* Tributes to the victims of the Manchester attacks.
The report’s uncritical appraisal of PREVENT and its unwillingness to challenge the prevailing views on counter-terrorism fatally undermines its credibility.
The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) released its report ‘A Shared Future: Preventing hateful extremism and promoting social cohesion commission’ last week.
The aims of the report included, among others, developing a response to “hateful extremism”.
The authors of the report develop their own definition of “hateful extremism”, by connecting the Manchester Arena bombing and the subsequent spike in “hate crimes”.
For them, both are polar opposites on a continuum. They both threaten social cohesion and they must therefore be dealt with in the same way.
What this does, however, is ignore the specific causes and political developments that have led to both.
In the context of Manchester, the report evades questions that have emerged regarding British intelligence’s role and relationship with bomber Salman Abedi.
In the context of “hate crime” the reports ignores the role that the state has had in enabling a far-right resurgence, of which ‘hate crime’ spikes are a symptom.
Instead the report uses this pretext as an opportunity to further entrench counter-extremism apparatus and divert attention away from government failings.
Calls for public funding are valid but misplaced
The report raises pertinent issues about the importance of increasing public funding for services in society. But it takes the damaging decision to articulate these demands for investment through the lens of combating ‘radicalisation’ and ‘extremism’.
This process – withdrawing public funds under austerity measures and bringing them back in under the guise of counter-extremism – has been a defining feature of PREVENT since 2011.
Read more: We are Completely Independent: The Home Office, Breakthrough Media and the PREVENT Counter Narrative Industry
It is the means through which the government has widened the scope of surveillance.
In taking the politically comfortable option of appealing to the sensibilities of counter-terrorism to make their demands, the report writers legitimise the framework of securitisation from which PREVENT stems, and which has undermined society and civil liberties.
This is aided further by the conflations between ‘hate crime’, ‘extremism’ and ‘social cohesion’ that underpin the report.
As such, the report comes across like a business case pitched haphazardly to the counter-extremism industry.
Safeguarding is used to legitimise PREVENT, when it is everything but this
More damningly, the report unquestioningly accepts the notion that PREVENT is a tool of ‘safeguarding’, lends support to its expansion.
To justify this, the authors include a number of case studies that are presented as ‘successful’ instances of PREVENT intervention.
It is at this point that the report descends into a favourable PR exercise, taking pains to defend the programme.
It also dismisses concerns about it as simply malicious misinformation.
The pernicious myth that PREVENT is safeguarding is little more than state propaganda that masks its inherently coercive nature.
Safeguarding processes long preceded PREVENT and, tellingly, it was not marketed as such for the first decade of its existence.
The rebranding of PREVENT as safeguarding has served to justify its targeting of children, which has skyrocketed since the introduction of the statutory Prevent duty in 2015.
CAGE has recorded a number of cases of such interventions and the extremely traumatising ward of court family proceedings resulting from them.
Social services should have acted, rather than cases being handed over to PREVENT
The attached case studies included in the report speak more to the erosion of front-line social services than the success of PREVENT.
Rather than attribute these cases to any ‘success’ of PREVENT, they should have warranted the intervention of social service in the first place rather than the full gamut of the counter-terrorism apparatus.
Driven by an unclear mix of rationales, sloppy theoretical underpinnings and at-times questionable methodology, the Shared Future report outlines the clear limitations of mainstream responses to PREVENT and counter-extremism.
Any robust and critical approach must begin from the understanding that PREVENT has, by design and in execution, planted the roots of securitisation deep in society through its most crucial sectors – social services, health and education. As a result it has had a deeply detrimental effect on those targeted, and the the fabric of society.
The authors, most importantly, should engage those negatively impacted by PREVENT in good faith. It should listen to their criticisms, not hold them in contempt as either ignorant individuals or, worse, purveyors of deception.
(CC image courtesy of Viv Lynch on Flikr)
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)