Jihadi Fans Revisited: Mapping the Commonalities with Non-Islamic Extremism

Ramsay, Gilbert

In studies of online extremism, jihadi-salafis occupy a curious position. On the one hand, the War on Terror (and subsequent rounds of securitisation) has given them almost paradigmatic status. The term “violent extremist” remains very nearly a euphemism for “Islamist extremist”. When compared with the wider map of Internet miscreants, however, online jihadis often seem to lie off to the side somewhere, placed in a distinct category to the complex of far right groups, anti-feminists and other cyber-nasties. The seriousness with which jihadist militancy is regarded, the ponderous earnestness with which the pronouncements of its leaders and ideologues are regarded, as well as its apparent foreignness—relative to Western cultures—is such that we tend not to recognise or, at least, to accord significance to qualities of irony, weirdness and ambivalence which have elsewhere been seen as playing a central role in the wider culture of the Internet.In this chapter, I seek to re-examine the notion of the jihadi “fan”—a concept which I have previously, tentatively raised in my earlier work on specifically online forms of jihadism. Linking this to a newly emerging literature on jihadi cultural phenomena, and anchoring the analysis to a brief study of the online community Exclamation!, I argue that the marginal position of online jihadi “fans” gives them a paradoxical power to shape the movement through cultural innovation. In practice, Internet jihadis are adopting elements of Internet culture which make them look increasingly similar to other radical groups online.