Each Presidential election seems to inspire more than its share of hyperbole and fiction. I can’t remember the last election that wasn’t obviously “historic” or “pivotal” or worse, a “fight for the soul of America”. Indeed, there have been so many wars for America’s soul that–if America’s other recent wars are any guide–it’s probably safe to assume there’s not much left to save.
The likely salvage value of US essence notwithstanding, this too is a crucial election cycle of course. And as we discussed previously, the election of Donald Trump strikes many as the most apocalyptic possible outcome. So mass protests have ensued, and there have been a myriad of strange bedfellows sounding the call to Stop Trump–all to no apparent effect thus far.
Perhaps what’s most interesting about this reaction to Trump’s candidacy is what it implies about the people who are concerned. I’m not sure I can cite poll data to prove this conclusively, but most people seem to be (justifiably) concerned that his bombastic rhetoric would translate into deeply flawed policies, such as racial profiling or curtailing First Amendment protections. To be sure, this is absolutely a legitimate fear. But the only reason this should inspire such a harsh response is if we assume that these troubling policies are a radical departure from the status quo. Unfortunately, they are not. And recently, we received another awful reminder of this fact.
The FBI just revealed a plan to more systematically monitor and identify high school students for signs of “radicalization”. The plan is part of the FBI’s ill-advised Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) efforts, and they are trying to encourage teachers and fellow students report on suspicious behaviors. Naturally, the FBI has enough common sense not to overtly target a particular ethnic or religious minority as the most likely threat. But they don’t have to. Think about American culture for all of five minutes and it’s not hard to imagine which kids most students and teachers are going to suspect first.
From the educational materials, here are a few items that might be indicators of future “plans to commit violence”:
- “Talking about traveling to places that sound suspicious”–I wonder if any Arabic city names would fit the bill?
- “Using code words or unusual language” — because what self-respecting teenager uses slang unless they’re a future terrorist?
- “Using several different cell phones and private messaging apps” — burner phones aside, what teenager besides a terrorist would use messaging apps?
- “Studying or taking pictures of potential targets (like a government building).”– and no selfies either!
Yeah, definitely none of those items is going to lead to false accusations or abuse. But then it gets worse.
The FBI’s educational materials, which are conveniently available online, also highlight some common examples or themes of “violent extremist propaganda”:
- Corrupt Western Nations
- We Must Fight Back
- Explicit narrative provided: “Our people are being oppressed. No one is doing anything. We must fight back.”
- Superior Race
- Government Mistrust
- Environmental Destruction
Today, many people are understandably fearful about what a Donald Trump Presidency would look like. Unfortunately, we don’t really have to wonder. The answer is that it probably wouldn’t look all that much different than Barack Obama’s. The US government doesn’t need to get Donald’s okay to start surveilling and persecuting Muslims; it has already been hard at work on that project for some time.