Why do UK media reports on ‘radicalisation’ now include the term ‘grooming’? The latter term has migrated from stories about paedophiles to stories about ‘indoctrinating the vulnerable young’ to commit acts of violence. On what basis can we conflate paedophilia with terrorism? What the two have in common is a medium – the internet – and that both are considered crimes that are inexplicable or ‘beyond the pale’, so to speak, and associated with evil. The implicit suggestion of such media reporting is that the Internet appears responsible for enabling evil to diffuse through society. Its connectivity makes evil ever-present, proximate, only-a-click-away. Parents and government cannot control the internet. So society cannot protect its most vulnerable. Society is internally corrupted, because of the medium of the internet.
Such vague language from journalists and indeed politicians reflects the continued lack of an evidence-based understanding of radicalisation. If the phenomenon was understood, a clear definition could be used. Without a clear definition, media must piece together their own ‘picture’, so images of ‘Arabic-looking men paintballing’ or ‘handing out leaflets outside a mosque’ come to signify ‘radicalisation’. This often arbitrary and unsubstantiated picture can do little more than stigmatise more individuals in the UK, and perhaps even lead to their alienation and, ultimately, violence.