A case study of radicalization

Trevor Aaronson has a fascinating case study that looks closely at the life of Michael Hari, part of a trio that bombed a mosque in Minnesota, to show how some white Christian men have become radicalized in Trump’s America. He says that what Trump has done is ‘flip the switch’ in the minds of these men, turning them from simply feeling disgruntled at their failures in life to seeing themselves as a victimized group that has a mission to save the country from domination by women, minorities, and non-Christians. It gives their lives meaning.

Hari was drawn to Trump as a candidate because Trump wanted to put American culture in reverse, friends and family members told The Intercept. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan spoke to the nativism favored by Hari and some other conservative Christians, and fueled simmering hatred of a changing culture they struggled to understand — one in which women were empowered, gender could be fluid, a black man was president, and Christianity wasn’t necessarily a cornerstone belief.

“This whole Donald Trump movement caught a lot of us,” said a man who knew Hari through their shared religious observance but asked not to be identified because he didn’t want to be associated with Hari’s alleged crimes. “Anybody with a fundamentalist mindset has this ‘we-have-to-keep-our-ways, this-way-is-threatened’ mentality. They look at Donald Trump’s rhetoric, and it’s a lot of what they’re saying.”

“I don’t think Trump’s rhetoric is getting people to commit violence,” the man continued. “It’s not like he’s saying, ‘Go bomb a mosque!’ I think it’s subtler. I think he’s flipping the switch in certain people. And I think he flipped that switch in Michael Hari.”

Aaronson traces the life of Hari, a series of failures at various ventures, that eventually led him to see himself as needing to save America from those whom he perceived as its enemies.

It is a fascinating account. What is scary is that Hari is not alone and that many of the people who have shot up synagogues, churches, and mosques are cut from the same cloth.


  1. Matt G says

    Isn’t this what the call stochastic violence? Use violent rhetoric that falls short of incitement, knowing full well that some small number will act upon it.

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