I recently published a novel, “SAFE HAVENS: Primed Charge,” which has an antagonist driven by extremism. The villain, Paulo Violardo, wasn’t the stereotypical Muslim terrorist, Chinese or Russian mafia, or a brainwashed rogue assassin. He was a white, ultra-religious zealot driven by a multitude of factors. My decision to distinguish him as different from most of today’s action thrillers was based on a desire to highlight him as still being the same. In the end, the hero can take out a few, but one man can’t defeat an ideology.

There is no shortage of headlines exposing spurred acts of extreme violence in our local communities and across the globe. From the killings by ISIS to neighborhood riots, individuals are increasingly incited by calls to action that result in death, destruction, and divides. The face of fear and the face of violence is both colored and colorless as it spreads.

An article, The Scourge of Extremism: Move Beyond the Symptoms and Treat the Disease, highlights that regardless of battlespaces, there is a worldwide tendency to focus on the symptoms and strategic or tactical means to stop extremist violence, but there is a dearth of efforts by leadership to address the cause and “disease” spread as well as stopping the creation of new extremists.

As the article Scourge of Extremism shares, individuals can be drawn to extremist groups by believing: distorted messages; that policies and laws are biased against them; that extremist groups and activities are the only available instrument of social, economic, and political change; and that violence is required to exact revenge for perceived wrongs.

While many would argue that macro-level ideologies and groups committing heinous and senseless acts should not be bucketed (i.e. ISIS vs. Black Lives Matter), the actions and root causes may have similarities. Further, the cries for help, awareness, and change can certainly have merit among these violent groups. At micro-levels, disorganized groups such as smaller street gangs, hate groups, and impoverished communities, can similarly be mobilized by the right calls to action—or message.

And let us not forget the random psychotic individual who doesn’t appear affiliated by any group, ideology, or belief-inspired activities, but is driven by their own message to kill. Such lone wolf actors will always exist but for the most part do not present a global threat.

So how do we counter the spread of radical and violent extremism? I promise I won’t say COIN. However, capture and killing extremists can only go so far and typically fuels the fire for more reprisals. We must better target and address the root causes or ideologies that spawn sectarian, ethnic, and religious discontent.

In a behavior model that I framed years ago, the Target Recipient is considered to be a person who is susceptible to a mediated message call to action. “Mediated” coming from media whether news, social, rallies, etc. “Target” doesn’t always mean a conscious effort has to be made for a specific person and can be simply a product of an environment. “Behavior” and “Environment” shapes the person to the degree that surrounding messages (direct and indirect) resonate with a degree of sentiment that can ultimately lead to a decision to mobilize or act.