Media Minded is Shout Out UK’s (SOUK) original podcast series, exploring the growing world of misinformation and conspiracy theories. Each season shines a light on various instances of misinformation, conspiracies and types of extremism, by speaking with those most affected by this. From anti-vaxxers to ex-cultists, Shout Out UK never shies away from uncovering and understanding the truth. 

Understanding Extremism in West Africa

In Season 4 of Media Minded, the fight against the spread of misinformation, conspiracies and extremism continues as we traverse continents and focus on Africa. Each new episode investigates the fight against violent extremism in West Africa and its different manifestations.

The latest episode (E2) covers Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist organisation that has now split up into factions. Here we learn about the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP), a former part of Boko Haram supported by the Islamic State terrorist group.

CEO and founder of SOUK, Matteo Bergamini, speaks to several experts about Boko Haram and their dark mission to impose strict Sharia law in West Africa, whilst rejecting the ideas of Westernism and democracy.

Inside Boko Haram’s Terror Reign

Under Boko Haram’s strict and brutal regime, many communities faced starvation. One podcast guest explains that ‘a child crying is good news to the mother,’ because it means her child is still alive.

One of the key observations from the podcast is how ISWAP/Boko Haram have gone about their recruitment, focusing on the manipulation and grooming of young people and children to indoctrinate them with Boko Haram’s ideology from an early age. This exploitation of young people and children is a key aspect of how ISWAP operates, as approximately 70 per cent of Nigeria’s population is under the age of 30 and young people comprise a significant majority of that.

As well as being extremely dangerous and exploitative for the young people (mostly boys) and children involved, the recruitments also threaten and undermine Nigeria’s fragile communities.

The podcast also discusses the financial power of ISWAP and the Islamic State terrorist group; specifically, how money plays a role in recruiting and exploiting Nigeria’s citizens — especially their poverty. ISWAP pay terrorist fighters and this attracts membership from those who may not necessarily agree with their ideology but who desperately need the money.

In many of the areas with a strong ISWAP presence, there are few other sources of income available, leaving many with no option but to join ISWAP or flee their homeland, which can be highly dangerous. The economic exploitation of Nigerians and other West African communities helps us to understand how ISWAP/Boko Haram continue to push their violent extremist agenda.

The podcast also draws attention to ISWAP’s media unit, a part of the group that joins fighters during militant terrorist attacks and records them for social media purposes across different channels, such as Telegram. These channels are then weaponised for spreading ISWAP’s radical ideology.

Using Social Media for Good

The Media Minded podcast series offers a unique glimpse into how radical ideologies take hold of vulnerable communities and people, spreading their violence like wildfire. The episode on Boko Haram addresses the need to contextualise any discussion of how extremist groups operate within a larger framework of understanding the role of misinformation and conspiracy theories in underprivileged communities.

Season 4 is an opportunity to grasp the roots of extremism through the lens of misinformation. We finally understand the intricate relationship between misinformation, social media, and radicalisation amongst susceptible groups. Perhaps the lesson to take away is that extremists are not born but made.

DISCLAIMER: The articles on our website are not endorsed by, or the opinions of Shout Out UK (SOUK), but exclusively the views of the author.