The Right to Think Dangerous Thoughts


Despite evidence to the contrary, the government continues to embrace a theory that adopting radical ideas is a first step toward terrorist violence. Based on this discredited model, “preventive” policies are being pursued, resulting in discrimination, suspicionless surveillance of entire communities, and selective law enforcement against belief communities and political activists.

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?

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.

Original Article @ ZenHaven