The Security Distillery think tank is a student-led initiative from the Erasmus Mundus International Masters in Intelligence, Security and Strategic Studies, that aims at scientific diffusion. It is very important that the discoveries of the academy do not stay locked in the so-called ivory tower and projects like these play a big role in combating misinformation and phenomena such as fake news and negationism.

Extremism has drawn attention from the general public and mass media, especially related to Cyberspace and On-line activities. Understanding terrorism and other types of violent extremism is a big challenge, not only because of its complexity but also because of its dynamism. Although big events such as the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States have drawn to light many matters, new trends and tendencies are now posing new questions that beg for further comprehension. For this reason, the Security Distillery in conjunction with think tank Vox-Pol came together for its first event of 2019, “Extremism: Online Networks, Offline Violence” at Dublin City University. The event took place in Dublin City University (DCU) on the 20th of March, and was hosted by Security Distillery member Casey Cannon and was composed of two sections, the first focusing on far-right extremism with the second section focusing on violent online extremism.

The first half of the event was made up of three Security Distillery members and postgraduate students from the International Master in Security, Intelligence and Strategic Studies, a two-year Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree awarded collectively by the University of Glasgow (UK), Dublin City University (Ireland), and Charles University in Prague (Czech Republic). Firstly, Javier Martinez Mendoza from Mexico presented on the role of the far-right within the European Union (EU) and the challenges this movement has brought for EU member states. Javier explained what caused the current surge of far-right movements in EU member states and what makes them different from past waves of extremism, like the online disinformation campaigns and the spread of fake news in social media. Then, he discussed the security impact of the far-right’s emergence, addressing the securitization of multiculturalism, the normalization of authoritarian rhetoric and the defiance of democratic institutions and liberal values. Finally, Javier analysed far-right political violence in EU member states during the last five years, and he provided insights about how the issue is being addressed and what can be done to tackle this threat.

Speaker Panel: Javier Martinez Mendoza, Heather McDonald and Felipe Simoni

Javier’s presentation was then followed by Heather McDonald from Scotland who addressed the position of the far-right within the United Kingdom. Heather delved into the history of the far-right within the UK and the place of the BNP and other far-right groups in British politics before moving on to discuss the case study of far-right group National Action. The aim of Heather’s presentation was to explain to the audience the severity of emerging far-right groups in the UK but also the extent the internet has played in radicalising members and spreading this hateful ideology.

Lastly, Felipe Simoni from Brazilian-Italian tackled the key features of the far-right in the USA. Felipe explained how peculiar the current right-wing extremism is in relation to past threats, its main methods and techniques, the main consequences of cyberspace for this phenomenon, and central security implications and challenges to come. The first half of the event was ended with a question and answer session between the three presenters and the audience composed of DCU students and staff members.

The second half of the event was composed of specialists addressing countering violent extremism (CVE), myths and main aspects of the current government strategies. This panel was made up of James Fitzgerald (IMSISS Programme Chair and Assistant Professor in Terrorism Studies, Dublin City University), Maura Conway (VOX-Pol Programme Coordinator and Professor of International Security, DCU), and Orla Lehane (Education Director, Fighting Words, DCU).

Both panels were followed by a Q&A session, which provided a nurturing discussion with an eager audience, formed by students and professors from the DCU School of Law and Government. To sum up, the event proved to be an engaging opportunity to consolidate the links between the Security Distillery and one of its institutional partners, Vox-Pol, and to share the knowledge and skills that the 2018-2020 IMSISS cohort has developed, by analysing a highly relevant and concerning topic, proposing innovative perspectives. More events will be held along the way. The Vox-Pol and Security Distillery conference was a fruitful starting point for the promising activities of our 2018-2020 experience.


Date: May 7, 2019 4:19 am