by Adam Anay
You might be lurking the Internet with your smartphone right now and not know that you are absent-mindedly consuming extremist messages and principles.
Violent extremist groups work strategically and in a very precise manner. They prey on the weaknesses and emotions of the people. They can take a stone and make it look like gold. Do not be fooled.
Everyone has a squad, fam, or clique where we devote most of our past times with. We enjoy being with them because we get appreciation and acceptance. Violent extremist groups are connected by these strong bonds that they develop groupthink.
Groupthink occurs when those in the group stop giving out their opinions or using critical thinking because they wish to avoid conflict. Moreover, these are often led by a strong leader that is very motivated and rarely challenged. What he says is law.
According to Irving L. Janis, author of Victims of Groupthink, the members of the group will start thinking in this manner “Since our group’s objectives are good,’ the members feel, ‘any means we decide to use must be good.’ This shared assumption helps the members avoid feelings of shame or guilt about decisions that may violate their personal code of ethical behavior.”
Filipinos are people of symbol. We attach various meanings to certain objects or figures. The Philippine flag stands as a symbol of our united country. The crucifix is seen as a symbol of faith for the Catholic Filipinos. The sarimanok is an artistic symbol seen in our Muslim brothers. The distinct weaving patterns is an interesting symbol of our lumad brothers. The dove has been a universal symbol of peace. Symbols invoke certain emotions that are associated with it.
In the same way, violent extremist groups use symbols in order to create fear and to control people. The black flag with certain markings is a very common symbol of violent extremists in the country. They use these to fuel feelings of revenge and hatred among the people.
Moreover, they twist the meaning of symbols in order to help find and motivate new recruits. They will trick you in to thinking that you are fighting for the right symbol when you are only pursuing their violent ideologies.
Violent extremists encourage you to think that the skies are red even if they are blue. They distort principles and truths that you believe in.
In Mindanao, these violent extremist groups make you think that they are here in order to give back our land to us. However, they are here to take our land, own it up, and spread fear and violence all over the country and the neighboring countries.
They call on Mindanawons to think that joining them is the only way to reclaim what was originally ours and stand up for our rights even in the expense of stepping on other people’s lives. They misrepresent our Mindanawon Muslim brothers and sisters. People who try to sweep away peace in Mindanao are not real Mindanawons. Mindanawons are for peace.
The blame game is something that these violent extremist enjoy. These groups prey on communities that are struggling with social and political issues. However, instead of finding ways to improve the situation and create constructive ways to resolve the conflict, they place the blame on another person. They insist that the only way for injustices to be fixed is to violently oppose and even destroy those they claim are responsible.
That makes Mindanao a very strategic place for these extremists to brew violence. They take advantage on the recent issues regarding the Bangsamoro. They place the blame on the government of the Philippines. They place the blame on the people who oppose the said agreement.
This move is a very effective way to recruit Mindanawons with feelings of frustration and turn them into a group that has a specific purpose. In this manner, extremists invent an “enemy” that needs to be destroyed. This strengthens their claim of using violence as the best solution or even as a moral duty.
Violent extremist makes use of misleading and biased information in order to support a certain point of view. These trick people into believing their ideologies and these are their primary recruitment weapons. The goal of propaganda is to create a compelling story that people will buy into by twisting the facts. Everyone is a vulnerable target.
Extremist propaganda has invaded the Internet. You can find any of these on search engines, social media platforms, and others. One could also hear violent extremist propaganda directly from family members, friends, schoolmates, and community or religious leaders.
Here are examples of extremist propaganda:
- Our people are being oppressed. No one is doing anything. We must fight back.
- Our race and traditions are superior. To save our people from ruin we must eliminate all of those who disagree.
- You can’t trust government or law enforcement. Arm yourself and be ready to fight.
No one is safe with these violent extremist propagandas. They can come at you when your guards are in the lowest. They will slowly creep into your thoughts and infect your thinking. So as soon as you come in contact with these extremist messages, report about it and stay away from it. Don’t go on believing what violent extremists tell you or what you read on the Internet. Carefully consider differing opinions. Remember, Mindanao is peace. I am peace. I am Mindanao.
Source: United States FBI: Don’t Be a Puppet