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Hybridization of Extremism: Insights from the SMIDGE Seminar

On May 16-17, the University of Copenhagen hosted the SMIDGE Seminar, titled "The Hybridization of Conspiracy Theories, Misinformation and Extremism on Social Media." This event brought together esteemed academics and experts to discuss the complex interplay between digital media and extremist narratives.

The seminar kicked off with an opening address by Sara Wilford, who outlined the objectives of the SMIDGE project. She emphasized the project's unique focus on the middle-aged demographic and the impact of online extremist narratives on democracy and societal dynamics.

Keynote speaker Tina Askanius from Malmö University introduced the concept of "Everyday Extremism," exploring how conspiracy narratives and far-right extremism have become embedded in daily life, particularly in Sweden.

Jullietta Stoencheva provided insights into how extremist narratives penetrate the digital mainstream, focusing on online discussions about migration. Tanya Karoli Christensen and Marie Bojsen-Møller presented an analysis of the Halle Manifesto, revealing the nuanced language and genres of extremist rhetoric.

Line Nybro Petersen and Mikkel Bækby Johansen discussed "Spaces of hybridized prefatory extremism" on social media, highlighting how online extremism evolves and adapts. Hossein Derakhshan shed light on the future of misinformation warfare, particularly through "Deeper fakes."

Session 2 explored misinformation and conspiracy theories with Christian Gulas and Paul Poledna presenting preliminary findings on the structure of online conspiracy theories. Yifat Leder analysed the shift in themes within anti-vaccination Facebook groups, while Kalypso Iordanou and her team discussed the role of journalists in promoting trust in science amidst misinformation.

Day two of the seminar featured discussions on fringe social media and the far-right, including the role of platforms like 4Chan. Philip Stenmann Baun and Lauritz Holm Petersen explored far-right apocalyptic conspiracies, while Daniel Madsen revealed how eco-fascism blends environmental concerns with extremist ideologies.

The seminar also examined new technologies and digital infrastructures. Janos Mark Szakolczai discussed the ethical implications of virtual environments, and Erik Björklund analysed the construction of alternative epistemologies online.

In the final sessions, the focus shifted to participatory culture and fandom. Simone Driessen presented her research on Taylor Swift's political ‘awakening’ and its impact on her fandom. Mridula Mascarenhas examined how conspiracy theories are used to attack LGBTQ progress.

The event concluded with international perspectives on radicalisation and extremism, with Ramadan Ilazi highlighting the role of misinformation in fuelling ethno-political radicalisation in the Western Balkans, and Antonis Dimakis discussing conspiracy theories and extreme attitudes in Greece.

The seminar underscored the profound influence of online conspiracy theories and misinformation on modern extremism, a phenomenon described by researchers as "hybridized extremism." The insights shared at the seminar aim to inform future strategies for countering these dangerous narratives.


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