Former extremists and terrorists (‘formers’) are seen as key messengers and mentors in preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE). Their assumed effectiveness rests on their unique, intrinsic source credibility due to their biography. Having ‘walked the walk’ and ‘talked the talk’, it is widely assumed that such individuals are ideal to present counter messages. Formers are typically viewed as more credible and effective messengers in contrast to other messengers, in particular the police, when targeting ‘hard-to-reach’ audiences. This study presents findings from an experimental survey that tested whether far-right former extremists and police officers are perceived as credible sources in P/CVE communications among the general population and among a far-right milieu. Challenging wide-held assumptions in the P/CVE field, the present study found that far-right former extremists are perceived as neither credible nor lacking credibility among the general population, nor are they perceived as credible among a far-right milieu. Further, police officers were found to have the highest credibility in P/CVE communication. The paper outlines policy options for engaging with former extremists in P/CVE: detailing ways to embed former extremists with messengers who have institutional expertise.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
- Sociology and Political Science
- Safety Research
- Political Science and International Relations