Virginia Tech expert explains how violent extremism played a role in Capitol riot

Ashley Reichelmann said radical beliefs often start online, which can go unchecked

Ashley Reichelmann said people are usually exposed to radical beliefs by accident.

BLACKSBURG, Va. – In the wake of the riot at our nation’s Capitol on January 6, a Virginia Tech expert is offering some insight into violent extremism in our country and how to prevent it.

Ashley Reichelmann is an assistant professor of sociology and the Associate Director for The Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention.

Violent extremism is a non-mainstream religious or political belief that goes hand-in-hand with violent behavior.

Reichelmann said things like the riot at the Capitol, the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and the violence of the Charlottesville rally are all examples.

She said radical beliefs often start online, which can go unchecked.

“What could we do as a nation that would actually slow the spread of disinformation or of conspiracy theories or of extremist beliefs and help to inform individuals of whether something is actually valid?” said Reichelmann.

She recommends that, as a nation, we need to find ways to teach people how to critically think about the accuracy of what they read on the internet.

Reichelmann also said that people typically get involved in violent extremism unintentionally, either by clicking on a link in an internet rabbit hole or the link is shared by a friend or family member.

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