"Going Dark" by Julia Ebner

"Going Dark" by Julia Ebner

Book Review | Going dark – Julia Ebner | An intense journey with the most menacing extremists by Mathilde

Going Dark: The secret social lives of extremists explores Julia Ebner’s journey undercover among different extremists group around the world. Neo-nazis to jihadists or radical anti-feminists, you’ll discover everything you’ve always wanted to know about extremists!


In 2016 alone online social media platforms played a role in 90 per cent of all radicalisation cases. Not only has social media facilitated extremist relationships, it has also speeded up the radicalisation process.



  1. You want to protect yourself against misinformation and manipulation of extremists
  2. You want to understand the strategies and behind the scenes of extremists groups


  1. You’re looking for a relaxing reading
  2. You want to keep believing in the goodness of human nature


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Going Dark echoes one of the warnings in the documentary The Social Dilemma: the role played by social media in the spread of fake news and radicalisation. Multiple things stick to my mind. Julia Ebner’s demonstration of how easy it is to fall in the trap of extremists with The Trad Wives for example. Or how she got fired from The Guardian because of the pressure from far-right media and deciders.

An extremely important book. I used to believe that I was safe from any extremist influence, I can’t be so sure anymore. This book proved me wrong and turned out to be fascinating and eye-opening. Going Dark hasn’t left me indifferent. 

The avons have found a way to connect the CIA and MI6 to the Rothschilds, the Vatican, Facebook, Hollywood, the Nazis, the Illuminati and aliens to explain not just the world wars, climate change and terrorist attacks but also vaccinations, paedophilia and cannibalism. Why opt for the most straightforward explanation for today’s political dynamics if you can go for the most complicated one?



If you’ve read my article about Adam Kay’s book, you should know that I picked it in one of Gatwick Airport bookstores. But what I didn’t tell you is that I bought two books! This second book is Going Dark by Julia Ebner, as you might already have guessed it! Weirdly, both books titles contained “going”… (Any philosophic hypotheses?)

After picking a book about a junior doctor who decided to quit, what could be more relaxing than one about extremists? Actually, that’s my kind of entertainment -otherwise, I would spend that money at Crepe Affaire. Which I also do.

Going dark: the secret social lives of extremists. Well, I don’t know much about extremists’ lives -not very surprising so far. So I figured that this book could be interesting! The reviews were good overall, and some readers underlined the good journalist work of the author. Enough to convince me to buy this mysterious book!

The small introduction about the author says ‘By day, Julia Ebner works at a counter-extremist think tank, monitoring radical groups from the outside.’ OK already. ‘But two years ago, she began to feel she was only seeing half of the picture; she needed to get inside of the groups (…) She decided to go undercover in her spare hours.’ Badass, love it.


Let’s dive in! So what do extremists do when they’re not extremisting? Poker? Golf? Read my blog? And first of all, what is an extremist? I didn’t get a clear answer to my second question, but about their activities, it turns out that they are everywhere, especially on the Internet, together physically or virtually. Some members of the same extremist group have sometimes never even met in real life. Bringing up the question of the mass commercialisation of the Internet and cyber-security. 

After only a few pages, I already learn things, such as the number 88 being the reference for the initial HH (‘Heil Hitler’). Could be useful after all if I make new friends with weird tattoos. In the best case I avoid hanging out with neo-nazis, and in the worst case, I explain to them what their tattoo really means. Well. Not sure what’s best.

People want to belong somewhere and believe in something. Extremists know it and use it. What’s dangerous with them is that they’re convinced that they’re the only ones to know the truth and everybody else’s wrong. The worst part is that they’re convinced to awaken people and rescue them. Generation Identity, the European equivalent of the American alt-right, calls redpilling the fact of ‘awakening from a deep slumber and leaving blissful ignorance’. That’s also what Islamist extremists call escaping jahiliyyah -the state of ignorance.

The 4D approach

One of the extremists’ technics is the 4D approach explained by Donara Barojan, one of the members of the Digital Forensic Research Lab team at the NATO StratCom Center of Excellence. She basically says that 4 tactics are used to spread disinformation: dismiss the opponent, distort the facts, distract from the central issue and dismay the audience.

Familiar radicalisation structure:

Step 1: exploit fears and grievances to cast doubt on the current system

Step 2: blame a demonized out-group (e.g. feminists, liberals) for these societal failures by linking them to conspiracy theories

Step 3: provide a radical solution to all existing problem (e.g. The Red Pill)


There are so many extremist groups I didn’t know even existed. Neo-nazis, extreme right, extreme left, even misogynist groups are out there, I had no doubt. But this is way more complex than that. People who are misogynist for instance are divided into so many sub-groups. What struck me is that there are even female versions of these groups. For example, The Trad Wives is a movement created to help males to ‘reconquer’ the power, and that Julia Ebner followed for. And all these groups spend their days at finding ways to make the world abide by their rules and their vision of what it should be like.

The organisation within these groups is crazy. Most of the time a clear hierarchy is in place and everyone gets assigned tasks. The motivation and mobilisation of these people are huge. But I had a question though: how do extremists make their financial transactions secure? I got my answer around the middle of Going Dark, and it was cryptocurrencies obviously. Overall, the Internet gave them a big help!


  • Not all humans have common sense.
    More seriously:
  • It can be very easy to fall into the extremist’s trap. A bad event in your life, a meeting or a need to believe and belong are enough.
  • It takes some courage to stand up for the right thing.
  • No, all extremists are not completely dumb, and that’s the danger of it.


Written by Mathilde, creator of "Just Another Good Story".

Follow Mathilde on Instagram at @just.another.good.story

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