Personal Standpoint (Version 3)
At the moment, extremism is a huge issue that dominates the media and people’s attention. It is such a divisive topic because its very definition varies from person to person. In the Oxford English dictionary, extremism is defined as ‘the holding of extreme political or religious views’. Clearly, what is extreme or not is subjective and will depend on a person’s own beliefs. However, western society often views any political or religious belief that differs from the accepted norm as extreme. The subjective nature of extremism is made more complex by the different types of extremism: positive and negative and violent and non-violent. It is important to understand the differences and how extremism is not always detrimental for society.
Positive extremism is about pushing for change that will help society as a whole. It includes advocating for equality, freedom and peace. For example, Martin Luther King was a positive extremist. During the middle of the 20th century, when King lived, black people were seen as inferior in America and segregation and racism were commonplace. Martin Luther King believed that this inequality was wrong and set out to change this. Because of his Christian beliefs and admiration of Gandhi, King believed in nonviolence. So, instead of turning to violence to fix this injustice, he peacefully protested and lobbied Congress. Due to the peaceful way he protested and gained support, King succeeded and influenced several important laws being passed, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. King was an extremist because during the time he lived his opinions on racial equality were seen as unorthodox but a positive one because he peacefully pushed for a better world for everyone. Another positive extremist is Jeremy Corbyn, the current leader of the UK Labour Party. He is a socialist which means he believes in equality of wealth and that the government should provide people with everything they need. This is seen as extreme because the leading party of the UK is far right wing and its supporters don’t hold the same values. His views are also seen as extreme by many due to prejudiced media sources portraying him as a fanatical extremist. Corbyn won his position peacefully and democratically in 2015 and has since gained great support for his movement.
An article on Martin Luther King by Catholic speaker Trent Horn (source 5), claims King, as well as Jesus Christ and Abraham Lincoln, were all extremists but extremists of love and compassion. Horn also argues that we all need to be extremists of morality if we wish to travel to heaven. This article supports the idea of positive extremism because it says that many people who are recognised globally as ‘good’ are extremists in their own way. It gives examples of how these people have used their extreme ideas as a force of good. There is very little information on the currency of this source available as the article seems to have been deleted from Horn’s website. It is possible that the article was deleted due to misinformation. The material I do have, however, suggests that the article is reliable. The article is relevant to my topic as it directly addresses what I am discussing. Its content is useful and at an appropriate level. Trent Horn is a Catholic apologist and speaker with a Master’s in theology. He has written many books on religion and his opinion on other divisive topics and often speaks at events and radio shows. While he doesn’t declare to have any political affiliations, his views are often very right wing and affected by his Christian beliefs. As a left-wing atheist, I strongly disagree with what he says about abortion and religion and acknowledge that his views will have affected his thoughts on extremism. However, his reasons for believing in positive extremism were similar to mine but from a religious perspective. That said, because his overall thoughts on positive extremism don’t necessarily solely stem from his religious beliefs, I do not think that his religious and political bias would have changed his overall message on positive extremism. On the whole, I think that the source is reliable and relevant.
Negative extremism is the opposite of positive extremism. It is about restricting people’s rights and pushing back society’s progress. Negative extremism is often violent and uses lies and scare-mongering to radicalise people. The nationalist political group Britain First are an example of negative extremists. They are a far right wing hate group that is against Islam, immigration and multiculturalism. They claim to be peaceful but are infamous for encouraging assaults on ethnic minorities. Britain First often fabricate stories to gain support and publicity; they will often use these claims to go on often violent marches. Another negative extremist is the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump. He is a far-right-wing conservative. He believes America should not accept refugees and should deport all undocumented immigrants. Trump has introduced many new laws that have limited people’s rights, including anti-abortion measures and bans on people from certain counties entering America. These views have caused many violent acts, including neo-Nazi marches and assaults on BAME people. Trump’s supporters took part in most of these. While I believe he is a disgusting person and his extreme views are awful, I don’t believe that he personally is a violent extremist. However, he has caused many violent acts and has deliberately provoked certain groups.
Figures on the number of racially aggravated attacks in the UK (source 2) shows the existence of negative extremism. It shows how certain political events can cause dramatic spikes in the number of these assaults. For example, the EU referendum result caused the number of attacks to rise from just over 4000 in June 2016 to more than 5500 in July. This shows that the extremist scare-mongering during the campaign had a negative impact on Britain, not only with the referendum result but also with these attacks. The source provides evidence for the idea of negative extremism because it shows how the ideas associated with negative extremism can cause harm to both individual people and society as a whole. It does not say when the information was published but it has to have been published after March 2017 (when the last figures on the graph are from), which means that the source is likely still relevant and factual. The source is useful because it tells us how major political events and terror attacks can cause racially aggravated attacks. The information is at an appropriate level because it is simple enough for anyone to understand but still has enough information to be helpful. The information for this source was collected by the police and then published by the Home Office, which means that the source is very reliable and factual. However, not all attacks are reported to the police so there are most likely a lot more attacks than the source shows. However, this is unlikely to affect the general trend shown. This information is supported by the stories in the news of Brexit causing more racially aggravated attacks on Europeans in particular. The purpose of this source is to show statistics and inform others. This means that it is unlikely that the source is biased in any way.
There are several factors that affect the topic of extremism.