In a bid to combat “violent extremism,” the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) granted Michigan State University $585,719 to monitor and study social media patterns of the “far right” political communications in the United States:
“There is currently limited knowledge of the role of technology and computer mediated communications (CMCs), such as Facebook and Twitter, in the dissemination of messages that promote extremist agendas and radicalize individuals to violence,” according to the NIJ grant. “The proposed study will address this gap through a series of qualitative and quantitative analyses of posts from various forms of CMC used by members of both the far-right and Islamic extremist movements.”…
“We will collect posts made in four active forums used by members of the far-right and three from the Islamic Extremist community, as well as posts made in Facebook, LiveJournal, Twitter, YouTube, and Pastebin accounts used by members of each movement,” the grant said.
“The findings will be used to document both the prevalence and variation in the ideological content of posts from members of each movement,” the grant continued. “In addition, we will assess the value of these messages in the social status of the individual posting the message and the function of radical messages in the larger on-line identity of participants in extremist communities generally.”
Not to be a party pooper here, but, since when has the American political “far right” been anything less than peacefully respectful, albeit armed to the teeth? If one equates conservatives with the “far right” and excludes white supremacy groups which should be questionable to everyone (this conservative does not consider them to be politically right, but politically wacko), where are the headlines of violent extremism from the “far right”? Where are the headlines of actual violent extremism beyond snarky signs displayed during protests? If the political right is so dangerously extreme, show me the violence.
Furthermore, what constitutes the “far right”? Most liberals call Fox News “extreme right wing” when actual conservatives and those whose intellectual leanings align with what we call “political right” know that they are barely middle of the road. It seems that the Department of Justice is using terminology that effectively lumps multiple movements together.
The project will also “identify the hidden networks of individuals who engage in extremist movements based on geographic location and ideological similarities.”…
[Eric] Holder said the study will “help us develop more effective techniques and partnerships for counter-messaging.”
While the grant does not name the “far-right” groups that would be examined, other federal agencies have devoted their energy to the sovereign citizen movement.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a report on the movement, whose members believe that U.S. laws do not apply to them, just as the White House held its summit on violent extremism. The administration did not use the phrase “Islamist extremism” at the summit.
It is interesting that the Department of Justice calls sovereign citizen movement “far right” when that movement is a stretch from the conservative point of view which is also considered to be “far right.” However, “Islamic extremism” is not allowed to be said at their conference. It would be nice if the DOJ could decide on a side of the mouth from which to speak.
The information collected at Michigan State is due to be available in a webinar in the coming months. This is a powerful reminder to all that what is put on the internet is available to all forever.