The Believers are but Brothers

4 out of 5 stars
The Believers are but Brothers, Northern Stage
© The Other Richard

Join the WhatsApp group for this inventive, tech-ed up lecture on the global radicalisation of a generation of young men

This show about the radicalisation of young men was one hell of a thing to watch the day after the horrendous events in Charlottesville.


It’s also one hell of a salvage job: Javaad Alipoor, its affable, secular Muslim creator and performer, admits that the show was supposed to be about ISIS brides (ie Western women who ran off to marry jihadi fighters), but he made so little headway that he switched to something a little more accessible.


If the result is a little rough in places, it's so bursting with ideas that it’s easy to forgive a slight unwieldiness.


One of the best ideas is to get willing audience members to sign up to the show’s official WhatsApp group, which barrages us with supporting words and pictures throughout the show and also neatly illustrates the means by which radical groups communicate clandestinely.


It’s a sort of teched up lecture on radicalism that’s illustrated with three stories about young men – two British Asian, one white American  – who are drawn to the dangerous fringes. Alipoor makes obvious parallels between the young men of the alt. right and the young men who run off to join ISIS – but also makes room to explain their distinctions. So we get an idiot’s guide to 4chan – the anarchic web board home of the alt. right – and Gamergate – a sort of vicious far right backlash against attempts to modernise the gender politics of video games. We also get a peek at ISIS’s strangely gauche propaganda, their esoteric communications apps, and darkly amusing details about the lives of their converts (apparently large numbers of radicalised Western recruits are simply not physically fit enough to fight, and end up doing mundane IT work).


The three fictional stories are a bit indistinct and woolly and could use work, mostly feeling like they get in the way of the lecture. But it’s undeniably eye-opening, inventive stuff, a window into the frightening virtual world the resentment-fuelled young men whose anger has so terrifyingly spilled over into Syria and the US of late.

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