The Power of Peers Essay

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To effectively tackle terrorism and discover possible counterterrorism measures, we must first examine its contributing factors, especially the factors impacting recruitment and retention. According to many scholars, average citizens become terrorists after they are exposed to trigger events, including political upheaval, catastrophic events, or the death of a loved one (Vertigans, 2011, p. 76). However, immediate triggers cannot be the only motivating factor for citizens to become terrorists, as not everyone becomes a terrorist after experiencing the same trigger event. In addition to triggers, individuals need already-established in-group connections to be even considered as a potential recruit. As Crossley, Trujillo et al., Florez-Morris, Horgan, McCauley & Moskalenko and Vertigans all argue, social relations aid the process of radicalization.

Close peer relations aid in the continuation of radicalization, and not only in the initial recruitment phase. McCauley & Moskalenko state “after an individual joins a radical group, love for friends and comrades in the group is likely to increase further as common goals and common threats increase group cohesion” and that the sacrifice of one friend’s life makes it impossible for the recruit to now leave the organization, as they must exact revenge (2008. p. 421). Recruiters also use peer relations to motivate recent recruits to become more active participants in the system, using respect and advancement within the organization’s hierarchy as lures. Horgan supports this argument by stating “in practical terms, involvement might result in heightened status, respect or authority within the immediate peer group, the broader radical movement, and (at least as imagined by the recruit) the wider Muslim community” (2008, p. 85). Lastly, Vertigans adds to this argument, stating:

When groups…are interconnected within communities, there can be less incentive to disengage. Hence the interweaving of friends, childhood acquaintances, family members and community figures within and across groups and the broader movement confirms the legitimacy and popularity of their commitment and actions (2011, p. 144).

These three authors all agree that peer relations initiate and perpetuate the radicalization of new recruits.

Another reason these four authors push is that social relations, including relations with peers, childhood friends, and family, create a sense of belonging and community for terrorist recruits, aiding the radicalization process. Crossley states:

[These relationships provide] agitators, and cultural and material resources to shape and provoke a crisis in its early stages. [They also provide] a ‘home’ for individuals radicalized in such period of crisis and it entails sites and forms of activity which serve to keep off movement illusion alive outside periods of crisis, helping activists to stave off disillusionment (2003, p. 59).

Trujillo et al. build on this point through their examination of...

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