After a white supremacist gunman walked into a crowded Walmart and killed 22 people in early August, Democratic presidential candidates and members of Congress have made addressing white nationalist terrorism a priority for federal law enforcement. This is a necessary and welcome development considering this threat hasn’t been taken seriously enough by federal, state, or local law enforcement across the nation. Unfortunately, many of the policy and legislative proposals would strengthen directly and indirectly a counterterrorism framework known as countering violent extremism (CVE).
While federal law enforcement agencies involved in CVE paint the program as a community outreach initiative dedicated to stopping people from becoming violent extremists, the reality is that these programs, which are based on junk science, have proven to be ineffective, discriminatory, and divisive. Here’s what you need to know about the dangers of CVE programs and why the framework should be abandoned rather than rehabilitated.
What is the countering violent extremism program?
CVE is a counterterrorism strategy that recruits community leaders, social workers, teachers, and public health providers ostensibly to assist the government in identifying individuals that may be “at risk” of becoming violent extremists. But the idea that there are predictive risk indicators has been discredited by decades of scholarly research. They have been targeted almost exclusively at Muslims and employ spurious criteria, such as religiosity and political activism and vague feelings of alienation, as proxies for violent tendencies.
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