Why does ISIS recruits young westerners online?

by Dalton Cox

On Sunday major news sources reported a video that shows three British girls, who are believed to have travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State or ISIS. Many of the young people in America and Western Europe, who have been recruited by ISIS, were lured in across social media.

Elon Religious Studies Professor Matt Hothamn explains why radicalism may be so appealing to youth.

“Have you read Catcher and the Rye?,” Hothamn said. “This idea that the adult world is filled with hypocrisy, inequality and injustice, and here you have this group saying we’re going to create this group with no hypocrisy, no levels of deception, where everyone is equal based on their participation. They get there and find out that this is not at all what this is, but the PR is good.”

Elon sophomore Miranda Baker does not believe that minority marginalization plays a part in recruitment.

Miranda Barker
Miranda Barker, photo by Dalton Cox

“I come from a minority tradition as well. I don’t really see that as being a big reason for the successes of recruitment by radical groups,” Elon sophomore Miranda Baker said. “I don’t know why religious fundamentalism is effective. I know it’s effective in other contexts. Just look at America and various traditions here, and not necessarily violent ones. I don’t know why it is effective, but I know that it is.”

So what are the legal implications and what can US government do about this threat?

Jonathan Jones

“Social media can create an echo chamber, where you are hearing the same message from multiple people who have a similar set of beliefs,” Elon Media Law professor Jonathan Jones said. “Short of the extreme situation where national security is at play, the United States government can’t curtail the speech,” Jones said. “The best method for them to counteract what groups like ISIS are doing is to convince young people why ISIS is wrong.”

Video by Dalton Cox


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