First, an interesting article claiming that tech companies are using artificial labor shortages to claim they need to import more H1-Bs in order to keep wages low:
That study was a key link in a chain of evidence leading to an entirely different view of the real origins of the Immigration Act of 1990s and the H1-B visa classification. … Their aims instead were to keep American scientific employers from having to pay the full US market price of high skilled labor. They hoped to keep the US research system staffed with employees classified as “trainees,” “students,” and “post-docs” for the benefit of employers. The result would be to render the US scientific workforce more docile and pliable to authority and senior researchers by attempting to ensure this labor market sector is always flooded largely by employer-friendly visa holders who lack full rights to respond to wage signals in the US labor market.
I rate this credible.
Second, an article by Donald Holbrook, “What Types of Media do Terrorists Collect?” [PDF] Unfortunately, the article only looks at religious/historical/political media, and so does not answer the eternal question of whether terrorists prefer Asuka or Rei, or whether their media consumption differs in other ways from other people’s.
The author looked at media collected by ten Islamic terrorists in, I believe, Britain. It would be interesting to compare these collections to those of NRA terrorists and people of similar backgrounds who didn’t commit terrorism–maybe someone can do a follow-up study on the matter.
So what media do they consume?
Holbrook found, first of all, that most of their media is pretty innocuous–things like 17-part audiobook series on some historical topic. (Audio–rather than written or video–media predominated, but that may not hold in the future with YouTube videos now quite easy to produce.) Only a small percent of the media was coded as “extreme” (that is, advocating violence)–even terrorists don’t spend all of their time reading about how to build bombs.
A few items were consumed by multiple people (this was generally more extreme media, which probably just exists in much lower quantities,) but most of the media was of sufficient variety that different people read different things.
Most of it was in English, since the terrorists speak English. The author expressed some concern that translations of much older religious material were not entirely accurate, but also noted that the terrorists possessed a fair amount of religious/historical commentaries that expressed counter-extremist messages.
So what can we conclude from this?
- It seems unlikely to me that radicalization is simply due to exposure to extreme material, since most of what they consumed was mild. It seems more likely that people who are prone to radicalization seek out more extreme material.
- However, it is possible that a strong sense of historical or religious identity is an important part of radicalization–most people don’t listen to 17 part serieses on obscure religious history topics.
- People who live in Britain but have a strong identity as something other than British are probably more likely to engage in anti-British terrorism
- The internet/modern technology have increased the availability of historical/foreign documents, especially in translation, allowing for people to communicate across nations and through time in ways that were much more difficult and limited before.
#4 is, I think, quite important–across a range of different human activities, not just radicalization. I think the increased availability of printed material in the early modern period allowed for the spread of the European witchcraft hysteria, for example, as the gullible public eagerly consumed pamphlets purporting to report on heinous crimes of witchcraft occurring in neighboring towns.
Increased literacy probably also went hand-in-hand with the Protestant Revolution, which emphasized the importance of people reading the Bible for themselves in order to have a personal relationship with God–something that was impossible before the era of relatively cheap Bibles.
This, of course, launched years of religious warfare that scourged the European continent and led to a lot of people being burned at the stake, at least until people mellowed and decided religious differences weren’t that big a deal.
Today, changes in media availability/ease of communication is changing how Westerners think about morality. It may also be changing how non-Westerners approach the world too–but not necessarily in the same ways.
Unsurprisingly, this study contradicts the common claim that terrorists aren’t religiously motivated or aren’t practicing “true Islam.” Of course, I have yet to see anyone, ever, admit to practicing a false version of a religion. Everyone believes that they are practicing the true version (or the true lack of a version, in the case of atheists,) and that everyone else is practicing a false version. Of course I also think terrorists have got religion wrong, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t practicing it to the best of their abilities–and of course, they think I’m doing it wrong.
But the fact that these folks are religiously motivated is undeniable–they definitely consume far more religious media than the average person.