Last week conservative pundits and media outlets were outraged by a circulated graphic (above) that connected organizations like The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and Fox News, to neo-Nazis and the KKK.
The graphic was used by one of the grantees of the Biden Administration's Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Grant Program (TVTP). The program, titled differently but begun under Obama, was focused on the threat coming from terror groups like ISIS recruiting in the U.S. I was a recipient of several of those grants and was involved in many aspects of the programming that was developed during that time. We were tasked with developing innovative solutions to building resilience against radicalization. The program also funded research on effective intervention techniques and promoting social cohesion. The Trump administration reduced its funding, and Biden was poised to scrap it entirely because of complaints that it unfairly targeted Muslim and Arab communities.
However, in a dramatic turn, the Biden administration revamped the program to prioritize domestic violent extremism and targeted violence against communities of color. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistant Secretary John Cohen stated that it will focus on understanding the behaviors of those who engage in violence “directed at immigrant communities, communities of color, and different faith communities.” This is vastly different from the original purpose of the grant program and the general understanding of terrorism in the U.S. for the past 20 years.
In 2022, the TVTP awarded 80 grants totaling just under $40 million. Based on the stated objectives of reducing what it calls domestic violent extremism, also referred to as the alt-right, fascism, or white supremacy, many of the grantees are in “conservative” areas like the Miami Valley in Ohio.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with investing federal funds to reduce targeted violence against immigrant communities. Promoting understanding, peace-building, and reconciliation are valuable principles for any society. However, this program in Ohio will only mainstream hate and division among its citizens.
Dr. Michael Loadenthal is the founder and executive director of the Prosecution Project. He presented on two different panels during the roundtable hosted by the TVTP grantee, the University of Dayton Human Rights Center. It is assumed that Loadenthal created the graphic in question since he used it in his presentation. He attributes his version of the pyramid to a model initially developed by Clark McCauley and Sophia Moskalenko, respected scholars in terrorism research. In their version, there are two different pyramids to distinguish groups prone to violent action from those only engaged in extremist opinions. It was purposely designed that way to acknowledge the overwhelming research that simply having “radical” ideologies does not create or lead to violent action. McCauley and Moskalenko did NOT insert these names in their models. In fact, they recently authored a vital research article on QAnnon that passionately discourages the government from wasting resources on targeting such groups. Stated simply:
“Trying to police opinion exaggerates the threat a hundredfold and wastes resources. Additionally, attempts to clamp down on radical opinions can backfire — by creating real or perceived grievances in the targeted population, which can then radicalize people who would have otherwise remained neutral.”
Regardless of the lessons learned by focusing entirely on Muslims or the warnings sounded by scholars in the field of counterterrorism, this grantee completely disregarded the advice. In the video of his presentation entitled “Anti-Fascist Intel In An Era Of Crowdsource Policing,” Michael Loadenthal clearly defines his training goals for community members. He wants them to disrupt, de-platform, and prevent these groups from mobilizing or accessing the public square in person or online. He acknowledges that his methodology is sometimes illegal, especially their efforts to silence speech, but it does not matter to him. To Loadenthal, First Amendment rights do not exist regarding hate speech. Contrary to decades of terrorism research, he asserts that hate speech automatically mobilizes to violence and power, so it must be stopped at all costs.
Some tactics he deploys include training a citizen militia to troll their neighbors, co-workers, and friends for alt-right sympathizers and then report them to their employers, gyms, or church so they can be fired or ostracized. He starts campaigns to pressure vendors like Paypal and Amazon not to let them raise donations or sell merchandise. He even had a graphic depicting how they led such a campaign against conservative pundit Steve Bannon. Loadenthal conflates conservative talk show hosts like Steven Bannon or TPUSA leader Charlie Kirk with Nazis and then teaches citizens to disrupt their livelihood.
The other speaker at the conference was educating the audience on how you can identify the alt-right in your local community by attending rallies. He described them as recruitment centers for radicalization, where the extremists get to interact and promote ideas. Can you imagine your neighbors finding out you went to a rally against drag shows in kindergarten and ending up losing your job because you’re accused of being a Nazi?
The ideas presented by both these panelists, in the presence of a DHS official, were so shocking I encourage you to listen for yourself. It is incredibly alarming to know that millions of U.S. taxpayer funds will be used to scale and replicate this in cities across America. Encouraging citizens to report on each other and ruin their livelihood is right out of the playbook of a third-world dictatorship. How many of us have immigrant family members who tell horror stories about such things happening back in their home countries?
When I was personally involved in this field, entire programs could get scrapped if Muslim advocacy organizations complained they were discriminatory. There were news articles exposing questionable practices, and grantees would be forced to adjust their methodology. Nonetheless, neither I nor my colleagues ever suggested the draconian methods advocated by these two participants. Stereotyping conservatives as fascists or Nazis, without evidence of any wrongdoing, will breed chaos, social strife, and unjust persecution. I could never imagine a similar graphic about Muslims being circulated as part of a federally funded program.
Furthermore, the U.S. government paid for research to evaluate the previous programs, which excessively stigmatized Muslims without yielding any positive outcomes. Despite the many criticisms, the government is using an even more extreme approach with the “alt-right,” regardless of ample evidence that the methodology and principles are deeply flawed.
Surprisingly, there is very little public outcry about these programs. The Christian Broadcasting Network is being lumped together with the KKK, and only conservative commentators are reporting on it. There is no demand by mainstream Christian organizations or the mainstream media to review the Dayton program and others for unconstitutional and inappropriate practices.
The Preventing Radicalization to Extremist Violence through Education, Network-Building, and Training in Southwest Ohio (PREVENTS-OH) claims its “mission is to work to address systemic injustice and promote peace, dignity, and human rights.” Targeting and denigrating the residents of Miami Valley will never achieve peace and dignity.
I have sounded the alarm on many practices of the federal government that endangered the First Amendment freedoms of Christians and conservatives. Those are all quite troublesome, but spending millions of taxpayer dollars to outsource policing can potentially rip apart our communities. That is not hyperbole; ask any Chinese or Russian immigrant what happens when the government turns its citizens against one another.
Hedieh Mirahmadi was a devout Muslim for two decades working in the field of national security before she experienced the redemptive power of Jesus Christ and has a new passion for sharing the Gospel. She dedicates herself full-time to Resurrect Ministry, an online resource that harnesses the power of the Internet to make salvation through Christ available to people of all nations, and her daily podcast LivingFearlessDevotional.com.