Last year, the hate-financed Henry Jackson Society published a report on how to spin away criticism of PREVENT. One of its suggestions was to recast the public surveillance programme as “safeguarding”. There has been an amplification of this spin by most government-paid PREVENT practitioners, promoters and careerists since then. This claim both from a historic and conceptual point of view, is woefully inaccurate and a continued demonstration of how the PREVENT industry is deceptively manipulating narratives.
Ignoring History? PREVENT’s Discriminatory “Influence Campaign”
As I have explicated in some detail, the counter-productive pre-crime approach to countering terrorism was not based on empirical evidence but the paradigmatically neoconservative military doctrine of pre-emption. McCulloch and Wilson (2015), in their book exploring “pre-crime” intervention state,
“The declaration of the “war on terror” was the catalyst for a more pre-emptive approach to threats.”
With the War on Terror aimed at Muslim countries, PREVENT’s focus from its very inception has been to control Islam and Muslims through what Ruth Kelly once called the “winning of hearts and minds” – a punch line which inherently denoted propaganda warfare and which usually accompanies hot war. The fundamental difference to normal propaganda warfare during military campaigns and the PREVENT Strategy is that PREVENT is being waged against Britain’s own Muslim citizens. In 2007, PREVENT funds were directed to those local authorities in England with 5 per cent or more of their population identifying as Muslim. In other words, funding was allocated based on the number of Muslims as opposed to risk. This discriminatory focus on Muslims has continued through the years, with the Guardian last year reporting that PREVENT was being prioritised to target mainly Muslim areas.
It has reached a point where elements of the government, in their efforts to salvage whatever they can, are resorting obvious spin tactics. From seemingly planted stories (Sara Khan’s incredibly artificial efforts to sell PREVENT, her Home Office-approved book, along with vague success stories – which cannot be corroborated – to an incredibly welcoming media comes to mind), to sham select committee “reviews” of PREVENT, which far from questioning PREVENT’s basis, strengthened it, the methods demonstrate signs of desperate.
Despite these manoeuvres, there have been several key reports over the past few weeks which have indicated to the final throes of Britain’s PREVENT counter-extremism strategy.
The Leave/Remain EU debate over the past months has descended into propagandised political rhetoric. According to one BBC article, “Boris Johnson may seem to be the face of the Leave campaign but in private Mr Gove is its brain.”
Pro-Israel neocon Michael Gove has framed the EU debate as a threat to the UK using language which knowingly roused the prejudiced fears of people. Britain, Gove argued, would be “voting to be hostages, locked in the back of a car” as a hoard of foreigners and criminals overran Britain. He’d rather have Britain hostage to the US and Israel.
However, these Machiavellian politics have a price.
Nothing demonstrates this more than the terrorist attack which saw a rare example of an honest politician being gunned down and stabbed in broad daylight by a white, possibly Christian man. Thomas Mair shot and stabbed Jo Cox whilst shouting “Britain First”. Cox was campaigning to remain in the EU.
In a word we must segment Islam… weaken Islam, make it restless, numb it, and render it forever incapable of great awakenings. ~ French liberal colonialist Edmond Fazy
I have often highlighted that neoconservative assumptions about Islam have driven much of the counter-extremism discourse. The implementation of the doctrine of pre-emption by neocons means that orthodox Muslims are purged from public sector jobs, and Muslim children for instance, are now the subject of counter-extremism measures for requesting prayer space, or campaigning for Palestine.
Whilst outrageous to the reasonable mind, and condemned by hundreds of leading academics, the neocons have successfully engineered an atmosphere where Islam and Muslims have become despised, thus allowing for secular interference of private religion to produce a secularised, government-compliant Muslim whose connection to Islam is merely incidental and historic. Whilst Orthodox Jews are engaged with by the government freely and have yet to attract the label of extremism for their manners and mores which are at odds with the secular liberal status quo, Muslims have only government-produced, neocon-connected individuals as the “approved” representatives of Islam. Gone are the days when MCB was consulted, or the Sufis were used and abused as tools to deal with “fundamentalist” Muslims. Today the attack on Islam is wholesale and open thanks to the counter-extremism agenda, and neocon-co-opted, state-funded individuals and organisations, officially supported and promoted by the head of state. It seems the failure in instigating a deformation of Islam means that the weight of the state is now being used to force it.
A couple of years ago, I noted that the substantive content in the campaign of attacks against Shaykh Haytham al-Haddad designed to smear him as “extremist” were in fact normative Islamic beliefs which cut across the theological spectrum. Shaykh al-Haddad was the proxy for the attack on Islam.
Since then, David Cameron himself has interfered with religion, attacking Islamic beliefs and practices, promoting deformists as the face of Islam, all the while employing doublespeak and urging the Muslim minority to shun the “conspiracy theories” that Islam is under attack. Looking from the colonialist, Eurocentric lens, all manner of denigration has been hurled at Islam, as “mutual tolerance” and “respect” is simultaneously preached to the Muslim community.
“Journalists need to check basic facts and ask simple questions about the identity and motivations of the people making these claims…”
So says Hannah Stuart of the Henry Jackson Society in Andrew Gilligan latest article attacking those critiquing the PREVENT Strategy. The irony could not be more profound.
It has been a while since I have given some space here on the blog to our favourite neocon propagandist, Andrew Gilligan. Perhaps it is because his role has been lately filled by David Daily Mail Cameron.
It seems the momentum against the civil-liberties violating, discriminatory PREVENT Strategy which has roused Muslims up and down the country to reject it outright, has unsettled some in the Home Office. RICU, its propaganda department has gone into over drive and the right-wing press have been all too happy implement the Henry Jackson Society’s spin bible for damage limiting the reputation of a failed policy.
He certainly delivered the trademark Gilligan goods: spin, distortion and unconvincing attempts to smear. His target this time is a relatively new organisation which has been documenting abuse cases resulting from PREVENT, Prevent Watch (PW).
For all the talk about the need to “integrate” Muslims through the British values social engineering programme, linguistic imperialism, and the white knights rescuing Muslim women in the name of equality and freedom, the hypocrisy stemming from the upper echelons of government has been brazen. Whilst on this blog I have brought to attention the discriminatory nature of PREVENT, counter-terrorism, and the judiciary, the latent anti-Islam and anti-Muslim attitudes have become increasingly apparent and overt. An assimilationist, extreme interpretation of secular liberalism, whilst being forced upon Muslims and their beliefs, has been notable only by its absence at the state level. In an increasingly, rare, brilliant piece in the Guardian, Jospeh Harker summed it up aptly in his tactful play on the neocon economic policy of choice, “trickle-down hate”:
“Muslims seem a particular target of his divisive and alienating language… Cameron’s dog-whistles matter. They may appear to be mere words – jokes or slips of the tongue; but they set the parameters and the tone of the debate. We could call this trickle-down hate. So if he makes a bold statement about the niqab, or some other aspect of multicultural Britain, it will go to the top of the news agenda, even if it’s in actual fact insignificant or completely wrong – as in the so-called Trojan Horse scandal in Birmingham schools, which a parliamentary committee inquiry ruled to be groundless… Cameron speaks; his entourage pushes further; the media responds; and on the streets, the abuse and attacks kick off. Sadly, Cameron and the Tories seem to believe that the answer to a broken nation is to break it some more.”