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December 2021

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Going Dark by Julia Ebner

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
Anyone who wants to learn a little bit more about modern-day terrorism and extremism.

In a nutshell:
Author Ebner adopts different identities to explore – online and in person – different extremist groups, from neo-Nazis to ‘trad wives.’

Worth quoting:
“Almost everything is gamified today, and that includes terrorism.”

Why I chose it:
It just sounded interesting.

Review:
This book is interesting and deeply disturbing, but it also feels more like it should have been a multi-part investigative magazine series in something like The Atlantic. Ebner does attempt to create a lifecycle across the stories, starting with recruitment, then socialisation, communication, networking, mobilisation, and attack. And I appreciate that she explored many different extremist groups, but I think it would have been a stronger book if there had been aspects of different groups explored in each of the areas. Instead, she does a deeper dive into different groups (two per section, with their own standalone chapters), which doesn’t help much with seeing how the connections work across the same group.

The book ends with some predictions (some of which have more or less already come true) and some suggestions on how to counteract these extremist groups. But given that this book was published just last year, it feels almost sweetly naive in some ways. Not that Ebner herself is naive, but things have gone so bad so quickly – the 6 January insurrection in the US, the vile racist and xenophobic anti-immigrant laws passing in the UK – many of her suggestions seem like too little too late.

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