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Characteristics of Vitriolic Radicalism

Updated on February 23, 2013

While there are cases of positive radicalism that can certainly be cited and come readily to mind of the reader, that is not within the scope of the present article; this article seeks to investigate the characteristics of negative, vitriolic radicalism. Each generation has likely thought that their generation was one that had the very pinnacle of such negative reactionary tactics, and it is just as likely that it is impossible to quantify negative radicalism from one generation to the next. We may consider though, the impact of such negative vitriol has in a world that has so many more methods and outlets for communication of those positions and sentiments.

The course of the current effort is to outline the characteristics of vitriolic radicalism rather than their source. Any reasonable person (or any radical, for that matter) can easily recognize that such intense positioning and questionable tactics can come from politics, philosophy, religion, cults of personality, and individuals with an axe to grind. In order to examine the flawed characteristics of such radicalism, we will divide the characteristics into three general groupings: thinking, attitudinal positioning, and behavioral actions.


Negative radicals tend to think in one of three ways, or a combination of these. They often may switch from one way of thinking to another depending on circumstance, often in the same interactive session. Above all, negative radicals do not generally engage in non-linear thinking because it is far too threatening to them. Non-linear thinking inherently threatens the entrenched position of the radical.

Linear thinking is not difficult to understand: it proceeds, step by logical step from one point to another. For example, If I determine to ‘walk to the bus’, I get my coat on, go outdoors, and head for where I know the bus is. When I get to where I know the bus is, I find the road totally flooded, and can see the bus underwater, do I continue to ‘walk to the bus’? The fatal flaw of linear thinking is in the acceptance of the initial step as absolutely solid and the subsequent logic absolutely perfect, thus, the conclusion should be that I continue to ‘walk to the bus’ and get on it, even though it is impossible (or at least dangerous). Radicals always accept their initial premise to be absolutely true and accurate, and the conclusion is foregone. No room for other facts or possibilities. Another way to express this is that negative radicals think only in ‘black or white’ terms.

‘Black and white’ thinking, while linear, also has several other aspects worth discussing. Radicals tend to refuse to accept that there are ‘grey areas’ in a pluralistic society; their absolutism is staunch. Black and white radical thinking also leans towards a moral sense that is strongly, if not totally rooted in law and order (either civil law or their own moral law, or both) rather than a more mature view of morality as havening clear aspects of relational contract. Black and white thinking radicals also have no tolerance for the fact that there are different moral standards and codes in a pluralistic society.

Finally, negative radicals employ ‘circular logic’. In essence, circular logic is when the individual starts with the conclusion, and then gathers facts that support the conclusion, blatantly ignoring facts that do not ‘fit’ the foregone conclusion.

Attitudinal Positioning

Such negative, vitriolic, radical thinking produces some predictable attitudes. Most people taking radical positions hold the attitude that: ‘If you are not agreeing with me totally, then you are against me, and I must attack you (viciously)’. Further, there is an attitude that if you are not in agreement with the radical, your position is most certainly wrong, and it is inherently threatening to their security and happiness. Coexistence is not possible, since the one disagreeing with the radical most certainly is devious and intent on trying to encroach on their rights and way of life, or intent on influencing their young in some evil and seductive fashion.

Negative radicals, with an ‘us versus them’ attitude, tend to take the attitude that nothing the ‘enemy’ has to say has any credible value. Such attitudes then lead to attitudes of separation and segregation as one of the best tools to remain ‘pure’ in their thinking, positions, and lifestyle. In democratic societies, negative radicals often cover their fearful attitudes by becoming loud about their freedom of choice of who or what disagreeable ‘types’ they choose to avoid contact with. Diversity is always seen as a threat.

Behavioral Actions

In no particular order, the following are common behavioral actions that negative radicals engage in.

Frequent citation of the idealized hero of the past: Radicals often look nostalgically to the past and cite high profile personalities that ‘had the right ideas’. The extension of this is pining for the ‘good old days’, often with a shaming quality.

Attack first, attack always: Since negative radicals live in more fear than they will admit, the strategy of attack with high aggression makes sense; attacks are often not based in fair play (such as honest debate), but include ‘blind-siding’ the opponent.

By any means necessary: Negative radicals will use all attack tools possible, including but not limited to sarcasm, belittlement, slander, hyperbole, exaggeration, magnifying minutia, comparing the enemy to a notorious enemy in exaggeration, laughing at or being dismissive of the opponent as naive , ignorant, or evil. Condescension is a constant tone.

Since your reasoning is flawed, you will be treated dismissively and always be discredited. Furthermore, any interaction with you is tainting to the radical, so if they cannot isolate you, they will retreat to a position of avoidance and entrenchment.

Frequent self contradiction either in words or words and deeds: Negative radicals, by nature, have high profile dogmatic manifestos and hold others to very high standards of orthodoxy, while secretly violating the same.

Negative radicals are hyper-reactive and aggressive at most all levels of interaction, but especially on regarding their idealized philosophies, politics, or religion.

There is a tendency for radicals to attempt control of individual thought processes, if not actions. There is frequently use of clearly biased propaganda that is presented as ‘unbiased fact’. It will have a totalitarian tone, often with vague (or very clear) insinuation that not cooperating with their view will mean doom.

Negative radicals often have fanatical devotion to a charismatic leader, overlooking what may be glaring inadequacies or inconsistencies in the leader’s private behaviors. There is often a special hierarchy surrounding the leader, with only certain special people allowed to be admitted to the ‘inner circle’.

Twisting use of higher authority or ‘cherry picking’ to legitimize not just position, but actions: Negative radicals seem to always have a ready supply of documents or higher authority citations to legitimize their positions. In many cases, these citations are from a historical icon of the radical movement, or an even higher authority such as a religious scripture.

Negative, vitriolic radicalism may win when it uses force, but it never ultimately wins or solves human problems at hand. The only way human problems or human advancement can be made is if only the best from every political position, from every world religion, and from every world culture works together in harmony and with the use of non-linear thinking. Become positively radical: surely hold on to your beliefs and positions, and even express them, but learn to embrace diversity and tolerance while having honest, respectful interactions with others.


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    • krillco profile imageAUTHOR

      William E Krill Jr 

      8 years ago from Hollidaysburg, PA

      I'm flattered.

    • Talisker profile image

      Honor Meci 

      8 years ago from UK

      A very well put together hub. Very true and sadly reflected so clearly in Paraglider's Guns don't kill people... hub

      I think this should become compulsary reading for all new applicants to hub pages as a sort of term and conditions....

      At least then, people can summarise this behavious with a mere reference to Krillco's hub, before continuing with their well considered comments!

    • Paraglider profile image

      Dave McClure 

      8 years ago from Worcester, UK

      Excellent. I can think of a few people for whom this should be compulsory reading before they should be let loose on a comments box!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wonderful Hub. Can't wait to see what the Vitriolic Radicalism will comment about it, if they even bother to read it :)


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