Has it ever happened to you that when someone spoke about fashion, you immediately thought of a think-tank work? No? Me neither. But as it lately became a trend to break stereotypes and disrupt the old thinking, let us break this one too. Rather understandably, researchers in their old sweaters or suede suits are not the ones coming to anyone’s mind. But the world of research has its own trends and even fashion shows.
A traditional fashion show is about models dressed up in trendy and fashionable variations of clothes wearing names of the most famous designers. However, there are all sorts of fashion shows occurring in all sorts of venues around the world. One’s Twitter feed, for example, is one huge venue where trending hashtags are announcing a new “fashion trend” for any given day. Another such venue, possibly omitted the most by the wider public, is a world of conferences, journals, think-tanks’ newsletters and articles.
Security studies also have their trends. Anyone remembers how the whole world seemed to be fixated on energy security? Or maybe, more recently, cyber-related issues? And why not a dose of strategic communication for that matter? Last but not least, the trend which had its ups and downs in the last 16 years, i.e. after 9/11. Of course, I mean terrorism and countering it. We witnessed a true explosion of research on all groups of terrorists and ways to dismantle them in the early 21st century. Just when the trend seemed to be abating, the success of ISIS catapulted terrorism back into the headlines.
To go one step further, studying terrorism also has its trends, or perhaps, it would be better to call them fashion “mini-trends.” They change with academic journals, articles, books, TV shows, Twitter and Facebook feed etc. playing the role of catwalks. Let’s now imagine how would a fashion show, just like the Miss Universe competition, present the latest “what’s hot” in the field of terrorism studies. The crowds of decision-makers, businessmen, journalists, students etc. fill the room, and all you can hear is the buzz of excitement and clicking of cameras impatiently photographing the stage, with everyone waiting for the models to walk into the room. Each of them will come to open some serious questions and will leave the audience wanting (or not) to submerse themselves in this mini-trend.
First to walk in is the model embodying the trend of de-radicalisation. Very popular in the middle of the 21st century’s first decade, especially after 2004-2005. This model is asking you to stop and ponder the issue of how one could be turned away from the path of political radicalism and violence towards more democratic and tolerant shores. This is still a very trendy “garment” to wear with many admirers among both experts and the wider public. Frustration connected to unemployment and the feeling of cultural mismatch, or perhaps one’s violent tendencies is pushing them right into the hands of radical ideologues? How to stop this process? How to reverse it? Can it be done?
Next up foreign fighters mini-trend enters the runway. Since the crisis in Syria and later even in Ukraine, the question of European youngsters travelling to war zones to fight became highly relevant. After 2012-2013, this “garment” became a hit, especially with fashion consumers from countries with a high number of such fighters, with some ‘Johnny come latelies’ from other places also jumping on the bandwagon. What to do when these individuals return? Put them all in jail? Assist in their return to society of which they might not have felt a part of?
The infamous attack in Norway by Anders Breivik (2011) have given exposure to another mini-trend, the lone wolf. Academics and researchers, as well as journalists, have struggled to find a way to tell the public that this is the most difficult type of terrorism to be prevented. How can you stop an attack of the lone wolf if you do not want to follow each person and establish a police state? Do you go down the path of Orwell’s thought police? And lastly, how lone are lone wolves? A still hot mini-trend, especially while being applied to jihadi terrorists who are now very much scrutinised for their alleged ‘lone’ statuses.
Models sporting the follow-the-money mini-trend often find themselves in demand as well. The roots of the fascination with this ‘garment’ go back to the 1980s when the world was terrorised by state-sponsored terrorism groups from the Middle East. This fashion mini-trend saw a healthy comeback with an increased interest amongst the international media and think-tanks assessing ISIS’ wealth, and tracking their cash inflows. Remember the headlines of ‘the richest terrorist group ever?’ Terror attacks cost money and the thinking is that if we can cut the flow of money then the numbers of attacks will be drastically reduced.
As the issue of terrorism gains traction with growing number of attacks, the laws in Europe are toughening, and prisons are becoming more crowded with arrestees jailed for terrorism. Do we keep them all in one jail, or do we disperse them around different facilities? What are the risk and upshots of each policy? The next mini-trend – prisons as hotbeds of radicalism and terrorism – saw a steady increase in popularity during the last decade or so, and given the high number of terrorism arrests, it is destined to prominently appear on the catwalks in the years to come.
And finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, nonetheless, the Terrorism Studies Fashion Week saves the best for last. Stealing the show is a supermodel wearing a hot new ‘garment’, the crime-terror nexus. Do the two converge? Is one a conveyor belt to the other? Can the fight against one inform our struggle with the other? Given the high number of ‘ordinary’ criminals in the ranks of the terrorist groups, it surely is worthwhile to analyse terrorism from this angle. And now, the best part – GLOBSEC Policy Institute (GPI) is in the thick of action for developing and furthering this latest mini-trend. Trendsetters, here we go. Starting from this September, GPI is launching its most challenging and ambitious research project yet to provide insights on the assumed existence of the crime-terror nexus. We have 11 countries in the mix, with more than 1000 terrorist bios to be scrutinised for links with criminality. And if yes, then what type of criminality? How can we disrupt the link?
This concludes the Terrorism Studies Fashion Week. We surely will continue with our coverage of the latest mini-trends in the think-tank world and keep you posted about both the results of GPI’s research dubbed ‘From Criminals to Terrorists and Back?‘. We are already looking forward to seeing GPI-designed models delivering answers. To have a sneak peek into how GPI is designing its new trendsetting models, follow GLOBSEC on Twitter and Facebook.