Culture Wars/Current Controversies

WHAT IS EXTREMISM?

By Larry Gambone, Porcupine Blog

Just because you have some ideal or goal which is – or seems – completely at odds with the world as it is, does not mean you are an extremist. Extremism is an attitude, not just a set of ideas or concepts. You can thus take any desire and tackle it in an extremist fashion or in a non-extreme way. Being, say an anarchist or a socialist, an atheist or a Christian does not make one an extremist, but there are plainly extremist versions of these world-views. So what is the extremist attitude?

The extremist is, first and foremost, a bully and an authoritarian. It is always “my way or the highway.” There is no respect for any slight deviation from what the extremist thinks – agreeing with half of what that person thinks is seen as wrong as complete disagreement. There is no respect for other views and no attempt to find a common ground. Tolerance and nuance are seen as weakness and decadence. People who hold somewhat different views are abused, called “sell-outs”, “revisionists”, “renegades” , “liberals”, “turn-coats” “wishy-washy” etc. When extremists hold state power, they will use that power to persecute, criminalize and punish those with different viewpoints. Extremists at the head of movements without state power will call upon their members to attack and even kill people whose viewpoints offend them.

Extremism is, of course, more than just an attitude. There are extreme doctrines. These doctrines are completely at odds with several hundred years of social progress and they are based not upon empirically varifiable data but conspiracy theories, “revealed.” religion and pseudo-science. Furthermore, the forseeable implementation of these docrines is part and parcel of those doctrines. Examples include religious extremists that are homophobes and misogyists, political economists who seek to abolish a century of social reform and go back to a Dickensian capitalism, neoStalinists who would round up and shoot anarchists and socialists, and fascists, Nazis, “alt-rightists”, and white supremists of every possible description.

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