The Swamp logo

Preventing Violent Extremism

by The Clarkbar84 3 months ago in how to
Report Story

Within The United States

Preventing Violent Extremism
Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

Preventing Violent Extremism Within the United States

Violent extremism threats have been part of the United States history since its flag was first planted. There have been domestic terrorist organizations such as neo-Nazi groups to anti-Semitic hate groups, and now international terrorist organizations have begun to recruit, radicalize, causing United States citizens to indulge in acts of terrorism.

Between August and December 2011, President Obama and his White House administration team created a Strategic Implementation Plan to address homegrown violent extremists and ways to prevent or counter domestic terrorist attacks from happening. This plan was an overarching program with federal, state, and local law enforcement and was designed much like a neighborhood watch. The idea was that the federal government could not combat al-Qaida ideology alone. Individuals in the local communities would be in the best position to see if terrorism was happening in their hometowns (Obama, 2011).

One of the other issues that arise when attempting to counter-extremism groups is dealing with the news media and social media aspects. The symbiotic relationship that terrorism and the news media share allow terrorist to broadcast their attacks to the entire world. Terrorists know and use this news broadcasting tactic to gain publicity, which acts as a recruiting tool and encourages other terrorists to incite violence to grab the spotlight (Whitehead, 2013).

Terrorists also use social media as a recruiting tool; for instance, the terrorist organization ISIS uses social media marketing to reach out and expand its operations beyond the Middle East and into the West. ISIS does this by using social media to target recruitment, intimidated coordinate attacks, and release propaganda; at one point and time, ISIS was tweeting 40,000 tweets a day under the hashtag “#AllEyesonISIS” (Tofan, 2021)

The thesis of this paper will address the Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States (SIP). This will be done by giving an overview of the strategy and analysis if anything should be added or reinforced to combat right-wing, left-wing/anarchist (Antifa), and Jihadi homegrown threats. This paper will also discuss how news and social media relationships aid terrorism and suggest how to reduce media use to aid in counterterrorism strategies.

Strategic Implementation Plan Overview

In August 2011, the SIP was created as a community-based approach to counterterrorism. The SIP goals were to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from gaining financing, recruiting more followers, preventing plans for committing acts of violence, and having the Federal Government aid local communities. This would be completed by focusing on the following objectives: increasing federal engagement in communities that may be targeted, building expertise with local government and law enforcement to prevent violent extremism, and finally countering extremist propaganda while promoting our government ideals (Executive Office of the President of the United States, 2011).

The United States Government implements this strategy by using a Whole-of-Government coordination approach, utilizing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to execute the programs within the SIP. These agencies are responsible for leading activities and fostering communication and collaboration with local partners while providing the resources needed to complete the given activities to meet the SIP objectives (Executive Office of the President of the United States, 2011).

The Federal agencies engage communities by discussing civil rights, counterterrorism security measures, and addressing other community concerns. The goal is to raise awareness of violent extremism and facilitate partnerships to prevent radicalization. DHS has done this by doubling its community outreach, while the DOJ has produced brochures about civil rights protections and ways to prevent discrimination. DOJ and DHS have also expanded the Building Communities of Trust (BCOT) program to focus on developing relationships within fusion centers and local law enforcement.

While working within communities, the Federal Government builds partnerships with local government and law enforcement partners to educate and understand violent extremism, which is done through an analytic program consisting of think tanks with foreign governments, DHS Science & Technology (S&T), DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A), FBI, Office of the Director of National Intelligence (NCTC). The program aids in understanding violent extremism, learning gaps that need to be addressed, and focusing on five areas: The roles of the internet in radicalization and how to counter it, lone wolves, disengagement of terrorism, non-al-Qaida radicalization, and indicators of extremist violence within the United States (Executive Office of the President of the United States, 2011).

The final objective within the SRP is to counter the terrorist ideologies and show that the United States values are about freedom, equality, hope, and opportunities. In hopes that the United States values will empower communities and develop alternatives to terrorist organizations' narratives. NCTC has focused on undermining violent extremist narratives by creating Community Awareness Briefing (CAB), informing Americans about al-Qaida recruitment efforts. It also facilitates discussions between the government and communities on how to counter violent extremism and its narratives (Executive Office of the President of the United States, 2011).

Meta-analysis

Upon initial analysis of the SIP, the strategies are a good framework for starting a campaign against countering homegrown terrorism. The goal of having an overarching neighborhood watch that works in conjunction with local law enforcement and fusion centers would give the idea that the more involved, the less radicalization would occur and give those individuals a sense of pride within their own country.

This SIP was written in 2011, and it was revised in October 2016, stating, "Violent extremism is a persistent and dangerous problem in the United States" (Executive Office of the President, 2016). The newest SIP did a review in 2015 and focused on four key areas, one of which was engagement within the communities. It was found that the narrative portrays a "us" vs. "them" mentality and that a regular roundtable would need to happen to face the challenges in those jurisdictions. It was also found that the programs were full-time jobs and required engagement across multiple issues, which increase the support would be needed, and not enough workforce (Executive Office of the President, 2016).

DHS added a department in April 2019 designed for targeted violence; this office works with the local neighborhoods to unite against targeted violence and terrorism. Their department widened the scope of operations and provided technical, financial, and educational assistance to expand prevention frameworks and prevent individuals from radicalizing. The Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (OTVTP) does this by providing a framework of public awareness, community engagement, threat assessment, and management, and support services such as after-school groups, mentoring, and counseling (DHS, 2021).

What looks good on paper, however, does not always translate well when facing factual issues; according to the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) in June 2020 stated, "The United States faces a growing terrorism problem that will likely worsen over the next year." (Harrington, 2020) This report analyzed data from January 1994 to May 2020 with over 893 terrorist plots or attacks that have occurred in the United States and had found that far-right terrorism was worse than any of the other perpetrators (Harrington, 2020).

Right-wing terrorism refers to anti-democratic and is associated with racism, authoritarianism, and xenophobia. Normally as neo-Nazism or neo-fascism (Segers, 2020). Right-wing extremists quadrupled in the United States between the years 2016 and 2017. Factors that contribute to this are the internet and social media, which have allowed them to issue propaganda, coordinate training, and organize travel (Jones, 2018).

While far-left extremism within the United States reaches into the ideology of correcting injustice, they have had groups such as Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Earth Liberation Front (ELF). Currently, the Far-left extremism group is labeled Antifa; it is considered that they embraced anarchism or the rejection of authority. The far left opposes state oppression and believes that a stronger government would lean towards a police state or fascism (Counter Extremism Project, 2020). However, the FBI states that Antifa is more of an ideology than an organization (Tucker, 2020). Which has become an issue because multiple groups in the United States affiliate with the ideology of Antifa, and they do not have an organized relationship, leadership structure, or shared tactics (Counter Extremism Project, 2020).

Referring to the SIP written in 2011 and revised in 2016 during this timeframe, domestic terrorists within the United States have caused more deaths in the homeland than foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) (McAleenan, 2019). This would lead to the belief that while the SIP is a good program, it should be reinforced on various fronts, one being more community outreach programs increasing the ideologies of the United States with open communications within the communities.

Within the United States, individuals feel that they are being lied to using the media or that shady politics are happening, and social injustice is occurring. One idea is to reach into High schools within troubled areas that display violent extremism and give briefings or community programs that help make people feel like they belong. One of the significant issues with terrorist groups is the ability to recruit by giving the idea of belonging to something bigger or fighting for a cause. With the United States in turmoil due to the pandemic, conspiracy theories about election fraud, and most people not knowing what to believe, FTOs would have prime time to increase recruitment efforts.

Therefore, an overview of the SIP should also be given; however, it has innovative ideas; those ideas seem to only stick to areas where violent extremism has occurred. Nor do they reach out to the small towns or areas with less population. In contrast, the internet reaches across big cities to the family living out in the woods. This would require an increase in staffing or restructuring of smaller programs to increase the workload.

Overall, the SIP is a very comprehensive strategy that should also be a living document and reinforced over time to meet the goals; a yearly assessment should be conducted to see what is working and where and if the program needs to be expanded on with the changing of times. One of those changes could be how terrorism is displayed within the news media setting.

Terrorism and Media Relationship

One of the more complicated methods that the SIP would need to address is the way media reports on terrorism attacks. The issue is how to deal with news media and social media while staying within the rules of law and the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. The Supreme Court has stated that the First Amendment protects freedom of speech but does not protect violence. When speech promotes violence, it can form tension on liberties and security (Killion, 2019).

When it comes to the news media, it is not technically promoting violence but reporting on what FTOs have done. However, in the last twenty-five years of coverings the "War on Terror," 1197 journalists have been killed (Rudoy, 2017) which was just up till 2016. The media helps the terrorist organization claim responsibility for their attacks; it does not find them guilty; by allowing these terrorist groups to claim attacks, it strengthens their causes without them lifting a finger.

Some ways that news media can stop the spread of terrorist messaging is only reporting the story once or dropping the story into the RSS feed of the news broadcast; the media should also stick to the wording that the government provides when dealing with terrorism. Instead of referring to them as freedom fighters or soldiers fighting for a cause, they should label the organization as a terrorist organization if it has been identified as one. If the news is remaining neutral when discussing an FTO, then individuals may start to believe in their cause or sympathize with the terrorists.

As for social media, FTOs use these platforms to send their messages to the world for recruitment and to gather support for their causes. For example, ISIS has telegram channels in multiple languages and has used these to maintain followers; during its territorial losses in 2017, its scope and reach on social media were among its primary outreaches when maintaining power. The RAND corporation noted that ISIS used Twitter, Telegram, and online propaganda to recruit, radicalize and conduct attacks in Africa. This is just an example of how social media helps keep these terrorist organizations with followers (Ward, 2018).

The Federal Government has attempted to restrict these sites, stating that acts of terrorism pose a clear and present danger during a war. Therefore, social media companies should assist in removing pro-terrorist posts from websites (Haughorn, 2016). Some of the ways that social media can aid the Federal Government in removing terrorist posts or sites would be addressing the hate detection tools that monitor violent images or violent videos and flag them for review. Enabling easier takedowns when it comes to content moderators and having a standard of operations for what would be considered terrorist actions. Another step could be limiting the ability of the user to share content across platforms. This would mean that a video could be sent to other social media platforms, but only once or twice; this would force it so the user could not mass spam videos or posts. Finally, social media platforms could form a shared database that meets the same criteria for pro-terrorist posts; that way, when it is flagged on one account, it can also be flagged across the board.

Conclusion

The United States will always have to deal with both domestic and foreign threats; rather, it is violent extremist groups committing homegrown terrorism or FTOs attempting to radicalize more followers to their cause. The Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States (SIP) is a great strategy to bring all levels of government and local communities together and thrive for safety and a better America.

Though the SIP has innovated ideas and sets the framework, it needs to be constantly reinforced and reviewed to make sure that it is working effectively. With the rise of the right- and left-wing extremism happening in the United States, it is now crucial to ensure that outreach programs are in place and proper ideologies of the United States are being shown. Not only does the SIP need to set the groundwork and improve on its goals by increasing the workforce and reaching out to other communities. Nevertheless, news and social media networks can aid in the fight by reducing the amount of airtime, keeping the same verbiage, and blocking or limiting what the terrorist groups post on the internet. Over time and with clear communication, this should reduce the violent attacks against the nation and prevent individuals from seeking FTOs or other organizations to fill a void that they are missing in their lives and once again be proud to be an American.

References

Counter Extremism Project. (2020). U.S. Far-Left Groups. Counter Extremism Project.

DHS. (2021, March 17). Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention. Retrieved from Homeland Security: https://www.dhs.gov/tvtp

Executive Office of the President. (2016). Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States. Washington DC: White House.

Executive Office of the President of the United States. (2011). Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States. Washington DC: White House.

Harrington, N. (2020). The Escalating Terrorism Problem in the United States. CSIS.

Haughorn, J. (2016, November 16). Combatting terrorism in a Digital Age: First Amendment implications. Retrieved from Freedom Forum Institute: https://www.freedomforuminstitute.org/first-amendment-center/topics/freedom-of-speech-2/internet-first-amendment/combatting-terrorism-in-a-digital-age-first-amendment-implications/

Jones, S. (2018). The Rise of Far-Right Extremism in the United States. CSIS.

Killion, V. (2019). Terrorism, Violent Extremism, and the Internet: Free Speech Considerations. Congressional Research Service.

McAleenan, K. (2019). Department of Homeland Security Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism and Targeted Violence. Homeland Security.

Obama, B. (2011). Empowering Local partners to prevent violent extremism in the United States. Washington DC: White House.

Rudoy, M. (2017, December 6). The Media Must Stop Encouraging Terrorists. Retrieved from Huffpost: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-media-must-stop-encou_b_11043326

Segers, I. (2020, August 31). What is right-wing extremism? Retrieved from C-Rex Center for Research on Extremism: https://www.sv.uio.no/c-rex/english/groups/compendium/what-is-right-wing-extremism.html

Tofan, D. (2021, January 14). Terrorism and Social Media. Retrieved from Humanity Upgrade Magazine: https://education.humanity-upgrade.com/terrorism-and-social-media/

Tucker, E. (2020, September 17). FBI Director Says Antifa Is an Ideology, Not an Organization. Retrieved from U.S. News: https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2020-09-17/fbi-director-says-antifa-is-an-ideology-not-an-organization

Ward, A. (2018, December 11). ISIS's Use of Social Media Still Poses a Threat to Stability in the Middle East and Africa. Retrieved from The Rand Corporation: https://www.rand.org/blog/2018/12/isiss-use-of-social-media-still-poses-a-threat-to-stability.html

Whitehead, J. (2013, April 18). Terrorism and the Media: A Symbiotic Relationship. Retrieved from The Rutherford Institute: https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/john_whiteheads_commentary/terrorism_and_the_media_a_symbiotic_relationship

how to

About the author

The Clarkbar84

My mind has stories forming all the time; they tend to get wrapped up in life and never on paper. My works are scattered within real life.

Find me:

Kindle Stories: https://www.amazon.com/author/hunteralex

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights

Comments

There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2022 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.