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The Rise of Extremism

The big problem today is we don’t want to be around people who disagree with us

If you voted for Brexit you’re a racist.

If you voted to Remain you’re a terrorist sympathiser.

If you voted for Trump you’re a racist.

If you voted for Hillary Clinton you’re a terrorist sympathiser.

Anyone who has a different opinion to the one in which you believe in, is wrong.

We at some point would have heard these arguments. Disagreements in society are becoming increasingly heated. The art of having a conversation with a person who believes in different things to you is dying. The main reason being is that we no longer need to associate ourselves with anyone who has a difference in opinion. If we go back to before the internet was born, people were forced to have conversations with each other face to face and often in these conversations there were likely to be a difference in opinion. During these discussions, people would take on new ideas and begin to empathise with the other person’s viewpoint. This is no longer the case. With the rapid growth of the internet and social media, we can now only associate ourselves with people who think with exactly the same thought process. For example, if you voted for Hillary Clinton, you can follow Hillary Clinton on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and then begin to follow all her associates. Furthermore, you can see all the events she attends or like-minded people attend and then join in. Now should you meet someone who says they would not vote for Hillary Clinton, you would think they are crazy or delusional. Why ? As you have surrounded yourself with only one thought process. Vote Hillary Clinton. Extremism. Data from USA in 2014 shows that this been happening since 1994 with a shift away from more central areas. It is worth noting of course being further left or right does not necessarily make you more extreme. However, there have been significant moments in the past few years that would suggest extremism is a growing part of society.

U.S. 2016 Presidential Election

Following the last 2016 U.S. presidential election, Americans’ evaluations of how they feel about the opposing party have hit the lowest point to date. Data from Pew Research Center, shows that 45% of Republicans think that Democrats are so dangerous that they are a threat to the nation’s health with 41% of Democrats believing the same for Republicans. Nearly half of Americans ended up getting into a heated argument with a friend, family member or co-worker regarding the election in 2016 according to HuffPost/YouGov Poll. Nearly half of Republicans and one-third of democrats would be very upset should their child marry someone from the alternative party. People now not only disagree on specific issues but they also now personally dislike people from the other party. This sentiment is likely to be very similar across the globe as witnessed by the ferocity of the Brexit debates in the UK.

We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided

A lot of people would associate extremism with it being far right in terms of the political landscape. Others would associate extremism with terrorist organisations and hate groups. This blog acknowledges both are examples of extremism but there is also a growing trend of extremism in all thought processes. For example German officials stated how recently left wing extremists have been more willing to use violence in the past few years to demonstrate their beliefs with an 88% increase in the last 5 years. We are seeing signs of this in both extreme right and extreme left political parties and groups. Beliefs are becoming more extreme with religious beliefs becoming more fundamentalist and political figures across the globe becoming more polarised. Hate speeches on social media are a growing problem especially in Europe for many years now with social media being used around the world to attract attention often using partisan talk. The idea of having a balanced approach to ideas is now fading away.

Much of the fault can be blamed on our usage of technology as even without foreign interference, social media platforms are built for extremes and polarisation with engagement mechanisms used to make people think in more extreme ways.

It is clear to see that more attention should be paid to the divisions occurring in societies. It may be necessary to have more systematic scrutiny from corporates, workers, consumers, government officials and the education sector. Minimising segregation in society could be a potential solution as this would enable more people to have an understanding of different beliefs.

There is nothing wrong with having strong opinions but we must remember to have an open mind and to understand the other person’s viewpoint rather than completely discredit them. Of course extreme views such as racism and discrimination should not be tolerated but in other areas we should remember each person is entitled to their opinion and should not be objectified.

At the end of the day, we must go forward with hope and not backward by fear and division.