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UBC Theses and Dissertations

When sheepdogs become wolves: radicalization of veterans Pong, Benny


The economic downturn, COVID-19 pandemic, and war contribute to heightened anxiety amongst the public. For some, there is a distrust of authorities and subject matter experts. Individuals are using social media to connect with other like-minded people and amplify their concerns. A portion of the population feels socially alienated due to their grievances against the government, making them vulnerable to radicalization by extremist groups. Therefore, Western societies face an emerging and significant challenge as individuals become isolated from others in mainstream society. The literature indicates that veterans tend to have social alienation, acceptance of violence, and loyalty toward their “ingroup." Are veterans at risk? The purpose of my research is to determine if military veterans are vulnerable to radicalization leading to violence (RTV). This study aims to gather empirical evidence to assess the possible relationship between military service and a vulnerability for RTV. Three hundred participants (150 Canadian veterans and 150 Canadian civilians) responded to a quantitative study measuring social alienation and the acceptance of political violence. Results from the statistical analysis suggest that Canadian veterans are more vulnerable to RTV, scoring higher in the factors of Social Alienation, Violent Beliefs, and Violent Behaviours. However, more importantly, the relationship between Violent Beliefs and Violent Behaviours is significantly weaker for Canadian veterans than for Canadian civilians (r veterans=.31 vs r civilians= .52). Namely, if both a veteran and a civilian have extreme Violent Beliefs, the veteran is less likely to exhibit Violent Behaviors and commit a politically motivated violent act. I hope this study will benefit future research in radicalization, enable the development of various tactics, techniques, and procedures for intervention, and improve veterans' resiliency.

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