Countering Hate is a book that has a wider potential use than its initial focus.Bob Pearson and Haroon K. Ullah wrote a book that uses the latest research on how people think, how they are radicalized, and how to market to people to create a technocratic approach to countering violent extremism and terrorism. The primary focus is on Islamist extremist groups such as Isis and al-Qaeda.

First, because so many who write about terrorism are just plain awful, let me assure you that Pearson and Ullah are very careful to distinguish between Muslims, Islamists, and extremists. They make the argument that Islamists can be allies to discourage violent extremism, if we would only be willing to talk to them, for example. They are respectful of Islam and aware that there are very real grievances.

The information they provide is useful and sometimes discouraging. So much of the work of anti-racism is done when people reach adulthood, but those ideas and biases form in elementary and high school. They make clear that to be really effective, we must reach people before they are 25.

They write about how people are radicalized and how that can be interrupted and what is most effective. Guess what, shaking your fist and ranting isn’t on the list.

Muslims are the primary victims of ISIS and al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. A good portion of this book is about what can be done in Muslim countries to interrupt radicalization. There’s plenty of myth-busting. It encourages me that someone with as much good sense is in government, though somehow I don’t think many in the Administration will be receptive to anything in this book.

The advice is good. I think much of it can be applied to combatting white nationalism, misogyny, and racism. Seeing what they wrote about how people are radicalized on the internet, you can see the exact process happening with incels.

I think they are too sanguine about potential abuses of power, with surveillance, profiling (particularly when the condemn stereotyping), and censorship. I think that a chapter or two on how these methods could be adapted to opposing white nationalists would make this a better book, but then, maybe not. They may be trying to get those in power to see sense. I wish them luck with that.


I received a copy of Countering Hate from a LibraryThing drawing for early reviewers.