Extremists spread ideas on social media, experts say

Posted at 5:25 PM, Nov 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-01 18:26:06-04

CINCINNATI -- Sayfullo Saipov only lived in Cincinnati for two weeks and few remember meeting him. But what he's accused of doing in New York -- mowing people down with a truck on a bike path -- won't be easily forgotten. 

The question is, where did he become a follower of ISIS? And how does someone morph from a caring human being to a terrorist bent on death and destruction?

Major Mike Hartzler of the Greater Cincinnati Fusion Center said it's hard to pinpoint.

"I can't say that Cincinnati is any different than any other place in the country," he said.

Instead, Hartzler pointed to social media, where extremists can spread their ideas around the world. Green Township resident Christopher Cornell is said to have learned of ISIS on the internet. He was sentenced to decades in prison for plotting an attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

Psychologist Ken Manges, who grew up in New York City and once lived next to the West Side trail where the attack happened Tuesday, said it was "surprising, shocking and terribly disstressful."

Manges said radicalism shouldn't be tied to any particular place. 

"It's not Cincinnati per se," he said. "It is those people who feel they have been marginalized, disconnected with the community, feeling alienated, seen other examples of that."

That can turn them into a lone wolf, acting out their private feelings in a public and, often, fatal way. 

"They don't have a sense of these people being their friends, their compatriots, their loved them," Manges said. "They see them as enemies. They see them as non-persons."

The bottom line is for people, in New York or Cincinnati, to go about their business but also to stay vigilant, Hartzler said.

"Cincinnati is not protected by a bubble," he said. "It's a very, very nice place to live. It's a safe community. So, I wouldn't want people to become frightened by that."