Can Trump’s Hard-Core Fans Be Deradicalized?

Interesting question and framing:

President Donald Trump’s rally in Greenville, North Carolina, this week made scholars of fascism sit bolt upright. Trump spouted racist conspiracy theories about Somali-American Rep. Ilhan Omar to his fans, who chanted “Send her back!”

Trump has long stoked bigoted grievances among his followers, but the Greenville rally saw him act as a more overt radicalizer than ever before. And with a portion of Trump’s fanbase now openly clamoring for the physical removal of several prominent Democrats of color, experts are questioning whether the country can repair the damage—even if Trump loses in 2020.

“He’s always embodied these sentiments,” Zoé Samudzi, author of As Black As Resistance and a scholar studying genocide said. “But I do feel like there’s a feedback loop: he’s both animated by and responsive to the base that is eager to discipline a black Muslim immigrant woman. His long held racial animus fuels his supporters (who never need permission for their virulent racism but are emboldened by him all the same), and their enthusiasm energizes the president who in turn keeps ratcheting up his rhetoric.”

While extreme actions like the “send her back!” chant, and the presence of fringe conspiracy theorists have drawn attention to his rallies, it’s unclear how many of his supporters subscribe to those individual beliefs.

“Some people might be there because they genuinely believe in this ideology,” said Mary Beth Altier, an assistant professor at New York University specializing in radicalization. “Some may be questioning those beliefs. They’re toying with them, and they go because a friend brought them or they think it’d be cool to go. They go and get swept up. People start chanting, are you going to be the only one standing there not chanting?”

Wednesday night’s “send her back!” chant followed similar rhetoric by Trump directed at Omar and fellow lawmakers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib. All four are freshman congresswomen of color, who have broken with Democratic House leadership to promote a more progressive agenda, in part over wanting to confront Trump more aggressively.

In a series of Monday tweets, Trump laid the groundwork for Wednesday’s “send her back!” chant.

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” Trump tweeted of the four congresswomen. “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough.”

Though the tweets were indistinguishable from white nationalist talking points (and all but one of the congresswomen were born in the U.S.), Trump’s popularity with Republicans spiked after his racist tweets, a Reuters poll this week showed. It’s possible very little will bother his most devoted fans, Janja Lalich, a professor studying cults and totalitarian leadership, said.

“There’s this intense devotion and the inability to question or criticize or doubt,” Lalich told The Daily Beast.

“They seem to be in a state of what we call cognitive dissonance, where what they believe doesn’t match reality,” she said. “People in that state tend to cling to their beliefs over reality. They dig themselves even deeper. I think the things we see at the rallies, where people get into these cheers and adore everything he says, is very typical of what we see in run-of-the-mill cults. There’s what we might call blind obedience or blind followership.”

Trump’s rallies offer a strong sense of community for fans. That’s critical to the people chanting for Omar’s removal, said David Neiwert, author of Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right.

Neiwert defines eliminationism as a community-based mentality that promotes “purity” by demonizing its opponents and demanding they be purged from society.

“What they’re doing is participating in a community of hate. This is actually key to a lot of its power and its attraction. It’s almost ritualized,” he told The Daily Beast. “This is how hate crimes work. Hate crimes are always message crimes directed at targets who are seen as corrupting influences and bad for the community. Hate-crime perpetrators see themselves as defending their communities while doing it. There’s always a communal aspect to this. It’s very much the mob.”

Lalich offered a similar perspective.

“Having an us-versus-them mentality is what keeps people strong in their beliefs,” she said. “It creates paranoia, it creates a kind of fighting atmosphere. That kind of mentality is one we typically see. By feeding into that, the leader creates a separation. It also creates a sense of elitism and specialness.”

Trump’s rhetoric has already inspired violent attacks. During a March 2016 rally, Trump asked fans to eject protesters, calling on them to “get ‘em out of here.” Matt Heimbach, a neo-Nazi who was later instrumental in 2017’s deadly white supremacist rally in Charlotteville, complied, assaulting a black protester. In October, a Florida man sent 16 pipe bombs to politicians, news outlets, and public figures who have been critical of Trump. The bomber had attended Trump rallies and described them as “like a new found drug.” Trump’s election has coincided with a marked spike in hate crimes, and a rise in overt white supremacist action.

Trump’s attacks on the four congresswomen are an extension of the racist appeals he made to voters during his first campaign.

“The language about the congresswomen fits into nativist language around a racial purity of citizenship, and inherent to that is an idea of ethnic cleansing either through deportation policies, restrictions on entry, or violence against racialized communities,” Samudzi said.

“The problem isn’t simply that three of the four women are US-born: the problem is the insinuation that there is an idea of birthright citizenship that could be revoked (as well as the de-naturalization of citizenship) in an attempt to actualize a vision of a white America.”

Experts who help people escape intense groups like cults or hate movements say dialogue with people outside the movement can help deradicalize adherents.

Christian Picciolini, a former white supremacist who now helps extremists leave hate groups, said his method involves talking and identifying sources of grief and trauma that might underlay hate.

“I listen for those potholes that detoured their life’s journey and then try to fill (repair) them,” he told The Daily Beast via email.

Lalich cited the case of Derek Black, the son of a prominent white nationalist, as an example of how deradicalization can sometimes works.

“What seems to have worked is really just engaging in dialogue, individual by individual,” she said. Black renounced white supremacy after going to college and meeting people of differing viewpoints.

But some of Trump’s most die-hard fans might be removed from dissenting opinions, Altier said.

“Establishing alternative social bonds and networks where they can interact with people with other views” could help, she said, but “we’re not seeing that on social media. We’re seeing more polarization in society on both sides.”

Instead, dedicated fans might turn inward, engaging with more pro-Trump communities.

“I don’t listen to Fox, I don’t listen to CNN. I don’t listen to any of ’em,” Allicyn Steverson, a Florida teacher told HuffPost at the Wednesday rally. “I listen to Trump’s tweets and his QAnons.” (QAnon is a deranged online conspiracy theory that accuses Trump’s opponents of sexually abusing and sometimes eating children.)

A choose-your-own reality media environment might keep people from challenging their beliefs, Lalich said.

“Because people are so divided right now, those folks are mainly watching Fox and listening to Alex Jones,” she said. “They’re not going to get any kind of education that might tap into their critical thinking. That’s what works when we try to do exit intervention: we try to reawaken the person’s critical thinking and get them to see the reality of who their leader is and what their beliefs are. In this case, because this is on a national level, we’ve never quite experienced this before in our country. I think any kind of public education would be very difficult.”

Picciolini stressed that outright confrontation over bigoted beliefs might not help a person abandon them.

“Ideology is usually formed, or led to, by trauma or grievance. If we continue to confront ideology by trying to change it, we will fail,” Picciolini said. “We must instead focus on repairing the motivations that lead to hate-and they are seldom someone else’s skin color or religion. Self-hatred or uncertainty lead to hate. Let’s fix that.”

Altier also cautioned that some Trump supporters might act out should his rallies stop.

“While people saying these things is awful and they may radicalize other people, if we quash their ability to say them, my research shows they may become more violent because they can’t express those grievances. It’s a catch-22,” she said.

And even if Trump leaves office, it’s no guarantee that Trumpism will end. “I think it’s only going to intensify,” Neiwert said, citing fears that Trump would not lead a peaceful transition.

It’s a concern Lalich shares. “I think he can still remain their leader. He doesn’t need to have office,” she said.

“He’s already threatened that it’s going to be rigged and that his people will rise up. I think that’s not going to change very much because he has reawakened such hatred in this country.”

Source: Can Trump’s Hard-Core Fans Be Deradicalized?

5 Takeaways About The Trump Administration’s Response To Far-Right Extremism

Of note:

Lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee questioned senior FBI and Homeland Security officials this week about their response to white supremacist violence.

This was the latest in a series of hearings, led by Democrats, to gauge the Trump administration’s commitment to fighting a threat that federal agencies deem the most lethal and active form of domestic extremism.

There were no bombshell revelations, but lawmakers did get a few details on some key questions.

Here are five takeaways:

There is no national policy to combat the far-right threat

Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Maryland Democrat who led the hearing, started by asking what he called the fundamental question: “Do we have an overall strategic plan to counter and prevent the threat of white supremacist violence? I fear the answer is no.”

Raskin was right. After more than two hours of questioning, it was clear that, unlike the government’s quick and sweeping response to Islamist militant groups, there’s no comparable national strategy to fight white supremacist and other far-right movements.

Elizabeth Neumann, a senior threat prevention official at Homeland Security, told lawmakers that federal authorities were still adapting to the evolution of both far-right and Islamist extremists: They now self-radicalize online, with little or no direction from organized groups like al-Qaida, which had a clear hierarchy and staged attacks that took months or years to plan.

“Our post-9/11 prevention capabilities, as robust as they are, were not designed to deal with this type of threat,” Neumann said.

She said Homeland Security was developing “a prevention framework” to be implemented in coming years, but she offered no details. Raskin, the lawmaker, said it was “very late in the game” to still be in the development stage of a national strategy, given the deadly far-right attacks in Charleston, S.C., Pittsburgh, Charlottesville, Va. and elsewhere.

Neumann said the delay is partly because “things haven’t been institutionalized” through legislation, an executive order or a national security presidential memorandum focused on domestic terrorism. She noted that the Obama administration also lacked those tools.

“We know we’re not doing enough,” Neumann said.

Federal agents do take this seriously – even if the White House doesn’t

President Donald Trump consistently downplays the threat of white nationalist extremism, which he’s dismissed as “a small group of people.”

Michael McGarrity, assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division, bristled when lawmakers suggested that, given the apparent disinterest from the top, federal authorities might not be taking the far-right threat seriously enough. McGarrity bluntly stated, more than once, that racially motivated violent extremists are the deadliest and most active of domestic terrorists.

“We’re not playing with the numbers here,” McGarrity said. “We arrest more domestic terrorism subjects [before they stage an] attack in the United States than we do international terrorism.”

He said the FBI is using many of the same tactics historically used to thwart international groups like the Islamic State: working sources, staging undercover operations and asking courts to authorize wiretaps. McGarrity added that the FBI considers racially motivated extremists a transnational threat, and that the agency shares intelligence with counterterrorism partners overseas.

Homeland Security won’t say much about its prevention effort

In 2015, Homeland Security opened a small office devoted to an approach known as “CVE,” countering violent extremism. The idea is to use community partnerships and other tools to interrupt the radicalization process before it turns to violence. Critics call it ineffective, and say it leads to the stigmatization and surveillance of ordinary Muslims.

Under the Trump administration, the CVE-focused office lost about 90 percent of its old budget and about half its staff, and it’s been renamed twice to signal a shift away from community partnership work. (Some Muslim activists joke that scrapping CVE was the only Trump administration move they supported.)

But it might be premature to declare the government’s CVE program dead. Neumann said CVE-style prevention work will be part of a broad counterterrorism strategy that Homeland Security plans to have ready by this fall. But she gave few details about the program or what’s going on with the restructured office that’s supposed to handle it.

“There’s still more questions than answers at this point,” Raskin complained. “What are the office’s precise functions? Who’s in charge? How many personnel will be assigned to prevent white supremacy violence?”

Debate is heating up over a domestic terrorism law

If a U.S.-based suspect is accused of involvement with an international terrorist organization such as ISIS or al-Qaida, prosecutors have an array of charges to consider that aren’t available for most cases involving white supremacist suspects.

Without a domestic terrorism statute, said McGarrity of the FBI, authorities are restricted as to how much they can police speech and conduct that’s offensive, but protected under the First Amendment.

“The FBI does not investigate rallies or protests unless there’s a credible belief that violent criminal activity may be occurring,” he said.

In some quarters of Congress, support is building for a domestic terrorism statute, ostensibly to correct the double standard in extremist prosecutions. But several rights groups already have rejected the idea, arguing that enforcing existing laws is better than giving even more power to federal authorities.

This debate is one to watch in coming months.

It’s official: Black Identity Extremism is no longer a thing

In the early months of the Trump administration, a leaked FBI report warned about a new kind of homegrown threat: black identity extremists.

The warning reportedly came after six unrelated attacks on police around the country; the FBI portrayed the threat as “an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement” by people with “perceptions of police brutality against African Americans.”

The claim was widely endorsed by conservative news media outlets but viewed with equally widespread skepticism as a move reminiscent of the FBI’s demonization of black activists in the civil rights era.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a Democrat from Massachusetts, asked McGarrity if there’s a single killing the FBI could link to Black Lives Matter or similar activist groups. McGarrity’s reply: “To my knowledge, right now, no.”

Pressley continued her attack on “this absurd designation” until McGarrity divulged that the category had been retired at the FBI.

“The designation no longer exists?” Pressley asked, sounding skeptical.

“It hasn’t existed since I’ve been here for 17 months,” McGarrity answered.

To recap: The FBI created a new category of threat and two years later quietly abandoned it without explanation.

Source: 5 Takeaways About The Trump Administration’s Response To Far-Right Extremism

What right-wing violent extremists and jihadists have in common

Seeing more and more articles outlining the similarities and the differences between the two forms of extremism:

The parallels between the extreme ideologies of the violent far right and the global jihadist fringe are too striking to ignore. Both believe that they are in a cosmic war between good and evil. Both look back to an imagined glorious past that has been derailed by an imagined inglorious present. Both think that their way of life is under existential threat and that only extreme violence can save their souls. Both want to polarize and create division. Both want to make their respective tribes great again, even if it means the genocidal destruction of other tribes. And both believe that the media can be weaponized to serve their aims.

Just as striking, however, are the parallels between the psychological profiles of those who adhere to these two opposing, yet structurally similar, ideologies.

Anyone who has ever met and engaged an extremist in conversation feels this in their bones. It is the trenchancy with which your interlocutor articulates his views. It is his unwillingness to listen to the other side of the argument. It is his cast-iron certainty that he is right and you are wrong. It is his conviction that the end justifies any and all means.

Drawing on a large body of research in political psychology, sociologists Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog note that individuals on the violent far right exhibit a number of distinct psychological traits. One is a proneness to be easily disgusted: a special sensitivity to objects that are felt to be polluting or corrupting. Another trait is the need for closure: that is, “a preference for order, structure and certainties.” A third trait is a “rigid in-group preference,” and a fourth is “simplism,” which is “a penchant to seek simple and unambiguous explanations of the social world and its ills.”

People with left-wing views, by contrast, according Gambetta and Hertog, are more likely to be tolerant of disorder, uncertainty and complexity.

Because so little is publicly known about the perpetrator of the Christchurch massacre, it is hard to be sure whether he fits into Gambetta and Hertog’s profile of a right-wing extremist. But the 74-page manifesto he uploaded to the internet before his rampage certainly provides some suggestive evidence of a fit. The manifesto, titled “The Great Replacement,” is saturated in irony and booby-trapped with false-flags. But it also expresses beliefs, sentiments and anxieties that are clearly genuinely felt and that cast a sharp light on the mindset of the person who wrote it.

There is much disgust expressed in the document, all of it aimed at non-white “invaders,” particularly Muslims, who are reviled as dirty and contaminating. Cities are particularly distasteful to its author: sewers of “cultural filth.” Turkish people are dehumanized as “roaches,” while “Antifa/Marxists/Communists” are castigated in hollering capitalizations as “ANTI-WHITE SCUM.”

Sex isn’t a big theme in the manifesto, but a few stringent paragraphs are devoted to the sexual defilement of “European Women.” In a reference to the Rotherham child sexual abuse case, in which seven Pakistani-British men were found guilty of grooming young girls, the author of the manifesto writes, “Rotherham is just one of an ongoing trend of rape and molestation perpetrated by these non-white scum.”

The manifesto also reveals a mind fixated on in-group/out-group distinctions. These are rigidly hierarchical. At the top of the hierarchy are “European people,” whose traditions, achievements and very survival are perceived to be under grave threat. This is the in-group. At the bottom of the hierarchy are “invaders living on our soil,” which also stands for Muslims in the West. This is the main out-group. But the manifesto’s author reserves his most visceral hatred for what he calls “blood traitors to their own race.” “The only muslim I truly hate,” he writes, “is the convert, those from our own people that turn their backs on their heritage.” This is the subsidiary out-group.

Another insistent theme in the manifesto is simplism — what political scientists Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab called “the unambiguous ascription of single causes and remedies for multi-factored phenomenon.” For the author, the problem is clear: it is the gradual erasure of the culture of white Europeans at the hands of invading non-Europeans. The solution, in his mind, is equally clear: “Radical, explosive action is the only desired, and required, response to an attempted genocide.” The solution is also heavily gendered: “The people who are to blame most are ourselves, European men. Strong men do not get ethnically replaced … weak men have created this situation and strong men are needed to fix it.”

If all of this has a familiar ring to it, it is because, for the past two decades, it has been wearing Islamized clothing. In the most original part of their analysis of extremist mind-sets, Gambetta and Hertog discuss the parallels between the two extremisms currently wreaking havoc around the globe.

Islamic radicals, just like those on the far right, are rigidly Manichean, framing the world as a battlefield between “dirty kuffars” on one side and pure and true defenders of the faith on the other. Revealingly, they reserve their most potent contempt not for unbelievers, whose ignorance they pity, but for those who have known the true path but chosen to reject it (i.e. apostates).

They are also notoriously disgust prone, displaying a particular squeamishness about women’s bodies and sex. Related to this is a deep concern about the sexual purity of women — or rather, their defilement by non-Muslim men. Like the Christchurch terrorist, Islamic radicals are intensely preoccupied by the rape of “their” women by unclean, alien “Others.” And, just like him, they share his arrogant conviction that their own revered methodology is the perfect solution to all the world’s problems, which they attribute to the West.

It is often pointed out that jihadists and far-right violent extremists feed off each other, cynically exploiting the outrages of their enemies as a spur and justification for further retaliatory bloodshed. Earlier this month, for example, ISIL released a statement promising revenge for the Christchurch atrocity.

For all their mutual enmity, however, these two warring factions have far more in common than they would like to admit.

Source: What right-wing violent extremists and jihadists have in common

‘We Are Facing a Monster’ Right-wing extremism in Germany

Good and thoughtful interview:

DER SPIEGEL: Ms. Knobloch, 73 years after the end of the Holocaust, right-wing extremists in Germany are once again stretching out their right arms in the Hitler salute. Jews are being threatened in public while parliamentary opposition leader Alexander Gauland, of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, recently said that the Nazi period was nothing but a “speck of bird shit” on German history. What is your reaction to the last several months?

Knobloch: These events weigh on us heavily. By “us” I mean the members of all Jewish communities in Germany. I am actually an optimist, something I inherited from my devout father. After the Holocaust, he was convinced Germany would once again have a future. I have thought a lot about my father recently. And I hope the alarming spectacle of the last few months will somehow come to an end like many others have before.

DER SPIEGEL: You don’t sound terribly optimistic.

Knobloch: I never thought it could get so bad again. Recently, I was at a high school with 300 students and told them: Take the responsibility we hand down to you. Be proud of your country. It has achieved a lot and is continuing to achieve. And as I was speaking, I was thinking: What are you even saying? Is it true at all?

DER SPIEGEL: You have your doubts?

Knobloch: There have been worrisome developments earlier. A few years ago, for example, there was a right-wing extremist demonstration in Munich where marchers shouted, “Jews in the gas, Jews out,” and the police didn’t intervene. But it has never been as bad as it is today. For the first time, a party has made it into national parliament whose program can be summarized with the words: Jews Out.

DER SPIEGEL: You are referring to the AfD.

Knobloch: I don’t actually want to even say their name. “Alternative for Germany,” what impudence. But yes, I am referring to the AfD.

DER SPIEGEL: Do you view the AfD as a Nazi party?

Knobloch: What else are you supposed to call a party that disseminates a platform that makes Jewish life impossible? This party is opposed to ritual circumcision and seeks to ban the shechita of animals, through which meat becomes kosher for practicing Jews.

DER SPIEGEL: There are more than a few Jews involved in the AfD. How can the party be anti-Semitic?

Knobloch: Just like a person with Jewish friends can still be an anti-Semite, Jewish party members are in no way a guarantee that a party doesn’t have anti-Semitic tendencies. The simple presence of Jews, in any case, isn’t enough and a group like the one calling itself “Jews in the AfD” is no proof of the lack of anti-Semitism. Particularly since the group isn’t just made up of Jews.

DER SPIEGEL: Among the established parties in Germany, there is a significant degree of uncertainty about how they should confront the AfD. Should they go on the attack? Ignore them? Try to expose them with arguments? They are trying everything and nothing seems to be working.

Knobloch: I like how the single neo-Nazi in the Munich city council is being dealt with. He is simply completely ignored by the other parties. He files inquiries and they simply go unanswered.

DER SPIEGEL: But in Germany’s federal parliament, the Bundestag, every deputy has rights. And with 92 members of parliament, the AfD is the largest opposition party. How can they be ignored?

Knobloch: There needs to be a consensus among all the other parties. The AfD has positioned itself outside of our liberal values. Period. It bothers me that there isn’t even consensus on this point at the moment. What other viewpoint can there possibly be?

DER SPIEGEL: The debate surrounding how to deal with the AfD recently intensified after an extremely emotional plenary speech by former Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz, who linked the right-wing populists with fascism.

Knobloch: I thought Schulz’s reaction was absolutely the correct one. Everybody needs to know who they are voting for when they cast their ballot for the AfD. Our task is to clearly draw the line. If we don’t, we are merely helping normalize the right-wing populists. I wanted to write Martin Schulz a letter, but I never got around to it because of the Jewish holidays. His dedication is admirable.

DER SPIEGEL: Among other things, Schulz said that AfD co-leader Gauland belongs on the “manure heap of history.” Should he be stooping to the level of the right-wing populists?

Knobloch: We can’t always obey the rules of politesse when dealing with a Nazi party. When politicians from the AfD refer to the Nazi period as “a speck of bird shit” in German history and refer to the Holocaust memorial as a monument to shame, then we need to strike back rhetorically. We are facing a monster. We have to fight it before it becomes stronger.

DER SPIEGEL: Following the recent riotsin Chemnitz, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier harkened to the collapse of the Weimar Republic

Knobloch: That wasn’t an exaggeration. Weimar collapsed because the democrats, who were actually supposed to be the pillars of the system, ducked responsibility. I find it extremely troubling that people today aren’t taking to the streets in large numbers to demonstrate. There are distressing parallels between then and now. You just have to listen to the things politicians from this party say without facing repercussions. It is reminiscent of the rise of the NSDAP (Nazi party). Personally, I feel like it is 1928 again.

DER SPIEGEL: Do you think the AfD should be monitored by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence agency?

Knobloch: I find it completely incomprehensible as to why that wasn’t started long ago. I am stunned. If the AfD was being monitored, their representative would perhaps tone themselves down in public instead of inciting the population. Instead, there are rumors that Mr. Maassen …

DER SPIEGEL: … the former head of the BfV Hans-Georg Maassen, who wasrelieved of his duties recently for allegedly pandering to the far right …

Knobloch: … may have given tips to AfD members on how to avoid monitoring from the BfV. If that is true, that would be a catastrophe from my point of view.

DER SPIEGEL: Maassen expressed doubt about the authenticity of a video from Chemnitz that showed migrants being chased down.

Knobloch: Someone in his position should not just say something like that without presenting proof. That is a break with our political culture.

DER SPIEGEL: The rise of the AfD is inseparably connected with the refugee policies of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Do you think it was the correct decision to not seal off the German border in September 2015?

Knobloch: I view the issue through the lens of my own biography. If the U.S. immigration authorities in the late 1930s had approved the visas that my uncle applied for on behalf of his brother, his mother and me, my grandmother would not have had to suffer such a horrific death. She was too old to be accepted into the U.S. There were similar fates people faced that I heard about at the time. That is why I was very much in favor of Germany taking in the people who were living in horrific conditions in the Budapest train station in September 2015. After all, we became a humane country after 1945.

DER SPIEGEL: The Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats, believes the chancellor’s refugee policies are misguided.

Knobloch: We can’t take on more than we can handle, I agree with that. First and foremost, we have to help those who have had to leave their homes to escape war. When I see the terrible images from Syria, then we can’t hesitate for a moment. But we need a migration law to decide who fits, who can be integrated, who we need on the job market.

DER SPIEGEL: Do you see a connection between Merkel’s refugee policies and increasing anti-Semitism?

Knobloch: I’m wary on that issue. We don’t have an anti-Semitism problem because people from other cultures are coming to us. That would be an extremely simplistic view.

DER SPIEGEL: You don’t see a qualitative difference between European anti-Semitism from the Christian West and Muslim anti-Semitism?

Knobloch: I didn’t say that. Muslim anti-Semitism works primarily by way of the delegitimization of Israel. And there is a specific form of anti-Semitism that has its roots in the Koran. That also has an influence over how anti-Semitism develops in this country.

DER SPIEGEL: What do you mean?

Knobloch: Anti-Semitism used to be the rejection of a certain group of people. Today, it is simply hatred of the Jews.

DER SPIEGEL: Anti-Semitism has radicalized?

Knobloch: Absolutely.

DER SPIEGEL: Is there a recipe for fighting it?

Knobloch: Not enough is being done, that is the frightening thing. We have been calling attention to the problem for years. And there are actually institutions that should be taking action. Political leaders, for example. Security authorities. Educational institutions. All of them should focus on fighting anti-Semitism, especially given our history. But not nearly enough is being done. Those who are blaming the refugees exclusively for anti-Semitism are making it too easy on themselves. These people, if you will, can’t help it. That’s how they were raised.

DER SPIEGEL: Where do you think the largest shortcomings are to be found?

Knobloch: In education. We are way behind there. You can’t fight anti-Semitism by simply talking about anti-Semitism. You fight it by learning to love your own country and by defending its values.

DER SPIEGEL: In a recent op-ed for the Israeli daily Haaretz, you sharply criticized Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, saying that he has positioned himself as an ally to right-wing populists in Europe. Why did you get involved?

Knobloch: When Mr. Grenell welcomes the rise of anti-establishment populists in a country where the extreme right has won seats in parliament, we Jews feel threatened. The fact that he apparently doesn’t see this connection is appalling. Mr. Grenell uses the same language as the AfD. This cycle of mutual encouragement is a danger to our liberal democracy. In such a situation, I don’t care if he is the U.S. ambassador or whatever else.

DER SPIEGEL: Has Mr. Grenell contacted you at all?

Knobloch: No.

DER SPIEGEL: Would you like to meet with him?

Knobloch: It would depend on the subject matter. I am happy to talk at any time with young people who have adopted different ideas and to try and convince them.

DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Grenell claims to be a great friend of Israel’s.

Knobloch: Friendship is a rather broad term. Many people use it to put themselves in the center of attention because they think it looks good.

DER SPIEGEL: What do you think of the Israel policies of U.S. President Donald Trump?

Knobloch: I have family in Israel: a daughter, several grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. I have a special relationship to the country and advocate for its security wherever I can. The Israeli people want nothing more than peace, I am 100 percent convinced of that. That is why I welcome the fundamental tenets of Trump’s Middle East policy. I wouldn’t, however, have moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. That is such a sensitive issue that doing so merely makes in more difficult to find the solutions to problems.

DER SPIEGEL: You belong to the last generation of Holocaust survivors. How should the memory be kept alive once all those who witnessed it firsthand are gone.

Knobloch: My hopes are very much pinned on young people who are more interested in the history of their own country than was the case 10 or 15 years ago.

DER SPIEGEL: The Berlin municipal official Sawsan Chebli has proposed making it a requirement for young people to visit a concentration camp memorial. What do you think of the idea?

Knobloch: The only camp where it is still possible to really get a sense for the tragedy is Auschwitz. Such visits, though, can only take place if there has been sufficient preparation. Young people have to know what they are visiting. And if one of them doesn’t want to, you can’t force them.

DER SPIEGEL: What do you have against the so-called “Stolpersteine,” the gold-colored paving stones placed in front of buildings in German cities to commemorate Jews who lived there until they were deported by the Nazis?

Knobloch: I find this type of commemoration to be a catastrophe. People trample on the names of those who were murdered and dogs pee on them. The Munich city council has resolved that commemoration must take place at eye level. I hope that our example is followed elsewhere.

DER SPIEGEL: Jews who live in Israel often can’t understand how Jews can continue to live in the diaspora.

Knobloch: In the diaspora or in Germany?

DER SPIEGEL: Does it make a difference?

Knobloch: Of course it does. Given recent developments, I am being asked such questions more often.

DER SPIEGEL: By whom?

Knobloch: The part of my family that lives in Israel has already come to terms with it. My granddaughter is now grown up, but when she was in the ninth grade, she visited Auschwitz with her class. In Israel, it is a visit everybody makes. Afterwards, she wrote me a six-page letter and asked me how I can live in Germany.

DER SPIEGEL: The attacks on Jews in France triggered something of an exodus of Jews fleeing the country to Israel. Do you think there is a danger of something similar occurring in Germany?

Knobloch: Yes, there is a danger. Members of the Jewish community come to me and tell me that they are afraid. It is equal parts irrational and understandable. I try to give them courage, despite everything. That is part of the optimism that I mentioned earlier.

DER SPIEGEL: Ignatz Bubis, one of your predecessors as president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said toward the end of his life that he accomplished “almost nothing.” What are your feelings when you look back on your own life?

Knobloch: He was already quite sick when he said that. I called him and said: How can you say such a thing? I know how much you have accomplished.

DER SPIEGEL: You have a more positive view than Bubis did at the end of his life?

Knobloch: It is a question I ask myself every day, when I see the terrible developments in Chemnitz and elsewhere. But then I always think: I did achieve something. It’s just a gut feeling I have.

DER SPIEGEL: Bubis never wanted to live in Israel, but he wanted to be laid to rest there.

Knobloch: He didn’t want his grave to be vandalized. And given the increasing anti-Semitism, that is a very real danger.

DER SPIEGEL: And where do you want to be buried?

Knobloch: I have our family plot here in Munich.

DER SPIEGEL: Ms. Knobloch, thank you very much for this interview.

In London, two strands of extremism share the same world view: Doug Saunders

Good assessment by Saunders:

While these may appear to be two strands of extremism, one Islamist and the other far right, ostensibly posed against one another, any up-close examination of their opinions and rhetoric reveals that they have the same view of the world, the same mirror-image political goals, and now the same tactics.

One of the first to mention this similarity Monday was Brendan Cox, the husband of Ms. Cox, the slain MP, in a message he posted: “Far right fascists & Islamist terrorists are driven by same hatred of difference, same ideology & use same tactics. We’ll defeat both.”

That view was picked up by Prime Minister Theresa May, who had been criticized previously for turning a blind eye to her country’s right-wing terrorism problem. On Monday morning, she denounced it as an equally serious threat, calling this attack “every bit as sickening as those which have come before… an attack that once again targeted the ordinary and the innocent going about their daily lives … There is no place for this hatred in our country today.”

The parallels between these two extremisms had long been visible on Seven Sisters Road.

At some points, especially in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the angry guys on the street would be yelling Islamic stuff. The Finsbury Park Mosque, around the corner from Monday’s attack, had been taken over by a one-armed former Afghan Mujahadeen fighter who called himself Abu Hamza, known in the tabloids as “hooky mullah.” After the congregation banned him in 2002, he would stand on the street outside the mosque just off Seven Sisters Road, gather a small crowd, and shout wild-eyed speeches calling for the death of infidels and praising terrorists.

The multi-hued congregants seemed relieved when Abu Hamza was arrested in 2004 on charges related to organizing terrorism. (He is currently serving a life sentence in the United States). Their mosque is now a moderate place with an explicitly anti-extremist message.

But, in part because of the mosque (and the soccer stadium), the area would often attract far-right extremists from the British National Party, the National Front and other such movements – often linking their anti-Muslim message to the mounting anti-European Union “Brexit” campaign they backed.

They often seemed hard to distinguish from the jihadis in their strident tone, their belief that the world is divided into incompatible civilizations, and their intolerance of the plural and diverse life of modern Europe that is so abundantly visible on Seven Sisters Road. On Monday, the two groups showed themselves to be identical in every imaginable way, including the worst – and we can hope that Britain will now turn against both equally.

Source: In London, two strands of extremism share the same world view – The Globe and Mail

Toronto lifts curtain on extremism prevention plan, quietly operating for more than 2 years

Part of the arsenal in combatting extremism and increasing resilience:

Police in Toronto are lifting the curtain on an extremism prevention program that has been quietly operating in the city for more than two years — but experts in the field say getting young people at risk of radicalization to use it will come down to a question of trust.

The project, which first sprouted in 2013, has been purposely kept from public view until this week.

“At this point in time we feel that we have a good service in place and we’re ready for people to participate in it,” Deputy Chief James Ramer told CBC News. Together with the City of Toronto, Ramer said, the force hoped to fine-tune the program behind the scenes through direct involvement from community groups, rather than simply present a made-by-police project.

Here’s how it works.

A person deemed at risk for extremism is referred by a police officer or a participating agency to one of four hubs, each consisting of 15 to 20 bodies, including medical professionals, faith groups, the school board and community housing.

Referrals require the consent of the person at risk and are based on a list of some 103 risk factors. Participation, said police, is entirely voluntary.

Cases are assessed at the hub, and depending on the most pressing concerns, two participating organizations are chosen to lead an intervention, which can range from spiritual counselling to mental health assistance.

Referrals anonymous

“All of this is done in complete anonymity,” said Ramer, adding that the hub process meets the privacy commissioner’s “gold standard” in terms of protection of personal information. Only cases that involve a criminal element or pose risks to public safety are formally investigated.

As for what kinds of extremism the program addresses, Sgt. Kelly Gallant said it runs the gamut from Islamist-inspired, to white supremacist to environmental extremism, to name a few. “We talk about all different kinds of extremism.… Not just what we mostly see on TV.”

It’s not the first time a deradicalization program has been floated in Toronto, but it is the city’s first police-led initiative.

Toronto police

Deputy Police Chief James Ramer, Sgt. Kelly Gallant and Staff Sgt. Donovan Locke say the extremism prevention program has been quietly operating in the city for more than two years. (CBC)

Six months ago, the Canadian Council of Imams announced plans to open two to three deradicalization clinics in Toronto that would take a “holistic” approach, as early as this fall. Those clinics, Toronto imam Hamid Slimi told CBC Toronto, have not yet taken off owing to a lack of community support.

Toronto’s program is housed under the police’s existing community safety program, which also tackles gangs and drugs. Montreal also has an anti-radicalization centre, but not one led by police.

Trust ‘in shambles’ in some communities

But whether young people will consent to being involved in the program will ultimately depend on whether they feel safe engaging with police, says University of Waterloo religious studies post-doctoral fellow Amarnath Amarasingam.

“It depends much on how the police are able to gain the trust of communities. In some communities, this trust is in shambles, but in others, there is a history of working together. So, it really depends if the cops can shed some of this baggage,” Amarasingam said.

Source: Toronto lifts curtain on extremism prevention plan, quietly operating for more than 2 years – Toronto – CBC News

ICYMI – Andrew Coyne: A war that cannot necessarily be won, but must be fought all the same | National Post

Good realistic commentary by Coyne:

Alas it is not so. Whether or not we choose to be at war with ISIL they are at war with us. And there is very little we can do to change this.

We cannot simply defeat them in battle, as we might a conventional state: whatever progress we have made against ISIL in Iraq and Syria seems only to have diverted its energies into attacks overseas. Nor can we appease them, as we might a conventional terrorist group, even if we were of a mind to: for they have no demands, or none that we can possibly meet, such is the fantastic, end-times nature of their beliefs.

Nor can we just harden our defences, as if we could anticipate every possible avenue of attack. Protect the most prominent public buildings or infrastructure, and watch as restaurant diners and concert-goers are mown down. Guard against bombs and hijacked airplanes, and see AK-47s and trailer trucks used instead. Close the borders, and find yourself beset by homegrown jihadis. Focus on known terrorist profiles, and the enemy takes the form of “lone wolf” attackers, with no necessary connection to ISIL.

The threat — anonymous attackers, willing not only to kill in limitless numbers but to be killed themselves, and aided by all the latest technologies — is unlike any the world has ever faced. And among the challenges it presents is the psychological.

Because there is no satisfying narrative arc to this. We don’t get to go home when this is all over, because we are home and it may never be over. We have to accept this. We have to accept that some problems cannot be solved, but only endured; that some wars cannot necessarily be won, but must be fought all the same.

We are not helpless. We can make less likely the worst sorts of attacks, the kind that require greater planning, co-ordination and resources, and as such are more easily intercepted and disrupted. We can deprive ISIL of territory, starve it of funds, kill its leaders, and by these and other means deny it the mantle of prophecy on which it depends for new recruits.

And we can do much at home, notably to ward off the kind of deep-seated alienation within Muslim communities that so plagues Europe, on which terrorism thrives. It is crucial Muslims are not made to feel as if they are the enemy, collectively — every bit as crucial as recognizing the unique danger posed by ISIL, and the fundamentalist Islamic theology at its heart.

But there will be more attacks like those we have lately suffered, and probably they will be worse.

I don’t mean to say there is no chance of defeating ISIL, or that Islamist terrorism may not in time go the way of other threats to our way of life. I only mean that we cannot assume it will — not in the short term, and not even in the long. The roots of fanaticism have sunk too deep, over too much of the world, to be assured of that. When an idea, once unthinkable, has been first thought, and not only thought but acted upon, and spread to thousands if not millions of people, it will be a long time before it can be unthought.

So we must accustom ourselves to looking at this, as our adversaries do, as a struggle that may go on for decades, even generations, and understand that in the meantime there will be many more innocent deaths to mourn.

ICYMI: Offing the boss: Does killing terrorist leaders make us safer?

Another interesting piece by Doug Saunders:

But does it work?

One reason why Mr. Obama’s Taliban-termination received hardly more attention than his other acts on Monday is because people increasingly feel like it doesn’t. The Taliban appointed another leader, its third. Al-Qaeda has sprung back to life. Some have likened decapitation policies to Whac-a-Mole games: Bash a bad guy, and another one springs up.

Boss-offing is not a mysterious topic: In recent years, an entire science of decapitation analysis has sprung up.

The most influential number-crunching was conducted in 2009 by Jenna Jordan, a researcher at the University of Chicago (she is now at Georgia Tech). She analyzed 298 incidents of “leadership targeting” over six decades and looked at their impact on the organizations whose leaders were the recipients of these abrupt terminations.

Her results were far from encouraging. Her data showed that decapitation, on average, “does not increase the likelihood of organizational collapse beyond a baseline rate of collapse for groups over time.”

In fact, the extremist groups most likely to fall apart (that is, to stop being able to commit attacks and wage war) are actually those whose leaders have not been killed: Hitting the head honcho actually seems to help groups keep fighting longer – perhaps because it rather literally injects some fresh blood into the organization.

More recent analyses have questioned these findings. Certain groups have indeed self-imploded following the untimely demise of their figurehead: Peru’s Shining Path faded into irrelevance after its leader Abimael Guzman was captured; Italy’s Red Brigades did not outlast its founding leaders; the capture of Abdullah Ocalan disempowered Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party for a decade.

In a big-data study last year, Bryan Price of the U.S. Military Academy analyzed 207 terrorist groups from 1970 to 2008, but instead of looking at their effectiveness, he examined their longevity.

He found that taking out the executives “significantly increases the mortality rate of terrorist groups, even after controlling for other factors” – but it often takes longer than we’d like. Counterterrorism, he concluded, is a long game. He also found that the groups most likely to implode after things blow up in the head office are nationalists. Groups that see themselves as religious, he found, are more tolerant of bloodbaths at the top. Of 53 religious groups, only 19 have ended – 16 of them after their boss was wiped out. But of the 34 such terrorist groups still in existence (including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State), 20 have endured a decapitation strike.

There are other good reasons to knock off the kingpins: Inspiring morale in your troops, hurting jihadi recruitment by looking all-powerful, sowing moments of chaos that can be exploited. But there’s no reason to think they’ll make the fight any easier, or the world less bloody.

Source: Offing the boss: Does killing terrorist leaders make us safer? – The Globe and Mail

India’s Extremists Turn on Left-Wing College Kids – The Daily Beast

Hindu extremism:

Change is inevitable. Change is constant. The world is changing, and so is India. But ever since The Donald Trump of India, aka Narendra Modi, and his militant right-wing Hindutva Party came to power, India is fast becoming a nightmare for its women and minorities, its Dalits and Harijans, its LGBT community, and yes, all lovers of good medium-rare steaks and juicy burgers.

There are scholars who will argue that the self-proclaimed “benign land of gentle chants and a thousand ‘Namaste’” has always been excessively hostile and extremely violent to the non-conforming.  History shows that India’s ruling elite more or less eradicated its Buddhist population (Indian folk lore often claims that they merely tricked the Buddhists into converting). Nonetheless, the division of the former Indus Valley Civilization, the formation of modern India, was on a pledge of plurality and on secular values. The Indian National Flag is tricolored, emphasizing its inclusiveness of all peoples and faiths. Therefore the accelerated return to the unbearable intolerance of alternative views and liberal values is disturbing.

For Kanhaiya Kumar, the student body president at Jawaharlal Nehru University, February 9, 2016 started perhaps like any other. But later that day he made a fatal mistake, in a speech at a protest rally at JNU—India’s Berkeley—wherein he criticized Modi and the Hindutva party, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Three days after his speech, Kanhaiya was arrested on charges of sedition. While being escorted by the police to the court, he was attacked and beaten up twice, according to Indian media—initially by a mob of lawyers, and then again a second time by a ‘man in dark glasses’ when he was being kept in a room at the court before the hearing. Later, Kumar was refused bail.

I understand that some might wonder how a person, under the watchful eye of the media and heavy police escort, can get beaten up on court premises. Well, please keep in mind that this is India; strange things always occur at Indian courts. On Dec 6, 1992, the Hindutva thugs demolished the Babri Mosque in the town of Ayodhya, on grounds that it stood on the exact spot where an Indian God, Ram, was born. The Supreme Court, while acknowledging the lack of evidence that the mosque stood on the spot where Ram was born—and while also acknowledging that there were multiple other locations in the town of Ayodhya with superior claims, let alone multiple other towns in India that had better claims as Ram’s birthplace than Ayodhya—still ruled in favor of the Hindutva position. Given the state of Indian courts, the two back-to-back beatings that Kanhaiya received is just par for the course. To an outsider this might appear bizarre, but to people in India, this is simply expected.

Source: India’s Extremists Turn on Left-Wing College Kids – The Daily Beast

Luc Portelance and Ray Boisvert: It’s time for Canada to get serious about national security

Overview of the security agency perspective from Luc Portelance and Ray Boisvert. Challenge to the rest of government and society lies with counter-radicalization efforts, as they flag below:

Radicalization prevention begins at home, in our communities and across various levels of government. Furthermore, the development of counter-narratives to violent extremism must not be seen as the exclusive domain of security agencies. Counter-radicalization is a long-term battle of ideas that can only be won through collaborative action across society, and more specifically by applying proven commercial marketing strategies.

With the move of the multiculturalism program back to Canadian Heritage, there is an opportunity for the program to play a larger role in such policy discussions and initiatives than was the case recently at CIC/IRCC (as was done previously before the move to CIC/IRCC).

Source: Luc Portelance and Ray Boisvert: It’s time for Canada to get serious about national security | National Post