Terrorism, Polarization, and Social Influences

Eiffel Tower, Paris (taken from history.com)
Eiffel Tower, Paris (taken from history.com)

Paris attack on Nov 13, 2015 shocked the Earth. And the discussions about terrorism, nationalism, imperialism, religious institutions and fundamentalism is getting heated again. However, there have been some social scientists who argue that these are not the core roots, but the social networks.

Cass Sunstein, a Professor at Harvard University , discussed about it right after the 9/11 attack. He recently reposted his article, titled “Why They Hate Us,” on LinkedIn. [Sunstein 2015] He argued that terrorism, driven by an ideology in a group, is made, not born. And the influence is through social networks. It is the corporate ideology that induces polarization. Polarization is intentional. Terrorism is a by-product of freedom of speech.

The widespread use of social media like Twitter and Facebook enhanced the polarization (of any political or religious ideologies). Social media might account a lot the political polarization happening in the States too. Social networks are significant in spreading ideas, as discussed in my previous blog entry. [Ho 2015] [Centola 2015] [Granovetter 1973] There are certainly a lot of values in this viewpoint, although I am not capable of making a judgement.

I highly recommend you to read Sunstein’s article.

Scientists can computationally analyze social networks using the Python package networkx. [Tsvetovat & Kouznetsov 2011]

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