American Conservative, June 17, 2021
by James Bovard
The Biden administration revealed on Tuesday that guys who can’t get laid may be terrorist threats due to “involuntary celibate–violent extremism.” That revelation is part of a new crackdown that identifies legions of potential “domestic terrorists” that the feds can castigate and investigate. But there is no reason to expect Biden administration anti-terrorism and anti-extremism efforts to be less of a farce and menace than similar post-9/11 campaigns.
Since the French Revolution, politicians have defined terrorism to stigmatize their opponents, a precedent followed by the Biden administration’s National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism. The report labels the January 6 clash at the Capitol as a “domestic terrorism” incident but fails to mention it spurred a mushroom cloud of increasingly far-fetched official accusations. Capitol Police acting Chief Yogananda Pittman told Congress that January 6 was “a terrorist attack by tens of thousands of insurrectionists.” Less than a thousand protestors entered the Capitol that day but apparently any Trump supporter who hustled down the Mall towards the Capitol became the legal equivalent of Osama Bin Laden. Unfortunately, this “seen walking in the same zip code” standard for guilt could be the prototype for Biden era domestic terrorist prosecutions.
The Biden report did not bestow the same “terrorist” label on the mobs who burned U.S. post offices in Minneapolis or assailed a federal courthouse in Portland last year. In its litany of terrorist incidents, the report cites “the vehicular killing of a peaceful protestor in Charlottesville” at the 2017 Unite the Right ruckus but omits the 49 people killed in 2016 by a Muslim enraged by U.S. foreign policy at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. Maybe that case was excluded because the murderer was the protected son of a long-term FBI informant and FBI falsehoods derailed the subsequent trial of his widow. Nor did the report mention the worst terrorist incident since 9/11—the Las Vegas bloodbath where a single shooter killed 58 people and injured 900 others. The FBI claimed it could never find a motive for that slaughter and its “final report” on the incident was only three pages long. Never mind.
The White House claims its new war on terrorism and extremism is “carefully tailored to address violence and reduce the factors that… infringe on the free expression of ideas.” But the prerogative to define extremism includes the power to attempt to banish certain ideas from acceptable discourse. The report warns that “narratives of fraud in the recent general election… will almost certainly spur some [Domestic Violent Extremists] to try to engage in violence this year.” If accusations of 2020 electoral shenanigans are formally labeled as extremist threats, that could result in far more repression (aided by Facebook and Twitter) of dissenting voices. How will this work out any better than the concerted campaign by the media and Big Tech last fall to suppress all information about Hunter Biden’s laptop before the election?
The Biden administration is revving up for a war against an enemy which the feds have chosen to never explicitly define. According to a March report by Biden’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence, “domestic violent extremists” include individuals who “take overt steps to violently resist or facilitate the overthrow of the U.S. government in support of their belief that the U.S. government is purposely exceeding its Constitutional authority.” But that was the same belief that many Biden voters had regarding the Trump administration. Does the definition of extremism depend solely on which party captured the White House?
The report notes that the “Department of Defense is reviewing and updating its definition of prohibited extremist activities among uniformed military personnel.” Bishop Garrison, the chief of the Pentagon’s new Countering Extremism Working Group, is Exhibit A for the follies of extremist crackdowns on extremism. In a series of 2019 tweets, Garrison, a former aide to Hillary Clinton, denounced all Trump supporters as “racists.” Garrison’s working group will “specifically define what constitutes extremist behavior” for American soldiers. If Garrison purges Trump supporters from the military, the Pentagon would be unable to conquer the island of Grenada. Biden policymakers also intend to create an “anti-radicalization” program for individuals departing the military service. This initiative will likely produce plenty of leaks and embarrassing disclosures in the coming months and years.
The Biden report is spooked by the existence of militia groups and flirts with the fantasy of outlawing them across the land. The report promises to explore “how to make better use of laws that already exist in all fifty states prohibiting certain private ‘militia’ activity, including…state statutes prohibiting groups of people from organizing as private military units without the authorization of the state government, and state statutes that criminalize certain paramilitary activity.” Most of the private militia groups are guilty of nothing more than bluster and braggadocio. Besides, many of them are already overstocked with government informants who are counting on Uncle Sam for regular paychecks.
As part of its anti-extremism arsenal, DHS is financing programs for “enhancing media literacy and critical thinking skills” and helping internet users avoid “vulnerability to…harmful content deliberately disseminated by malicious actors online.” Do the feds have inside information about another Hunter Biden laptop turning up, or what? The Biden administration intends to bolster Americans’ defenses against extremism by developing “interactive online resources such as skills-enhancing online games.” If the games are as stupefying as this report, nobody will play them.
The Biden report stresses that federal law enforcement agencies “play a critical role in responding to reports of criminal and otherwise concerning activity.” “Otherwise concerning activity”? This is the same standard that turned prior anti-terrorist efforts into laughingstocks.
Fusion Centers are not mentioned in the Biden report but they are a federal-state-local law enforcement partnership launched after 9/11 to vacuum up reports of suspicious activity. Seventy Fusion Centers rely on the same standard—“If you see something, say something”—that a senior administration official invoked in a background call on Monday for the new Biden initiative. The Los Angeles Police Department encouraged citizens to snitch on “individuals who stay at bus or train stops for extended periods while buses and trains come and go,” “individuals who carry on long conversations on pay or cellular telephones,” and “joggers who stand and stretch for an inordinate amount of time.” The Kentucky Office of Homeland Security recommended the reporting of “people avoiding eye contact,” “people in places they don’t belong,” or homes or apartments that have numerous visitors “arriving and leaving at unusual hours,” PBS’s Frontline reported. Colorado’s Fusion Center “produced a fear-mongering public service announcement asking the public to report innocuous behaviors such as photography, note-taking, drawing and collecting money for charity as ‘warning signs’ of terrorism,” the ACLU complained.
Various other Fusion Centers have attached warning labels to gun-rights activists, anti-immigration zealots, and individuals and groups “rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority.” A 2012 Homeland Security report stated that being “reverent of individual liberty” is one of the traits of potential right-wing terrorists. The Constitution Project concluded in a 2012 report that DHS Fusion Centers “pose serious risks to civil liberties, including rights of free speech, free assembly, freedom of religion, racial and religious equality, privacy, and the right to be free from unnecessary government intrusion.” Fusion Centers continue to be bankrolled by DHS despite their dismal record.
The Biden report promises that the FBI and DHS will soon be releasing “a new edition of the Federal Government’s Mobilization Indicators booklet that will include for the first time potential indicators of domestic terrorism–related mobilization.” Will this latest publication be as boneheaded as the similar 2014 report by the National Counterterrorism Center entitled “Countering Violent Extremism: A Guide for Practitioners and Analysts”?
As the Intercept summarized, that report “suggests that police, social workers and educators rate individuals on a scale of one to five in categories such as ‘Expressions of Hopelessness, Futility,’ … and ‘Connection to Group Identity (Race, Nationality, Religion, Ethnicity)’ … to alert government officials to individuals at risk of turning to radical violence, and to families or communities at risk of incubating extremist ideologies.” The report recommended judging families by their level of “Parent-Child Bonding” and rating localities on the basis in part of the “presence of ideologues or recruiters.” Former FBI agent Mike German commented, “The idea that the federal government would encourage local police, teachers, medical, and social-service employees to rate the communities, individuals, and families they serve for their potential to become terrorists is abhorrent on its face.”
The Biden administration presumes that bloating the definition of extremists is the surest way to achieve domestic tranquility. In this area, as in so many others, Biden’s team learned nothing from the follies of the Obama administration. No one in D.C. apparently recalls that President Obama perennially denounced extremism and summoned the United Nations in 2014 to join his “campaign against extremism.” Under Obama, the National Security Agency presumed that “someone searching the Web for suspicious stuff” was a suspected extremist who forfeited all constitutional rights to privacy. Obama’s Transportation Security Administration relied on ludicrous terrorist profiles that targeted American travelers who were yawning, hand wringing, gazing down, swallowing suspiciously, sweating, or making “excessive complaints about the [TSA] screening process.”
Will the Biden crackdown on extremists end as ignominiously as Nixon’s crackdown almost 50 years earlier? Nixon White House aide Tom Charles Huston explained that the FBI’s COINTELPRO program continually stretched its target list “from the kid with a bomb to the kid with a picket sign, and from the kid with the picket sign to the kid with the bumper sticker of the opposing candidate. And you just keep going down the line.” At some point, surveillance became more intent on spurring fear than on gathering information. FBI agents were encouraged to conduct interviews with anti-war protesters to “enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles and further serve to get the point across that there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox,” as a 1970 FBI memo noted. Is the Biden castigation campaign an attempt to make its opponents fear that the feds are tracking their every email and website click?
Biden’s new terrorism policy has evoked plenty of cheers from his Fourth Estate lapdogs. But a Washington Post article fretted that the administration’s report did not endorse enacting “new legal authority to successfully hunt down, prosecute, and imprison homegrown extremists.” Does the D.C. media elite want to see every anti-Biden scoffer in the land put behind bars? This is typical of the switcheroo that politicians and the media play with the terms “terrorists” and “extremists.” Regardless of paranoia inside the Beltway, MAGA hats are not as dangerous as pipe bombs.
The Biden report concludes that “enhancing faith in American democracy” requires “finding ways to counter the influence and impact of dangerous conspiracy theories.” But permitting politicians to blacklist any ideas they disapprove won’t “restore faith in democracy.” Extremism has always been a flag of political convenience, and the Biden team, the FBI, and their media allies will fan fears to sanctify any and every government crackdown. But what if government is the most dangerous extremist of them all?