Factors fueling the rise of hate crimes

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The suspected gunman in the deadly synagogue shooting in Poway is a 19 year old man who lives in Rancho Penasquitos and attends school at Cal State San Marcos.

His parents said they knew nothing of his hate filled beliefs. So, how does a seemingly normal young man become obsessed with dangerous and extreme ideas?

Sociologist Thomas Reifer, who teaches at the University of San Diego said individuals who identify with hate groups are often looking for other people to blame for their own lack of inclusion.

The shootings at the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka and the attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh are all recent examples of crimes committed by extremists who used violence to deliver their message of hate.

“It’s one of the core aspects of social psychology- a desire to belong. That desire can be leveraged by malevolent groups who are trying to prey on peoples’ legitimate desire to be part of something and have them be part of something by being against other people and by hating other people,” Reifer said.

The Internet, especially in corners of the dark web allows many hate groups to recruit disciples who are looking for scapegoats. Reifer said there is a gender aspect to those who are attracted to extreme and violent ideologies. “Well, one of the things that young men are socialized into is standing up for whatever you identify as your community through violence and men are socialized to do that,” Reifer said.

The USD sociologist said we need to teach a different model for masculinity, “that shows strength of character in standing up for those who are weak and standing up for those who are scapegoated by others.”

He said the message that needs to be conveyed to people who want to hate is that there’s a better way to forge connections. “We need all of you to go away from hate and turn towards each other and help make a better world.”

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