The Right to Think Dangerous Thoughts

Pic: Felipe Micaroni Lalle

Gabe Rottman writes at the ACLU’s Blog of Rights:

Earlier this month, the White House blogged about its commitment to empower “members of the public to protect themselves against the full range of online threats, including online radicalization to violence,” and announced the creation of a new interagency working group for that purpose. The working group will coordinate the government’s efforts and develop plans—alongside private industry—to “implement an Internet safety approach to address online extremism.”

The White House initiative raises a basic question: Is it appropriate for the government (in cahoots with private industry) to repurpose programs that, for instance, urge consumers to install anti-virus software and protect their credit card information into something that warns them against “bad” ideas?

My colleagues Mike German and Dena Sher have written at length about how “radicalization” models assume, falsely, that you can predict future violence from present sympathies for “radical” or “extreme” beliefs. As they point out, numerous studies have shown that (1) there is no simple link between the adoption of an ideology and violent action; and (2) that it’s exceedingly difficult to craft a coherent model of the kinds of ideologies or beliefs that could be expected to lead to violence (largely because of the manifold and ever-shifting nature of ideas themselves).

By ignoring these studies, efforts to identify a “radicalization” process focus on normal, everyday speech and association, generally with an ethnic or religious flavor. They do so because the whole purpose of a radicalization model is to provide a non-psychic “minority report“—a way to see into the future under the false presumption that thoughts lead directly to action. So, mosques, hookah bars and book stores become alleged “terrorist incubators.” Wearing Islamic clothes, growing a beard, joining community groups all become supposed indicators of future terrorist activity—even though thousands of people do these things and never commit a single criminal or violent act.

Dollars to donuts, the same thing is going to happen here. The White House announced that the federal consumer protection portal OnGuard Online as well as the Department of Homeland Security’s website titled “countering violent extremism” (which the government refers to by the catchy acronym “CVE”) would begin carrying precautionary “CVE information.” Crucially, even though CVE includes the word “violent,” the initiative has little to do with stopping actual conduct, and much more to do with urging the public to be alert for and report purely expressive or associational activity. The White House also announced that it will work with industry to adapt internet safety measures that help prevent fraud and identity theft to likewise address “online extremism”—whatever that means. There is no detail on what information will be posted to the government’s sites, or how these industry partnerships would work.

Read more here.

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22 Responses to The Right to Think Dangerous Thoughts

  1. x.input__invalid March 3, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    their attempts to prevent radicalization make me want to become more radicalized.

  2. Ted Heistman March 3, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    God, I fucking hate this guy. Who the fuck do you vote for when a Black democrat ends up like this? You had the old dinosaur, Ron Paul, a right wing whack job-Romney and this guy. Its like no one represents basic constitutional freedoms. I mean i don’t really think getting rid of the IRS and the Federal Reserve is really that important compared to stuff like this. I mean that shouldn’t keep shocking me that this point. But it still is shocking. Its like WTF? Are serious? Its like suddenly I wake up and feel really alone. This is like a normal value for me, that you should be able to read radical shit, examine radical ideas.

    Its not a basic value for large swaths of thinking people? I thought everyone besides fundamentalists were on board with that?

    Maybe I should live in some Libertarian Sea colony in the Ocean. Or maybe this is good. Maybe this will make dangerous ideas even more dangerous. But, man, this is just so surreal, following Obamas policies.

    The best think I can hope for is that Obama will help destroy the left right paradigm, yet it almost seems like if he suddenly called for public executions or some thing,most Democrats still wouldn’t bat an eye.

    • Andrew March 3, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

      It’s almost like taxation without representation or something.

      • Ted Heistman March 3, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

        Its Censorship and a Official Department of Government Propaganda, “Reeducation” things like that.

    • howiebledsoe March 3, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

      He’s not a true democrat, only part African, and is in the pocket of our corporate masters, just like every single goddamned politician in the game.

    • alizardx March 3, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

      If a political movement demands that I publicly endorse absurdity that is in opposition to that movement’s stated goals that I actually support, I’m out of there. That’s why I no longer identify as “liberal”, “progressive”, or even “left”.

      Peel past nominal ideology in US and most 1st World countries of today and all you’ll find is neoliberal political centrism, the notion that the only legitimate purpose of government is enabling upward transfer of wealth. Bi-partisan support for legalized tax evasion for the wealthy and attacks on civil liberties for those who effectively oppose the consensus of the top .01% is only where all this starts.

      That is the only real political viewpoint of elected Democrats or Republican and the only one represented by the legacy media owned by the people on the receiving end of the transfer.

    • Juan March 3, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

      Yeah, I feel your pain, man. Talk about a mind fuck . . . A few months into 09, after I started coming down from my rush of schadenfreude, from watching all the rednecks shitting themselves with impotent rage over a black man in the white house, I started to feel like Charlie Brown getting suckered into trying to kick that damn football, one more time; never again.
      Obama is a TOOL of the military industrial complex, same as the two shrubs, Clinton, Raygun etc.
      I just kinda feel like a sucker for briefly thinking he was anything other than just a slick front man for the imperial machine.
      As has been stated here many times in many different ways, the left right paradigm, in US politics is a joke, a non-choice between two puppet whores funded and thereby controlled by the same people. The differences between them are mostly rhetorical and superficial and designed to give the zombie hordes the illusion of choice.
      Even Cornell West has called bullshit on Barry.

    • Juan March 3, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

      Yeah, I feel your pain, man. Talk about a mind fuck . . . A few months into 09, after I started coming down from my rush of schadenfreude, from watching all the rednecks shitting themselves with impotent rage over a black man in the white house, I started to feel like Charlie Brown getting suckered into trying to kick that damn football, one more time; never again.
      Obama is a TOOL of the military industrial complex, same as the two shrubs, Clinton, Raygun etc.
      I just kinda feel like a sucker for briefly thinking he was anything other than just a slick front man for the imperial machine.
      As has been stated here many times in many different ways, the left right paradigm, in US politics is a joke, a non-choice between two puppet whores funded and thereby controlled by the same people. The differences between them are mostly rhetorical and superficial and designed to give the zombie hordes the illusion of choice.
      Even Cornell West has called bullshit on Barry.

      • Ted Heistman March 3, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

        Charlie Brown LOL! Good analogy.Yeah, the best thing that can happen is that it will wake people up to the reality (assuming most people are noticing) of the rigged game.

      • Ted Heistman March 3, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

        Charlie Brown LOL! Good analogy.Yeah, the best thing that can happen is that it will wake people up to the reality (assuming most people are noticing) of the rigged game.

    • kowalityjesus March 4, 2013 at 1:12 am #

      he may have been a whack job but he was more on the money than those other oligarchs. (mind you of the tribe of satan)

      • Ted Heistman March 4, 2013 at 10:24 am #

        who Ron Paul or Romney? I meant Romney was the whack job. Ron Paul was the Dinosaur, and I just don’t think getting rid of the IRS and the Fed were realistic goals and even the most pressing.

        • kowalityjesus March 4, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

          They didn’t need to be realistic because they weren’t constitutionally granted powers for the president to determine, and would not have been implemented. I would like to think that Paul would have created a power vacuum in the executive branch more than anything else. He is the most desirable type of leader, one who DOES NOT want power, but rather to serve.

    • mannyfurious March 4, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

      I mean, it goes both ways. I have a friend whose intellect I (used to) respect, even though he’s a conservative, and he refuses to deny that Obama is a socialist. He honestly believes Obama is a left-wing extremist.

      Then, the other day, I found myself in a discussion with some friends, all of whom are “liberal” and they were defending Obama’s drone attacks. It’s absurd. If it were Dubya, these people would be all over it.

      Anyhow, the paradigm is not going away any time soon, unfortunately.

  3. "Big" Richard Johnson March 3, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    Bookstores are terrorist hot spots? Where am I supposed to buy books without being turned into a terrorist/killed by a drone?!

    Oh god! Theres a bookstore at my college!

    • Calypso_1 March 3, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

      What did you think those RFID chips in books were really for?

    • BuzzCoastin March 4, 2013 at 12:56 am #

      what’s a bookstore?
      buy books? aren’t all the good ones free?

      college, bookstore, buying
      these are very old outmoded ideas

  4. BuzzCoastin March 3, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

    Big Bizmess, Big Religion & their lapdog Big Government
    have had control of information for thousands of years
    it’s always been illegal to have and express dangerous thoughts
    and the possibility of those dangerous thoughts being widely disseminated was slight
    until the Internet
    the challenge for them is to put the genie back in the bottle
    DARPA never saw this coming
    but the designers of the Internet did
    and that’s what Net Neutrality is all about
    making sure the Oligarchy losses control of information

    • kowalityjesus March 4, 2013 at 12:42 am #

      yuo rock. perspicacity, we are the modern outlaws. and holy fuck disinformation is the #1 countermeasure (and its a weak countermeasure to those with a good bullshit detector and ein weit gehirn)

    • kowalityjesus March 4, 2013 at 12:42 am #

      yuo rock. perspicacity, we are the modern outlaws. and holy fuck disinformation is the #1 countermeasure (and its a weak countermeasure to those with a good bullshit detector and ein weit gehirn)

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