Mainstreaming the Extreme
This concluding chapter teases out two sets of implications illuminated in the book: one for our understanding of culture and one for our understanding of nationalism and extremism. Both implications rest on the evidence presented in the previous chapters of how the use of coded symbols can serve as a mechanism both of belonging and of resistance, helping youth feel connected to other insiders in the far right scene while simultaneously expressing resistance against mainstream society. The chapter argues that this “push and pull” of belonging and resistance ought to expand our understanding of gateways to radicalization and violence by showing how commercialized extremist products—and other “lifestyle elements” like tattoos or far right wing music—help strengthen racist, nationalist, and ideological identification and act as conduits of resistance to mainstream society. In the German case, the commercialized, coded references and symbols—many of which use humor or aggressive coded references to historical atrocities against Jews, Muslims, and others deemed not to belong—desensitize and socialize consumers and their peers and dehumanize victims. Disaffected and disenfranchised youth who enter extremist and radical scenes through their consumption of subcultural elements like tattoos, clothing, styles, or music may become gradually more involved with extremist ideologies. Far from being mere “subcultural style,” commercialized extremist products can be a gateway to extremist scenes, radicalization, and violence. Style and aesthetic representation thus need to be considered more seriously for their potential role in radicalization.
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