Extremism, Free Speech and the Rule of Law68
promoting any extremist ideology.47 Honing in on extremism in terrorist theory thus largely or effectively
ignores the ‘complex picture of social, cultural, economic, political and psychological factors which all con-
verge in a negative dynamic to produce those who commit terrorist acts’.48
Consequently, though extremism may be politically viewed through the prism of terrorism, as a matter of
law Article 19(3)’s requirement of legality is not automatically thereby met. Even accepting that empirical
evidence points to extremism as being a partial contributor to terrorism, expressions of extremism generally
include no direct calls to terrorist action; these would in any event fall within the strictures of Article 20(2)
ICCPR and be prima facie outlawed. In fact, when recalling the particular importance of narrowness where
restrictions upon freedom of expression are concerned, it is arguable that only expressions of extremism
meeting the threshold of Article 20(2) do or could comprise the causal nexus to harm necessary for legal-
ity: in the absence of linear progression from speech to action, without incitement even the most vitriolic
statement of extremism is arguably too far removed from any eventual violence for legality to be satisfied.
Nonetheless, liberal approaches to counter-extremism implicitly reject any notion of ‘non-violent extrem-
ism’. Despite blind assertions to the contrary, liberal States’ counter-extremism is underpinned by an asser-
tion that even if ‘extremists’ do not always become terrorists, extremism ‘can create an atmosphere conducive
to terrorism and can popularise views which terrorists then exploit’.49 Exemplifying this, the UK Counter-
Extremism Strategy identifies extremists as ‘carefully portray[ing] violence as inevitable in achieving the
desired end state required by their ideology’ and/or using rhetoric characterised by violent language.50 This
indirect causal connection between extremism and terrorism could potentially provide a definitional nexus
with harm sufficient to satisfy Article 19(3)’s legality criteria. Schmid, having researched extensively into ter-
rorism and extremism definitions, considers it naïve and dangerous to assume that one can hold extremist
beliefs but not be inclined to use extremist (i.e. violent) methods to realise them when the opportunity pre-
sents itself: he argues that even ostensibly not-violent organisations can act as ‘stepping stones’ to violence
as both are ultimately party to a common agenda.51 Extrapolating from the theory of fear speech posited by
Buyse,52 which notes that conflicts escalate when parties use both speech and action in tactics of increasing
harshness, it is feasible to reason that extremist expressions referring to violence, especially where under-
pinned by values running counter to the tenets of liberal democracy, could have a ‘conflict escalating’ effect,
increasing the likelihood of terrorist violence occurring. Indirect causality must be approached with caution
though: the more stretched the link between extremism and terrorism becomes, the greater strength there
is to arguments that only where incitement exists and speech becomes categorised under Article 20(2)
might legality be satisfied.
Furthermore, even if extremism can theoretically be legally related to terrorism, the connection depends
upon a fixed conception that the key marker of extremist ideologies justifying restriction of fundamental
rights is anti-liberal sentiment (consider the UK’s contrasting of extremism with ‘British values’ – a phrase
open to question and interpretation but reasonably understood generally to encompass the underpinning
values of liberal society); however, as a stand-alone term extremism is a nebulous concept embracing a host
of non-mainstream views. Notably, use of the term ‘ecological extremists’ has increased exponentially with
the rise of conservation activism to describe the views held by a certain cohort of environmental and animal
rights protesters. These political ‘extremists’ actively embrace the label for their own reasons but though
they may be ‘extremists’ in the sense that they are arguably equally ‘absolutists, locked in on their particular
viewpoint, largely incapable of understanding, if not intolerant, of other perspectives’ and ‘having an ideol-
ogy that is ‘the truth’ to be defended at all costs’,53 in pursuit of their goals ‘ecological extremists’ neither aim
47 Manni Crone, ‘Radicalization revisited: violence, politics and the skills of the body’ (2016) 92 Journal of International Affairs
587–604. See also Coral Dando, ‘What science can reveal about the psychological profiles of terrorists’ The Conversation (26 May
9 June 2017, which highlights that some recent research suggests that the biggest marker of terrorists is abnormal moral cognition,
with an over-reliance on outcomes; a psychological ‘quest for significance’ may be ‘an important driver of extremist behaviour’.
48 Ömer Taşpınar, ‘Fighting Radicalism, not ‘Terrorism’: Root Causes of an International Actor Redefined’ (2006) 29 SAIS Review
49 UK Government, ‘Revised Prevent Duty Guidance’ (16 July 2015) .gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/
attachment_data/file/445977/3799_Revised_Prevent_Duty_Guidance__England_Wales_V2-Interactive.pdf> 3 accessed 9 June
50 UK Counter-Extremism Strategy (n 5) 10–11.
51 Alex P Schmid, ‘Violent and Non-Violent Extremism: Two Sides of the Same Coin?’ (2014) ICCT Research Paper 2, 3, 19, 20.
52 Antoine Buyse, ‘Words of Violence: ‘Fear Speech’ or How Violent Conflict Escalation Relates to the Freedom of Expression’ (2014)
36 Human Rights Quarterly 779–797.
53 Guiora (n 2) 39.