Like many people, including all the largest education unions, Jeremy Corbyn has voiced his opposition to the government’s PREVENT counter-terrorism strategy, which he correctly says demonises Muslims. On the other hand, Owen Smith, the current individual leading the undemocratic coup against Corbyn, has come firmly down in support of PREVENT, stating that the Labour Party should “properly fund and resource the PREVENT agenda.”
But support for PREVENT is not the norm outside of elite circles, and, due to the ongoing controversy, even the Home Affairs Select Committee (chaired by Keith Vaz) has called for an independent review of PREVENT (August 25, 2016). The Select Committee’s report on this matter observes:
“David Anderson, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, agreed that wider engagement would be beneficial; otherwise there was a risk of ending up with a dialogue which only involved the Government and ‘people who think just like them’, and the mainstream ‘Muslim community talking to each other’ but neither side really engaging with each other. He suggested to us that the Muslim community felt ‘under siege’ and, though he did not agree there was any reason to believe PREVENT was not well-motivated, there was a risk that some parts of the Muslim community saw Prevent as ‘a sort of spying programme’ when it was already feeling pressurised. He has therefore called for an independent review of the Prevent strategy.”
Outside of government offices, others are far more critical of PREVENT, and the nongovernmental organisation Rights Watch (UK) has just published a detailed report outlining why the PREVENT strategy, insofar as it applies to schools, “must be repealed and abandoned.” (“Preventing Education: Human Rights and UK Counter-Terrorism Policy in Schools,” July 2016.)
However, as problematic as PREVENT currently appears, its problems are being actively exported to other countries, like the US, where its own so-called Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program is explicitly based upon the failing British example. Yet on American soil such CVE programs are also coming up against serious criticisms, as illustrated by Brennan Center for Justice’s short and informative report, “Countering Violent Extremism: Myths and Fact” (November 2015).
With the number of people and groups condemning CVE programs growing by the day, the panicked and extreme response of my own local PREVENT coordinator (based in the city of Leicester, UK) has been to stoop so low as to accuse critics of CVE programs of indirectly aiding ISIS! Indeed, last October the long-serving and disgruntled PREVENT TRUTHER based here in Leicester (Will Baldet) felt moved to tweet his own extreme and inflammatory viewpoint:
But Mr Baldet is obscenely wrong on this and so much more.
In the July issue of Psychology Today, Alice LoCicero and J. Wesley Boyd provided a devastating rebuttal to the propagandists for CVE. Dr LoCicero happens to be the co-founder and first president of the Society for Terrorism Research, and is well experienced to comment on such matters as she is also the author of two very relevant books, Creating Young Martyrs: Conditions That Make Dying in a Terrorist Attack Seem Like a Good Idea (2008), and Why ‘Good Kids’ Turn into Deadly Terrorists (2014). Her latest co-authored article gets straight to the point:
“Is CVE the new Cointel-Pro? Kinda seems that way.
“Cointel-Pro (short for Counterintelligence Program) was launched ‘…in 1956 to disrupt the activities of the Communist Party of the United States. In the 1960s, it was expanded to include a number of other domestic groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Socialist Workers Party, and the Black Panther Party . . . Cointel-Pro was later rightfully criticized by Congress and the American people for abridging first amendment rights and for other reasons’ (1).
“Thanks to the courage of a small group of young adults, a brave reporter, and a determined editor, Cointel-Pro was exposed and stopped. You can learn about their work in the book The Burglary, by Betty Metsger or watch the documentary film called simply 1971.
“But if the FBI learned anything from the rightful criticism of its Cointel-Pro, it has since apparently forgotten it. Currently, the FBI, in collaboration with the National Institute of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and other government agencies, is again launching programs that are at best doomed–and at worst designed—to disrupt the Muslim communities in cities where they are launched…”
Dr LoCicero and Dr Boyd’s article therefore comes to the fairly reasonable conclusion, noting:
“We will not be participating in any CVE programs, and we strongly encourage other mental health professionals to also refuse for the following reasons:
“We will not spy on our patients.
“We do not read minds, and we know that none of us can predict the future.
“We know of several non-punitive approaches to helping ALL kids resist ALL recruitment to violence. They are not high tech and they do not involve the FBI. They involve listening and talking to kids, mentoring kids, educating kids and helping them find paths to meaningful lives, honouring their communities here and any communities they are connected with in the US or elsewhere, and taking their grievances seriously.
“We are as saddened and troubled by violence around the world as most others, but those feelings should not lead us down a path that includes the trampling of human rights or turning health care professionals into government informants.”