In order to move beyond the existing push/pull framework to understand disengagement, we apply a systematic coding scheme derived from Mayer and colleagues’ integrative model of organizational trust to examine why people leave extremist groups. In doing so, we also rely on in-depth life history interviews with twenty former left- and right-wing extremists to examine whether antecedents of distrust vary between the two groups. Findings suggest substantial similarities and important differences between left- and right-wing extremists’ decision to leave. In particular, perceptions of poor planning and organization, low-quality personnel and vindictive behavior generate perceptions of organizational distrust and disillusionment. Although findings from the current study are based on a relatively small sample, notable similarities were identified between both groups regarding sources of distrust (e.g., leaders, group members). We also identified differences regarding the role of violence in weakening solidarity and nurturing disillusionment with extremist activities. We conclude this article with suggestions for future research that extend the study of terrorism and that may have significance for how practitioners address countering violent extremism initiatives.
Last Published Date: March 13, 2019