Responding to Extremism

L-R Professor Jonathan Githens-Mazer (University of Exeter), Professor Barry Richards (Bournemouth University) and Alan Jenkins (Dorset Police)

Bournemouth University (BU) was a hub of politically-charged debate as academics, journalists and members of the police force discussed extremism, radicalism and the media’s role in public perception.

The conference, ‘Responding to extremism: Media roles and responsibilities’, was hosted by BU’s internationally renowned Media School, in partnership with Dorset Police, and covered the BNP, Al Qaeda-inspired Islamism and the impact of new media channels, among other topics.

Professor Jonathan Githens-Mazer from the University of Exeter opened proceedings by examining the term ‘radicalisation’, claiming “we need to separate Islam’s organised basis of political engagement from ideas of terrorism and threat.”

Inspector Alan Jenkins from Dorset Police acknowledged the challenges posed by the continually expanding digital networks and raised questions about the media’s role in ‘fuelling the fear’ of the public’s perception of extremism.

Inspector Jenkins said: “This conference was an opportunity to discuss the primary issues surrounding violent extremism from a social, political and indeed theological aspect. These events are vital in providing a free and open exchange of views and allowing practitioners to see the main agenda from other perspectives. I personally will take these new views back into the workplace with me.”

The Royal United Services Institute’s Valentine Soria raised the question of freedom of information versus national security, with particular relation to Wikileaks. This debate continued beyond the conference floor on Twitter via hashtag #CERBConf

Dr Ben O’Loughlin from Royal Holloway said, “It’s the BBC that’s radicalising people,” as he and research colleague Professor Andrew Hoskins from the University of Glasgow discussed the gate-keeping of extremist messages in a new media ecology.

Mark Gill, from Woodnewton Associates research and communications agency, used the example of the Muslim veil to question how our attitudes change even more radically when specific legal policy is brought to our attention, while Professor Nigel Copsey from Teeside University spoke about the media and the public’s perception of the BNP. Mike Glanville, Assistant Chief Constable of Dorset Police, gave an overview of current counter-terrorism strategy and its relationship to the media.

The conference closed with views from the journalists themselves with ex-Reuters Head of Global News and Dean of the Media School Stephen Jukes concluding that there is no such thing as objectivity in journalism.

Professor Barry Richards from BU organised the conference.

“The day was very well-received by many of those present. It generated more questions than answers, but mapped out a number of key issues. It seems that further dialogue on this topic between academics, police, journalists and other stakeholders is likely to be fruitful.”

Professor Barry Richards, Bournemouth University.