By day, Julia Ebner works at a counter-extremism think-tank, monitoring radical groups from the outside. Two years ago, she began to feel that she was only seeing half the picture — she needed to get inside the groups to truly understand them. So 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' (Bloomsbury), Ebner takes the reader on a deeply compulsive, terrifying, illuminating 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.
Ebner is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, where she leads projects on online extremism, disinformation and hate speech. She has given evidence to numerous governments and parliamentary working groups, and has acted as a consultant for the UN, NATO, and the World Bank. Her journalism has appeared in the Guardian, Independent, Prospect and Newsweek, among many other publications, and she was a key contributor to a documentary for ITV on militant responses to Brexit, and a Radio 4 piece on women in the far right.
Her first book, 'The Rage: The Vicious Circle of Islamist and Far-Right Extremism', was a Spiegel bestseller, shortlisted for the NDR Kultur Sachbuchpreis and won the 2018 Bruno Kreisky award. She lives in London. (IANS)