Prevent’s PR defence is transparent

An extreme racist anti-Semitic far-right gang called National Action is due to be proscribed by the home secretary.  The gang is known for aping the slogans and ideology of Hitler’s NAZI party and is a despicable and hate-filled group.

Prevent has claimed some of the credit for the investigation into National Action.  The Independent website gave a platform to “Prevent coordinator” Will Baldet wherein he congratulated himself and Prevent on their actions against far-right groups and individuals – Will Baldet Indy.  Baldet presented his article as if in response to criticism of Prevent; that is, criticism that claimed that Prevent did not focus enough on the far-right. 

Such (valid) criticism is part of a general observation that the purpose of Prevent is to stifle political views that the government doesn’t like.  There are many examples of how the Prevent strategy is used to attack radical views including environmental protesters (with Caroline Lucas MP) – Prevent Lucas, anti-fracking campaigners – Prevent anti-fracking and supporters of Palestine – Prevent Palestine.  

However, the main target of Prevent has always been clear.  This and the intent and the practice of Prevent are explained by Jahangir Mohammed and Dr Adnan Siddiqui in their excellent and thorough report for CAGE:  CAGE Prevent report.  Two salient points in the report neatly describe Prevent: 

“PREVENT is a strategy that seeks to eliminate alternative political discourse about western foreign policy amongst Muslims, even amongst children. It is a policy to silence Muslims and pacify/de-politicise their faith. In short it criminalises political dissent or alternative political thought.”

“PREVENT has more to do with censorship and exclusion of certain political and religious views from public life, reforming peoples perceived ideas, beliefs and behaviours, than it has to do with violence.”

Baldet’s aforecited defence of Prevent can be summarised as: Don’t fret about Prevent’s constant extra-judicial intrusions and the attacks on radical politics, look how we stopped a few far-right kids from being far-right.  He mentions a few Prevent cases wherein young far-right supporters were persuaded to change their outlook.  That is commendable, but such a process does not need the behemoth of the Prevent strategy.  Baldet is using those few cases of stopping youngsters from glorifying hatred as justification for the entire Prevent machine.  

Bizarrely, he even posits Prevent as an antidote to Islamophobic media.

Persistent media stories placing undue focus on Islamist terrorist attacks in Europe and beyond… That fuels anger online towards our Muslim communities.

The above comment is true, but it is also exactly the purpose of Prevent as the CAGE report demonstrates.  For Baldet to distance Prevent from (and place it in partial opposition to) an intent that it actually shares is very dishonest.  

Baldet is aware of the erudite criticism of Prevent and makes a peremptory dig at “groups” who expose its agenda.

…a cadre of UK groups who openly deter our efforts to prevent terrorism.

You don’t need to be Hercule Poirot to deduce that CAGE are one of the “UK groups” to which he refers.

The closing paragraph in Baldet’s article is a self-revealing preçis of why he wrote it.

For all the hyperbole that surrounds the Prevent strategy, the one  fact that is missing from the debate is simply this: it works. It is the stories like this you don’t often get to hear; the lives that have been saved.

TRANSLATION: The coherent arguments pointing out the insidious and sinister nature of Prevent can be refuted with a few examples of kids with offensive views being educated.

It is clumsy PR that insults the public’s intelligence and it is a ready-made spurious response to anyone who decries Prevent: If you criticise Prevent then Baldet and his cronies will accuse you of not wanting to tackle extreme right wing gangs.  

(Sir) Lynton Crosby would approve of this verbal manœuvring.  (A brief summary of Crosby’s methodology: Sir Lynton Crosby)

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Prevent’s PR defence is transparent

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