Understanding Violent Extremism through Vocal Extremism

Dr Elisa Orofino1

1Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford, United Kingdom


Violent extremism has been for years object of academic research and political debates. What motivates people to engage in violent acts for a “cause” is the focus of many research works, which however often fail to take into consideration “vocal extremism” as a key element to understand violent extremism. Vocal extremism refers to all those groups having strong anti-government and anti-establishment agendas but who do not use violence to achieve their goals. Labelled as “preachers of hate”, vocal extremists (both as groups or individuals) are hard to ban in Western democracies as they mostly stand as protest groups who are granted the freedom of speech and association.

This study examines the role of vocal extremists as a conveyor belt to violence, mapping out the ideological elements that can work as triggers towards violence. To do so, this study uses elements of 3 main vocal extreme ideologies – Islamism, far-right and environmentalism – to discuss the common ideological elements that can lead people to terror acts, although the ideologies are not violent per se. More precisely, the ideological elements taken into consideration for this analysis are the common enemy, the victims to protect and the final goal to achieve.

This study concludes that these 3 elements can lead to different actions – both vocal and violent extremism – according to both how these elements are framed and how the individual perceives them.


Elisa is currently the the Academic Lead for Research on Extremism and Counter-Terrorism at the Policing Institute for the Eastern Region (Anglia Ruskin University). Her interest in Counter-Terrorism started in 2009 during her bachelor and continued during her academic career. She graduated in Political Sciences cum laude and then expanded her research on Counter-Terrorism (CT) strategies and anti-radicalisation policies in 2014, when she started her PhD programme at the University of Melbourne (Australia). Her PhD study consisted of a comparative study on the factors of radicalisation common among Muslims in the UK and Australia focusing on the non-violent but radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir. Elisa published extensively on this topic over the years and she is currently conducted another research project aimed at assessing the risk of offending among users of early de-radicalisation programmes in the UK and their previous links with any specific non-violent extremist groups prior to their referral.