There is considerable agreement amongst scholars and international actors that ideologies and speech play a critical role in the path of escalation towards mass atrocity crimes. Speech features prominently in the jurisprudence of the U.N. war crimes tribunal for Rwanda, for example, and in historical accounts of the months and years preceding many other genocides. Nonetheless, this is one of the most underdeveloped components of genocide and atrocity prevention, in both theory and practice. This paper draws together the authors’ independent past work on dangerous speech and the ideological dynamics of mass atrocities by offering a new integrated model to help identify the sorts of speech and ideology that raise the risk of atrocities and genocides. We suggest that this model should inform monitoring activities concerned with the risk of genocides and mass atrocities, and prevention efforts at the strategic and targeted levels.
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