Busher, Joel and Macklin, Graham (2013) Interpreting “Cumulative Extremism”: A framework for enhanced conceptual clarity. In: Society for Terrorism Research 7th Annual Conference, 27th - 28th June 2013, London, UK. (Unpublished)

The process of ‘cumulative extremism,’ whether known as ‘tit-for-tat radicalisation’, ‘echoes of
extremism’, ‘reciprocal radicalisation’, ‘connectivity between extremisms’ or simply as an
‘escalating spiral of tension’, will be familiar to most researchers working in the field of
terrorism and political violence. In recent years, the concept has been used effectively to call for greater attention to be paid to the interactions between opposing groups and ideologies – arguably a welcome adjustment to the
overwhelming focus on Islamist terrorism in the immediate post-9/11 context. However, in spite of
the growing popularity of this concept – particularly in policy circles – there has been surprisingly little attempt made either to define and describe these processes of ‘cumulative extremism’ and the mechanisms through which they operate in any significant detail, or to critically engage with possible limitations of this concept.
This paper calls for just such a project, and sets out a series of issues that such a
project ought to address. In particular, we argue
that, to be properly understood, beyond a simplistic binary notion of two opposing political poles locked into a cycle of escalating antagonism, a more holistic range of factors and actors needs to be considered including the role played by public authorities and the mainstream media, whose actions can be equally important in shaping how political actors frame contentious issues and the repertoires of protest that they deploy.

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