecdotes mean more than facts in a world where facts can't be trusted?
Image by ngupakarti on Adobe Stock<p><a href="https://phys.org/news/2021-01-people-contrasting-views-respected-personal.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">According to the study</a>, both liberals and conservatives believe that using facts in a political discussion will help foster mutual respect and understanding — however, all fifteen of these experiments (across multiple methodologies and issues) show that isn't quite true.</p><p><strong>These studies were conducted using topics that have proved quite polarizing in the past, such as: </strong></p><ul><li>Conversations about guns</li><li>Discussion over comments from YouTube videos regarding abortion opinions</li><li>An archive of 137 interview transcripts from Fox News and CNN<br> </li></ul><p><strong>"What would make you respect their opinion on the subject"?</strong><br><br>In the first study (n = 251), participants were asked to "imagine someone disagrees with you on moral issues" (abortion, for example). They were then asked, "What would make you respect their opinion on the subject"?<br></p><p>Responses were then categorized into themes with a majority of respondents (55.78 percent) stating that basing one's stance on facts and statistics would increase respect, followed by basing one's stance on personal experiences (21.12 percent), followed by an understanding of mutual respect (14.34 percent).</p><p><strong>"When discussing political beliefs, who is more rational?"</strong></p><p>Next, a sample of participants (n = 859) was asked to imagine interacting with two political opponents, one who based their beliefs on facts, and one who based their beliefs on personal experiences. Participants rated their imaginary fact-based opponent as more rational than the opponent who based their stance on personal experiences. They also voted that they respected them more and wanted to interact with them more. </p><p>A separate study from this experiment (study number four, n = 177) had participants weighing in on topics such as taxes, coal, and gun policies. They then were asked to read about individuals who disagreed with them on these subjects either due to personal experiences or factual knowledge. Participants in this study rated how rational their opponent seemed, and those who based their arguments on personal experience were perceived as more rational than those basing their opinions on factual knowledge. </p><p><strong>How does this translate to real-world conversations? </strong></p><p>This section of the experiment had 153 participants engaging in conversations on the street (with people they assumed were passersby but were actually members of the research team) about the topic of gun control. Analyses of these conversations revealed that strangers who based their stance on personal experiences were treated as more rational (and were more respected/interacted with more) by participants than those who based their stance on facts. </p><p><strong>Confirming the theory that even when facts are true, personal experiences garner more respect and willingness to engage in conversation.</strong> </p><p>This experiment (n = 194) sought to reaffirm the theory that personal experiences garnered more respect while ruling out possible alternative explanations. The researchers contrasted concrete facts about gun control (taken from JustFacts.com) with personal experiences. For example, someone reading an annual report that mentions 73 percent of murders in the United States are committed with firearms (factual knowledge) versus "someone's young daughter was hit by a stray bullet" (experience-driven argument). </p><p>This study found that these facts were rated as higher in specificity and concreteness than the personal experience, however, personal experiences gained more respect and willingness to discuss the topic. </p><p><strong>Facts, even when proven true, are often less respected than personal experiences. </strong></p><p>When imagining these different kinds of arguments, everyday Americans believe that supporting their belief with facts will lead to respect. However, the effectiveness of facts (even when proven correct) is unclear. The problem is, in the past decades, American has seen a decentralization of news and information that has allowed people to gather their "own facts." Facts themselves are now subject to doubt, especially surrounding controversial and polarizing topics. </p>