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  • Going Dark

  • The Secret Social Lives of Extremists
  • By: Julia Ebner
  • Narrated by: Hera Reed
  • Length: 8 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Religious
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (124 ratings)

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Summary

Bloomsbury presents Going Dark by Julia Ebner, read by Hera Reed.

"A scintillating journey into a secret world that is impacting our everyday lives in ways we are only just starting to grasp" (Peter Pomerantsev)

A Guardian and New Statesman Pick for 2020

By day, Julia Ebner works at a counter-extremism think tank, monitoring radical groups from the outside. But two years ago, she began to feel she was only seeing half the picture; she needed to get inside the groups to truly understand them. She decided to go undercover in her spare hours - late nights, holidays, weekends - adopting five different identities, and joining a dozen extremist groups from across the ideological spectrum. 

Her journey would take her from a Generation Identity global strategy meeting in a pub in Mayfair, to a Neo-Nazi Music Festival on the border of Germany and Poland. She would get relationship advice from ‘Trad Wives’ and Jihadi Brides and hacking lessons from ISIS. She was in the channels when the alt-right began planning the lethal Charlottesville rally, and spent time in the networks that would radicalise the Christchurch terrorist. 

In Going Dark, Ebner takes the reader on a deeply compulsive journey into the darkest recesses of extremist thinking, exposing how closely we are surrounded by their fanatical ideology every day, the changing nature and practice of these groups, and what is being done to counter them.

©2020 Julia Ebner (P)2020 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Critic reviews

"Humanising, engrossing and alarming. Going Dark is not just an overdue, almost exhaustive journey of research into the lives of extremists, it is a public service." (Nesrine Malik) 

What listeners say about Going Dark

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Book with feel of an "authorised" writer

It is not made clear in the blurbs so it should be stated that the author is not an independent person or investigative writer but rather someone who works for government departments and agencies.

The book therefore has a very "authorised" feel, repeating certain current themes such as Chinese and Russian interference without acknowledging how every country including our own is playing this same game.

Nearly all the "infiltration" is joining online forums and chat rooms so one gets very little direct and up close information on the human dynamics in extremist groups.

The book has that middle-class superiority that suggests those who have extremist views are not intelligent enough so end up getting duped by propaganda.

Consequently, there is very little consideration, explanation or understanding of the reason why such people develop such deep rooted hatred to the extent they join an extremist group, which is the least one would expect any true infiltration mission to do.

14 people found this helpful

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Avoids religion too much

It was okay, it takes out the far right very well. But it stops short on most religious extremism. However, it it well written and well researched.

7 people found this helpful

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Brave story of infiltration of extremist worlds

Julia Ebner is an incredibly brave journalist. In this book she tells the story of how she infiltrated the dangerous worlds of political extremists to tell the inside story of how they recruit, subvert and operate outside the mainstream. Some of the information included in this expose is truly shocking and demonstrates the lengths some of these people will go to attain their political goals. Many of the people the Ebner meets are, at fave value, surprisingly normal, albeit at the edge of society and all seem to want to connect with like minded people who are similarly disillusioned with the mainstream and are hankering for a common identity and a sense of belonging. We meet various right wing extremist groups including people at a rock concern in eastern Germany, an extremist dating site and, strangest of all proponents of the so-called Trade Wives movement who are anti-feminist. The stories have a little of "Louis Theroux" about them but they are more than that as Ebner is able to get deeper inside some of these organisations to discover who controls and drives them. This makes compulsive listening.

3 people found this helpful

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A gripping, depiction of today's extremism

A fantastic read which adds significant detail and new insight to an increasingly crowded genre of extremism studies. The diversity of extremism forms and modes covered and the links and commonalities between them is impressive. Ebner provides much needed sense-making of what from the outside looks like unstoppable chaos. She shows how we are all much closer to this than we imagine and have a careful role to play.

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Very informative about extremist networks

Very informative about the ways in which extremist networks operate with the constant irony of having backwards/ conservative views and a progressive use of technology. It doesn't treat all extremists as stupid or vile and despite a tech focus makes sure that humans and human emotion are the centre of any network or counter extremist policy.

I would have liked more statistical basis for some elements but it is a very up close and personal book.

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Interesting insights

Most important takeaway for me was how sleek and modern extremist recruiting and network have become. Gamification can apply to many things including extremism/terrorism.

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Fascinating

So brave the work she's doing. And despite the heavy subject, an easy and enjoyable read. With some of the stories my jaw literally dropped. Fascinating anecdotes, well supported by scientific research. She is clearly such an expert in this field.

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Insightful

Really interesting food for thought. Difficult to judge the prevalence of the views in society and the impact of what I feel are minority views with disproportionate impact.

I found the narrator very easy to listen to.

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Ignores US and Israeli Terrorism

Usual mixture of bourgeois sentimentalism and interesting facts. The author uses the obnoxious nature of her targets to obscure the broader historical forces at play. The Democratic, liberal State came about through the very violence she strives to prevent. The modern UK is the product of three incredibly vicious and violent civil wars in thev1600s! We will never know what the next stage of human development involves if the forces of history are continuously negated. Since 1945, the US military has killed between 20 and 30 million people around the world. In 2014, Obama backed the Neo-Nazi take over of the Ukraine, etc. In the same year, the US and Canada voted against a UN Resolution Condemning the Glorification of Neo-Nazism! Israel murders Palestinian men, women and children with guns, bombs and knives - and this author declares Hamas a terrorist group because it used a dating app to mislead Israeli soldiers! Of course, nothingnis said about the US funding Islamic extremism, etc. The political systrm the author represents can be as bad as the extremists she is fighting.

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  • DazzaMoo
  • 01-11-20

Fascinating and disturbing

This is a fascinating deep dive into extremists and how they use manipulation and social media to radicalise, written by someone who’s spent years researching them.
There’s some genuinely disturbing stuff in there, but I think it’s well worth a listen because it’s important to understand how these people work - whether they’re Neo-Nazis, left-wing or Islamist extremists.
The narration is good, if a little inappropriately chipper in a few places.