There has been an increase in the number of individuals engaging with ‘Mixed, Unclear, and Unstable' (MUU) extremist ideologies, a term which refers to radical political worldviews that (1) coalesce a number of sometimes disparate ideological components (mixed), (2) dynamically evolve as specific ideological components gain/lose prominence over time (unstable), and (3) whose resulting incoherence makes them hard to comprehend and situate (unclear).
This MUU phenomenon also seems to disproportionately affect young people, with the majority cases involving individuals under 20 years of age, with this age group outnumbering older age groups in official UK terrorism arrest statistics for the first time in the year ending September 2022.
Despite the growing prominence of MUU ideological constructs, there is currently very little empirical research on the topic, and the rare articles and reports investigating it tend to rely on anecdotal evidence, neglecting the mechanisms underpinning the phenomenon. Suggestions to consider ‘fringe fluidity' as a distinct radicalisation pathway have rightly been made, but without a solid, empirically grounded knowledge of the processes involved.
This DCU research collaboration paper addresses this gap by answering what is arguably the most important preliminary question: where does the MUU ideological phenomenon come from? More precisely, what are the underlying – if not causal – drivers triggering, sustaining, and fuelling the expansion of MUU ideologies
We move beyond the usual methodological focus on specific individual cases and instead use a computational approach with a large dataset that, perhaps counter-intuitively, focuses on a single radical ecosystem: the incelosphere, or the network of online spaces which engage in ‘involuntary celibate’ rhetoric.