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Democracy Now! 2021-04-12 Monday

Democracy now - Mon, 04/12/2021 - 13:00
Democracy Now! 2021-04-12 Monday
  • Headlines for April 12, 2021
  • Amazon "Broke the Law": Union Seeks New Election After Alabama Warehouse Organizing Drive Fails
  • "We Need to Give the Workers a Fair Shot": Jane McAlevey on What Went Wrong in Amazon Union Vote
  • Ramsey Clark, Former U.S. Attorney General Turned Fierce Critic of U.S. Militarism, Dies at Age 93
  • Remembering LaDonna Brave Bull Allard: Standing Rock Elder Helped Lead 2016 Anti-DAPL Uprising

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Democracy Now! 2021-04-09 Friday

Democracy now - Fri, 04/09/2021 - 13:00
Democracy Now! Friday, April 9, 2021
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Democracy Now! 2021-04-08 Thursday

Democracy now - Thu, 04/08/2021 - 13:00
Democracy Now! 2021-04-08 Thursday
  • Headlines for April 08, 2021
  • Ex-Iranian Diplomat: Revived Nuclear Talks Must Start with U.S. Lifting of Crippling Sanctions
  • Nobel Peace Prize Winner Jody Williams Slams Biden Admin for Claiming Landmines Are a "Vital Tool"
  • "Vaccine Passports": ACLU Warns of Privacy Nightmare That Could Create "Two-Tiered Society"

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Democracy Now! 2021-04-07 Wednesday

Democracy now - Wed, 04/07/2021 - 13:00
Democracy Now! Wednesday, April 7, 2021
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Democracy Now! 2021-04-06 Tuesday

Democracy now - Tue, 04/06/2021 - 13:00
Democracy Now! 2021-04-06 Tuesday
  • Headlines for April 06, 2021
  • New York's "Excluded Workers" Demand First U.S. Fund to Secure Pandemic Aid for Undocumented People
  • Pandemic Profiteers: Hospitals Sued Patients over Medical Debt While Getting Billions in Relief Aid
  • Biden's $2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan Goes Beyond Bridges & Roads, But Its "Scale Is Inadequate"

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Democracy Now! 2021-04-05 Monday

Democracy now - Mon, 04/05/2021 - 13:00
Democracy Now! 2021-04-05 Monday
  • Headlines for April 05, 2021
  • World's Poorest Nations Face Setback as India Suspends Vaccine Exports Amid Fight over Patent Rights
  • Ethiopia Accused of Using Rape as a Weapon of War in Tigray as New Evidence Emerges of Massacres
  • MLK Opposed "Poverty, Racism & Militarism" in Speech One Year Before His Assassination 53 Years Ago

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Democracy Now! 2021-04-02 Friday

Democracy now - Fri, 04/02/2021 - 13:00
Democracy Now! 2021-04-02 Friday
  • Headlines for April 02, 2021
  • Will Georgia's Voting Law Be Repealed as Big Business Joins Critics Opposing "Jim Crow" Suppression?
  • Oregon Governor Kate Brown Pushes Expanding Vote-by-Mail to Counter GOP Voter Suppression Efforts
  • "Abhorrent": Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Trump's Treatment of Portland Protesters vs. Insurrectionists
  • Brazil Diplomat Celso Amorim on Bolsonaro, Lula & Why Biden's Foreign Policy Is So "Disappointing"

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Democracy Now! 2021-04-01 Thursday

Democracy now - Thu, 04/01/2021 - 13:00
Democracy Now! 2021-04-01 Thursday
  • Headlines for April 01, 2021
  • "Check His Pulse": In Derek Chauvin Trial, Outraged Bystanders Describe Witnessing George Floyd Death
  • "The System of Policing Is on Trial": Derek Chauvin Murder Case Is About More Than Just George Floyd
  • Brazil in Crisis: COVID Deaths Soar & Hospitals Overflow Amid Unprecedented Political Upheaval

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Democracy Now! 2021-03-31 Wednesday

Democracy now - Wed, 03/31/2021 - 13:00
Democracy Now! 2021-03-31 Wednesday
  • Headlines for March 31, 2021
  • Bloody Crackdown in Burma Since Feb. 1 Military Coup Kills 500+ Amid Resistance from Youth, Women
  • Trans Day of Visibility: Activists Chase Strangio & Raquel Willis Demand Action on Anti-Trans Laws
  • New York Ordered to Vaccinate Incarcerated People; Will Gov. Sign Bill Curbing Solitary Confinement?
  • Aging Former Black Panthers Mumia Abu-Jamal & Sundiata Acoli Got COVID-19 & Could Die in Prison

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"I Felt the Need to Call the Police on the Police": Witnesses Describe Seeing George Floyd's Murder

Democracy now - Wed, 03/31/2021 - 13:00
On the second day of the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, jurors heard chilling testimony from eyewitnesses who watched Chauvin kill George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for over nine months.
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Democracy Now! 2021-03-30 Tuesday

Democracy now - Tue, 03/30/2021 - 13:00
Democracy Now! 2021-03-30 Tuesday
  • Headlines for March 30, 2021
  • 9 Minutes, 29 Seconds: Derek Chauvin Trial Opens with Full Video of George Floyd's Killing
  • Derek Chauvin Defense Blames "George Floyd Himself for His Own Death," Not the Police "Blood Choke"
  • "Crisis of Capitalism": Roberto Lovato on How U.S. Policies Fuel Migration & Instability

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Democracy Now! 2021-03-29 Monday

Democracy now - Mon, 03/29/2021 - 13:00
Democracy Now! 2021-03-29 Monday
  • Headlines for March 29, 2021
  • Capitalism Without Accountability Is at Root of Suez Canal Shipping Crisis, Says Scholar Laleh Khalili
  • Robin D.G. Kelley: Amazon Union Drive Builds on Decades of Black Radical Labor Activism in Alabama
  • Robin D.G. Kelley on Derek Chauvin Murder Trial, Reparations in Evanston & Cornel West Tenure Fight

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Democracy Now! 2021-03-26 Friday

Democracy now - Fri, 03/26/2021 - 12:00
Democracy Now! 2021-03-26 Friday
  • Headlines for March 26, 2021
  • Jim Crow Redux: Georgia GOP Governor Signs "Egregious" Voter Suppression Law Targeting Black Voters
  • Danny Glover on Amazon Union Drive, the Power of Organized Labor & Centuries of Resistance in Haiti
  • Evanston, Illinois, to Pay Reparations to Black Families Harmed by Decades of Racist Housing Policies

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Democracy Now! 2021-03-25 Thursday

Democracy now - Thu, 03/25/2021 - 12:00
Democracy Now! 2021-03-25 Thursday
  • Headlines for March 25, 2021
  • Pandemic Profiteers: How U.S. Billionaires Like Amazon's Jeff Bezos Saw Wealth Grow by $1.3 Trillion
  • 1 in 5 Capitol Insurrectionists Tied to U.S. Military; Soldiers "Targets" for Extremist Recruitment
  • "Tragic Moment": Rohingya Suffer New Blow as Cox's Bazar, World's Largest Refugee Camp, Burns Down
  • Yemen Enters 7th Year of U.S.-Backed, Saudi-Led War That Caused the World's Worst Humanitarian Crisis

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Democracy Now! 2021-03-24 Wednesday

Democracy now - Wed, 03/24/2021 - 12:00
Democracy Now! 2021-03-24 Wednesday
  • Headlines for March 24, 2021
  • Colorado Democrat Elected After Son Killed in 2012 Aurora Shooting: Congress Must Enact Gun Control
  • How the NRA's Radical Anti-Gun-Control Ideology Became GOP Dogma & Still Warps Debate
  • How Australia Ended Regular Mass Shootings: Gun Reforms After 1996 Massacre Could Be Model for U.S.

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Democracy Now! 2021-03-23 Tuesday

Democracy now - Tue, 03/23/2021 - 12:00
Democracy Now! 2021-03-23 Tuesday
  • Headlines for March 23, 2021
  • "Shameful": Amid Border Emergency, Immigrant Rights Advocates Urge Biden to Stop Detaining Children
  • Border Invasion? Mexican MAGA Influencers Push "Damaging" Conspiracy Theories About Asylum Seekers
  • Amazon Intimidates Workers Amid Historic Union Vote in Alabama as Jeff Bezos Makes $7 Million an Hour

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Democracy Now! 2021-03-22 Monday

Democracy now - Mon, 03/22/2021 - 12:00
Democracy Now! 2021-03-22 Monday
  • Headlines for March 22, 2021
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen on Roots of Anti-Asian Hate from U.S. Colonialism to Anti-China Political Rhetoric
  • "We Are Here Because You Are There": Viet Thanh Nguyen on How U.S. Foreign Policy Creates Refugees

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Comment | Dear Sadiq Khan, the last thing British schools need is more police

Ceasefire Magazine - Sun, 02/21/2021 - 14:52

Many supporting the fight for police-free schools across the globe would have found themselves filled with hope this week at the extraordinary win secured by student-led organising in Los Angeles, with news that $25 million would be divested from the LA school police department and spent on the futures of black students. This is an achievement in the campaigning for police-free schools that will go down in history, and one that lifts spirits here in the UK as we, despairingly, continue to be forced in the opposite direction.

This week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan declared his support for more school-based police officers (SBPOs) in the capital to tackle a highly speculative potential ‘surge’ in violent crime upon school re-openings. Khan is one of several politicians who have vocalised their support for the further implementation of SBPOs over the last few years despite mounting evidence of the harms caused by their presence in the UK and internationally, and the ineffectiveness of policing both in schools or in the community.

The call for more police in schools is echoed in Greater Manchester, where Mayor Andy Burnham once again reaffirmed his support for an increase of SBPOs, as more funding for violence reduction units comes into accounts, including those – such as Greater Manchester Police — which is currently in special measures.

As is often the case, these calls are knee-jerk reactions to crises that require solutions beyond policing. The deployment of SBPOs remains a key tactic in the ongoing war on racialised communities, and a major frontline in our resistance to harm. Evidence published by the Northern Police Monitoring Project and Kids of Colour detailing the harms and concerns raised by over 500 community members in Greater Manchester has been ignored by the city region’s leadership. This is despite said evidence bringing to light the relationship between criminal justice and education leading to the criminalisation of young people, overreaches with regard to the remit of SBPOs, and an intensification of racist policing.

Teachers continue to be used as a scapegoats for the introduction of SBPOs, despite the fact that National Education Union (NEU) organisers have spoken out against the plans. Indeed, three of the ten NEU Greater Manchester districts have already successfully passed motions that affirm police have no place in schools. How long will the authorities ignore evidence in their aimless dedication to problematic ‘law and order’ narratives?

On an individual level, there was some success this week, after a London-based parent, fighting alongside the incredible Just For Kids Law, ensured their daughter was found not guilty of carrying a ‘bladed item’ to school — the item in question being a small pair of hair-cutting scissors. The girl had been heavily encouraged by the SBPO at her school to accept a caution, despite scissors not being on the school’s list of ‘prohibited items’. The family refused, believing the ensuing legal process, however exhausting, was necessary. The girl had been interviewed at school alone, where she was told of the consequences of knife carrying. The ‘evidence’ presented against her was based entirely on hearsay about her supposed intentions. Yet it took two years to reach the liberation that came with a not guilty verdict.

The young woman, now 17, can at last feel like she can have new hopes for her future. Maybe she can travel: a joy she had to put on hold whilst awaiting her court date. Maybe she can work with children: an option she feared she may lose forever. The young woman’s experience highlights something many reach community organisations working to challenge police in schools have seen all too often: The stripping of futures, as the non-criminal becomes criminalised, particularly when the young person is black.

But we cannot feign surprise at all this. The expansion of policing, in whatever context, always seems to produce the same result: the further encroachment of institutional racism and oppression into people’s everyday lives. Collectively, we must work to ensure police do not make their bed in our schools. We must call for the alternatives we know will set the foundations for positive childhoods and futures. More funding for schools themselves and for the youth workers, counsellors, sex educators, behavioural experts and so forth that should sit within them. Rather than more police, we need more funding for our communities, particularly those that have been systematically underfunded for decades.

To suggest schools should be sites of policing, and to fail to address the deeply embedded injustices produced by historic racism and classism, is simply to confirm a political desire to uphold such inequalities. As we celebrate the successes achieved by communities in the US, our ‘No Police in Schools’ campaign will continue to pursue our ambitions for better education in UK schools.

This week there has been another devastating death following police contact in Wales, following a welfare check. Solidarity to the friends and family of Moyied Bashir. No justice, no peace.

Categories: news

Comment | Defending free speech on UK campuses means defending the right to organise

Ceasefire Magazine - Thu, 02/18/2021 - 20:06
A familiar cry

Addressing the conference of the Jewish charity Limmud in the fading days of 2017, then-Universities & Science Minister Jo Johnson announced that the newly-formed university regulator, the Office for Students (OfS), would be charged with regulating ‘free speech’ on universities.

Summoning up the contemporary spectre of ‘no platforming’, he stated that “academics and students alike must not allow a culture to take hold where silence is preferable to a dissenting voice”, before going on to offer customary platitudes about the liberal university and the “marketplace of ideas”.

This agenda was pursued by Jo Johnson’s immediate successor, Sam Gyimah, and has since been carried forth by Education Minister Gavin Williamson, who has adopted into his brief the government’s manufactured cultural backlash against the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests.

This shift has not been restricted to the UK. The question of free speech and the liberal university has roused the sentinels of reaction worldwide. In June 2018, James Paterson, senator for Australia’s governing right-wing Liberal Party, called for universities to face fines for failing to uphold free speech, while fellow senator Amanda Stoker wondered whether Australian universities’ research funding should be conditional on their upholding free speech. For his part, then-Education Minister Dan Tehan announced a review into rules and regulations protecting freedom of speech on university campuses. Meanwhile, in March 2019, former US President Trump signed an executive order that would withhold federal research and education funds from universities that failed to certify that they will protect free-speech rights on campus.

While Gavin Williamson’s latest salvo in the campus ‘free speech’ wars does represent an escalation — not least in its proposal to expand OfS’ free speech policing to student unions and the threat of new legislation — the theme has become a well-worn fixture of this government’s agenda, increasingly being deployed in service of a culture war while forming part of a strategic attack on public institutions.

Beyond hypocrisy

The theme of a ‘free speech’ crisis on campuses is hardly novel, and the response whenever it has been raised has been similarly unoriginal: often hinging on accusations of hypocrisy and double standards.

The hypocrisy has certainly flowed in thick over the years. While in one breath denouncing threats to ‘free speech’ on universities, Jo Johnson’s speech at Limmud included an enthusiastic promotion of the censorious IHRA definition of antisemitism, which has been used to silence and suppress pro-Palestine activism.

Meanwhile, the very Office for Students which is supposedly tasked with defending ‘free speech’ on campus is, at the same time, charged with overseeing the Prevent duty in universities, by purging ‘extremist’ ideas from campus.

The government’s faux concerns over liberal rights strike an exceptionally distasteful note now, coming as they do in the midst of a major law & order crackdown by the Home Office, which is poised to roll back the ability to protest, including the investigation of Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion over ‘extremism’ concerns.

A wider context

Hypocrisy may be this government’s default mode of being, but it is beside the point. Policing universities in the name of free speech is bound up with a set of structural issues that need to take more of a central place in the discussion and agitation around it.

These include the manner in which the institutional basis of rights has been progressively hollowed out in universities under corporatisation, and the wider context of the higher education (HE) sector being securitised and subordinated to the wills of government.

That is to say that discussions around ‘free speech’, as with the broader suite of democratic freedoms, need to take into account the conditions in which such freedoms are made possible.

While a great deal of heat and energy has been expended arguing over the content of rights such as free speech — To whom should it be extended or denied? At what point can it be restricted? — discussion of the institutional basis of such rights has been excised from the conversation. Yet abstract commitments to free speech and rights as values amount to little without institutions acting to give them force, and without a culture and practice of popular democracy to serve as their ultimate guarantor.

The deployment of ‘free speech’ in such abstract or literalist terms has allowed it to be hived off from the issue of political organising, and mobilised by the right to undermine political organising further.

The net outcome of the free speech wars over the last six years, as steered by the government, has been for it to anoint itself the arbiter of free speech, enshrine this power within an arm’s-length state regulator, and appoint a political associate to implement its programme.

Fundamentally, this is what the culture war is about: it is not simply an exercise in ‘populism’, or merely a distraction from power, but the means through which institutional power is advanced. Levying claims of ‘hypocrisy’, however well-deserved, is to speak in the language of principles against a government that responds with the language of power.

Within UK Higher Education (HE), the question of ‘rights’ and university democracy cannot be decoupled from the structure of power in universities today: the malignant growth of managerialism as universities have been corporatised over the last decade, or the hardening of internal hierarchy that is part and parcel of HE’s neoliberalisation.

The very example seemingly referenced in Williamson’s announcement — Leicester University’s proposals to cut courses following a drop in student demand, cynically recast as  a ‘decolonising the curriculum’ effort — is the purest expression of the competitive market ethos this government has injected into the HE sector.

The University of Leicester’s justification for mass redundancies — as a means of securing long-term financial stability — reflects the climate of precarity and uncertainty that has enveloped the sector since the new funding regime was introduced a decade ago: a climate that structurally constrains and suffocates the exercise of rights across the board, by ratcheting up the cost of doing so.

Securitisation

As the locus of power in universities has been driven upwards, the realm of surveillance has expanded outwards. University students and staff have found themselves progressively shut out from the processes of change within their institutions, while the implementation of policies like Prevent, immigration monitoring under the Hostile Environment, and the policing of free speech, have all eroded the basis for practical solidarity and organising.

Prevent has been particularly damaging: it has institutionalised a culture of surveillance to deter political organising, consolidated the relationship between universities and agents of state surveillance, and created an operational lacuna whereby democratic rights can be abrogated arbitrarily. This is even before factoring in the cost to those facing the brunt of Prevent’s impact in practice: those referred to the programme, undergoing disciplinary measures or facing pressure to cancel events.

Above all, these policies don’t simply inhibit the exercise of free speech or intellectual discussion in the abstract, but seek to dissolve the means through which students and staff can actively challenge and reorganise power within their institutions.

The fact that the OfS will simultaneously be regulating both free speech and the Prevent duty on UK campuses is not, in reality, such an odd combination; they are two sides of the same coin. Both the Prevent duty and ‘free speech’ — as the government understands the term — are a means of policing political organising on campus, and undercutting the politicisation of university staff and students.

In delimiting the realm of ‘acceptable’ freedoms while punishing anything that falls outside, both of the OfS’ twin remits are being used to institutionalise the country’s rightward shift within the Higher Education sphere. And both serve as expressions of a wider securitisation agenda that locks in neoliberal reforms within the sector by deploying the very bureaucracy that has congealed at the top of universities.

A different way of talking about rights

In combination, these shifts have left the institutional basis of ‘rights’ and university democracy desiccated and brittle, with the only buffer to them being the strength of student and staff agitation that this government’s free speech policing is seeking to undermine.

Hemming the debate on rights and free speech in at the level of cultural ‘values’ — without connecting this to the material basis of such rights — only obscures the true exercise of power. This ‘culture war’ has legitimised the deeper intrusion by this government into the governance of universities, steadily gutting them of any meaningful autonomy. As such, the fightback cannot succeed if it is carried out on the same terms set by the government that has instigated this assault, namely by claiming actualfidelity to free speech.

Therefore, simply defending free speech or academic freedoms, or pointing out hypocrisy, are woefully inadequate responses. This is by no means to suggest ceding ground on free speech and rights to the political right. Rather, it is a call to reconnect ‘free speech’ and ‘academic freedom’ to the broader question of the right to organise — especially against the hollowing out of university democracy, the neoliberalisation of HE and the institutionalisation of policing and security policies within it.

Rather than just jealously guarding the principles of the liberal academy, we should also endeavour to build a more expansive solidarity with those facing the sharp end of state violence under this ‘law & order’ government. It is only by approaching this as a political struggle, rather than a competition between rival value claims, that universities can wrest back their rightful status as sites of free expression and critical dissent.

Categories: news

Analysis | The latest Prevent Review is a political charade, we must boycott it

Ceasefire Magazine - Wed, 02/17/2021 - 12:59

UK communities targeted by the Government’s Prevent counter-terrorism strategy have expressed dismay at its latest proposed ‘review’. It is not hard to see why. This ‘review’ is an expensive and wasteful exercise, a piece of political theatre. Indeed, previous ‘reviews’ and revisions have been little more than vehicles for bolstering Prevent’s arsenal of tactics, thus serving to extend and deepen the policy’s reach and harm.

Since 2006, when it was first promoted as a deradicalisation ‘fund’, the Prevent strategy has undergone several mutations, all consistently aimed at criminalising Muslims and disrupting dissent. Rather than genuinely keeping us safe, Prevent’s core function is to effectively protect the interests of a small political elite, and to uphold an ideology of neo-imperialism. This core function saw Prevent becoming a statutory duty under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act of 2015.

As a result, all public sector workers, including teachers and doctors, are now legally obliged to report any signs of ‘vulnerability’ or ‘extremism’ in others, under the false banner of ‘safeguarding’ them. Seeing through this facade, many public sector workers have vocalised their astonishment at being forced to implement a discriminatory policy that is eroding the trust of people under their care.

With ever greater segments of society being targeted, it is unsurprising that such criticisms, and now resistance, to Prevent have grown substantially over the years. Muslims, who initially experienced its harms, were the first to warn of its danger to society at large. Other groups soon followed suit, with much of the resistance centred on Prevent’s censorship of dissent and alternative ideas.

As the popularity of UKIP surged over the course of the past decade, the Conservative Party shifted to the right, leaning on traditionalism, racism, and nationalism to hold onto power. Sadly, these notions have been infused into the rhetoric of ‘British values’, a highly politicised term against which ‘extremism’ is now judged. Beyond its utility as a tool to shut down dissent, the concept of ‘British Values’ has served as a galvanising narrative — harking back to ‘Old Empire’ and ‘Old Britain’ — which ostracizes ‘otherness’ and distracts from the root causes of grievances raised by citizens.

Internal critiques: Furthering Prevent

Since its inception, Prevent has encountered both internal and external critiques. Internally, certain Prevent and Channel practitioners believe its scope and implementation “require improvement”. However, considering such internal ‘critics’ invariably profit from the counter-extremism industry and thus rely on its continuation, it is not surprising that their ‘critiques’ only go one way: towards bolstering Prevent.

Take the example of one such internal ‘critique’, which is that Prevent wrongly focuses on “softer threats (i.e. young people), rather than the more concerning “hardened” threats (i.e. mature adults). Another critique questions the ‘voluntary’ nature of the Channel programme, arguing that those who need Channel support the most, can, and sometimes do, reject its ‘help’.

Both of these supposed ‘critiques’ – likely to receive prominent attention in any ‘review’ – lead to the same conclusion: that Prevent and Channel need to be extended and toughened up, in line with the mantra of “muscular liberalism” that drives them. The first critique suggests a greater targeting of adults whilst the latter implies engagement with Channel should no longer be voluntary but compulsory.

The use of such ‘reviews’ to extend Prevent is not unprecedented. The ‘independent’ Lord Carlile-led review published in 2011 found the existing Prevent strategy to be “flawed”. Subsequent strategy updates were pivotal in morphing Prevent’s mission from ‘promoting multiculturalism’ to furthering ‘muscular liberalism’, a development which has been damaging for all of us. One way this shift was achieved has been through widening counter-extremism’s security frame with the introduction of vague terms such as ‘extremism’ and ‘British values’, and the reframing of others, such as ‘safeguarding’. 

Over the years, far-right extremism and other ideologies and movements of discontent or protest have also been incorporated into Prevent’s security frame. This has been used to counteract accusations that Prevent was discriminatory against Muslims, and to co-opt unwitting support within their communities.

Another damaging aspect of Prevent is its adoption and adaptation of COINTELPRO tactics. With the shadowy assistance of the Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU), more Muslims were brought in to ‘implement’ Prevent and complementary programmes within their communities. This was after a House of Commons review labelled Prevent as “toxic” and called for its re-branding and the recruitment of more Muslims in efforts to combat ‘Islamist extremism’ — the logic being that Muslims are more equipped with the theological knowledge and cultural background to counter arguments presented by such ‘Islamist extremists’. This directly echoed RICU’s claims that the most “credible” “conduits” to “de-radicalise future terrorists” were family members, friends, community figures, religious figures, political figures, professionals and celebrities.

Most Muslims who lent their public credibility and profile to Prevent, largely did so in the belief they were doing their bit to address ‘extremism’ in their communities. They did this without understanding the full impact of the policy and its far-reaching harm against fellow Muslims who fell short of the programme’s paradigmatic requirements. Consequently, this has had the effect of dividing communities and severing long-established and beneficial bonds of public trust in organisations and government. This also saw the rise of “infrastructures of embedded surveillance”. These developments laid the groundwork for a new method of dominance: that of feigned “care” and “partnerships of mutual benefit”.

In short, internal ‘critiques’ have been used during various ‘reviews’ and revisions to entrench Prevent even further into communities, laying the groundwork for the wholescale deployment of the programme into the public sector, including education and healthcare.

External critiques: A veneer of diversity

External and independent critiques of Prevent, coming from groups outside of government, have been selectively and very mildly tolerated, and have been used to offer a veneer of ‘diversity’ and ‘robust discourse’ to various reviews.

Meanwhile, the core criticism against the strategy, namely that the entire Prevent programme, from root to branch, is discriminatory and deeply damaging, is always side-stepped. Suggestions that Prevent should be abolished in favour of deeper structural change that builds genuine trust and public security are ignored. 

This is despite the many testimonies from those most negatively impacted by Prevent. Take the example of the Muslim teenager who was interrogated by staff and referred to Prevent after uttering the word “eco-terrorism” during a class discussion, or the child referred for mis-pronouncing “cucumber” as “cooker bomb”, or the child referred for discussing the popular video-game Fortnite. The list goes on.

Hold these up against the case of Ahmed Hassan, who was referred to Prevent and the de-radicalisation Channel programme but no action was taken, and who later attempted to blow up Parsons Green station. When comparing these sets of cases, it is evident Prevent and Channel are ineffective as tools for predicting political violence, and have no predictive validity as recognised by the academics who led the study on extremism risk factors used to determine vulnerability in the context of Prevent.

Such indifference to evidence is unsurprising, given that it is well established that one of the core functions of Prevent is to gather intelligence. Nor does it seem to matter to the government that numerous UN Special Rapporteurs have labelled Prevent as “inherently flawed”, with one 2017 UN report stating that Prevent’s vague and broad guidelines gave the authorities “excessive discretion” resulting in “unpredictable and potentially arbitrary” application.

Within further education, the National Union of Students (NUS) has called for a boycott of the programme and its abolition due to its inhibition of speech, thought and belief in young people. One survey found that one in three participants disengaged from political debates altogether due to a fear of being reported to Prevent, while more than two in five students felt unable to express their views freely as a result of the programme.

This was especially felt by Muslim students, many of whom reported being negatively impacted by Prevent during their time at university, leading to “increased feelings of discrimination and alienation”. Such feelings are deeply counter-productive to building trust, intellectual development, social integration and pluralism within society.

Health professionals have raised similar concerns over Prevent damaging carer-patient relationships, as well as toxifying workplace environments, with Human rights groups warning the strategy “fosters a culture of self-censorship”. Numerous academics have also joined the chorus against Prevent, contesting the strategy’s rationales, and arguing that it marginalises parts of society and has a “chilling effect on open debate, free speech and political dissent”.

To date, ‘reviews’ and revisions have ignored these arguments and observations as well as sidestepped deeper questions about Prevent’s true purpose. Instead, they have helped deepen the insidious entrenchment of a policy that is increasingly unwelcome in Britain. 

Why we must boycott the review

Several independent voices have admirably called out Prevent for what it is: “a framework focused overwhelmingly on surveillance, censorship and ‘strategic communications’”. In other words, a façade whose core purpose is the maintenance of a select elite’s powerbase.

While external critics are acutely aware of Prevent’s inherently discriminatory basis and its long term damage to British society, it took the appointment of Shawcross for many to unite in a boycott of the review. However, many have yet to cultivate the required degree of scepticism with regards to the theatrical nature of all Prevent ‘reviews’, not just those led by Carlile or Shawcross, and thus do not appreciate the danger that endorsing any such spectacle poses.

To make a boycott of the review a reality, justified outrage at Shawcross’s appointment must focus on the fact this review is an attempt to bolster a dying but nonetheless aggressive ideology of the ‘old Britain’. Critics must strive to convince the public that a vision of ‘current Britain’ or ‘new Britain’ is not only better, but that it can more than adequately hold its own, with no need for Prevent or counter-extremism. To achieve this, we must be united in our uncompromising call for disengagement from this ‘review’ charade, and to demand nothing less than Prevent’s abolishment.

Categories: news

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