by Simon Cottee
Friday, 7
January 2022
Spotted
13:55

Police campaign paints terrorists as victims

The latest counter-terrorism PR effort is frankly bizarre
by Simon Cottee

Counter-terrorism policy in the UK has taken a rather strange turn. Earlier this week, the Twitter account of Counter Terrorism Policing UK put out a tweet containing an 18-second animated-video titled “John’s Story”: 

John, we are told at the beginning of the video, “felt like an outsider and so when a friend invited him to an extreme right wing event he went along”. At this event, he encountered a man who “talked about immigrants, injustice and race”. Cue angry looking man frothing at the mouth before the next scene shows a creepy white woman inviting John to join her with a beckoning finger. The viewer then sees John at a rally with his right arm raised in the air with a caption saying: “And you listened without questioning.” “I wish you hadn’t,” reads the final caption.  

The video is part of the Counter Terrorism Police’s “Act Early” campaign, which was launched in November 2020 and has its own website. Supposedly, its purpose is to encourage and help people to report those they care about if they suspect they are becoming radicalised. But its unclear what kind of audience this kind of cringe-worthy output is made for (at the time of writing, it has generated just over 4000 views, 22 likes and 17 retweets — not exactly rousing metrics of engagement).

In addition to John’s story, there are also those of Micheal, Mustafa, Jan, Mika’il, Ali, Liz, and Owen, which can be found here on the Act Early website. The underlying theme that connects all these stories is that all the radicalised protagonists are essentially decent kids who were vulnerable and in search of nothing more than love, respect and belonging.  

Their pathway toward extremism wasn’t shaped by their commitment to an extremist ideology or set of deplorable sentiments and beliefs, but was decided for them by others who exploited their vulnerability. Radicalisation isn’t something they chose or actively embraced, but rather something that happened to them, like contracting an unwanted virus.  

From this perspective, radicalisation isn’t about revenge and righteous violence; on the contrary, it’s a sort of hole that sucks in those whose only crime is that they are lonely and unloved. “The quicker you share your concerns,” the terrorism police advise in one tweet, “the sooner the person can get the help they need to move away from exploitation.”  

It is profoundly unsettling to see this sort of rank naiveté in the public relations efforts of people at the hard end of terrorism policing. Indeed, it is by some perverse alchemy that the police have come to regard potentially violent extremists not as terrorists-in-the-making but as exploited victims in need of help. The implication behind this messaging is that terrorism is something that people somehow just fall into, with zero agency on their part. There’s no sense that terrorism is an extreme and violent form of political resistance, rather than a bad thing that can befall someone due to the wicked machinations of others. 

Perhaps the UK Counter Terrorism police should stop making misguided fictions about terrorism, and instead focus on the reality of stopping actual terrorists. 

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
29 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
James Joyce
James Joyce
8 months ago

1984 is here. This is truly heavy-handed government propaganda of the most vile and evil sort. Guess what: in a free country, it’s fine to talk about “immigrants, injustice, and race,” or are these cancelled topics? Is being against immigration the exclusive province of the so called “far right?” Who defines this? When did this happen? Far from what?
Perhaps John is English, perhaps he’s from London, and perhaps he is an “outsider” because he no longer recognizes London as an English city (it’s not). Perhaps John is justifiably resentful of all the people who are in his neighborhood whom he didn’t invite–the elites did, but they don’t live near John– and perhaps he longs for the day of yore when he did not feel completely out of place on the street where he grew up.
If only Shamima Begum could have watched one of these wonderful videos…..

Last edited 8 months ago by James Joyce
Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
8 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

“Is being against immigration the exclusive province of the so called “far right?””
Are you going to report Ed Milliband, or shall I?
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/dec/22/the-ed-stone-ed-milibands-monumental-folly-labour-election-limestone

James Joyce
James Joyce
8 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Perhaps if we both do it it will have more impact….

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
8 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

And your only doing it because you are worried he may be lured into terrorist activity.

James Joyce
James Joyce
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Not only terrorist activity; terrorist thinking. For example, wanting to control immigration….

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
8 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Yes, a slippery slope.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
8 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

When I was a youth in my part of West London it was a British place; since I left in the 1970s it changed completely, and less than half are native British, and a good part of the British are old, and when gone the houses will likely not be bought by ethnic British…It is a foreign land now. Lots more litter – Uxbridge, Boris’s constituency is now mostly foreign peoples on the high street – and at dark the shops closed and people gone as it is just not safe anymore, to be out at night.

My old friends long since gone as they never could afford the houses they grew up in – but the ones living in them now are not prosperous – how did that happen, how did they manage to live there when the locals no longer could?

D Ward
D Ward
8 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I wish I knew, but you are correct.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
8 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Some people get up to £400 pw rent allowance.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Benefit fraud

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
8 months ago

The world has changed.
Anyone who owns a house and has carefully saved for retirement is an oppressor and deserves to be punished.
Anyone who commits a crime, murders someone, enters the house of an oppressor and wrecks it, destroys public property, rapes someone…. is a victim requiring maximun help from society.
It is too late. The future has already happened. There is no way back.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

As a house-owner, is being an oppressor an Adqual to being a “Deplorable” or is it included?

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago

What are they on about? Britain doesn’t have enough Neo-Nazis to fill a parish hall.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

We don’t even have much of a “far right” if we contrast this with the impressive poll numbers for supporters of Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour in France who are regularly referred to as “far right”. What are the poll numbers for any party that can be called far right here?
Perhaps Prevent should assign a mentor to French visitors.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I often wonder where this fear of the far right comes from. The last genuinely far right party was the BNP, who never got anywhere near parliament only managing to get onto a few councils after the race riots at the turn of the century. Once the initial anger had subsided they faded away back into obscurity

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
8 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It’s about creating an Enemy i.e. those who are most likely to oppose Big Government when it finally resorts to hard power tactics to keep people in line.

Benjamin Jones
Benjamin Jones
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

This country is soooooo far to the right that when the disillusioned Conservative voters of North Shropshire had a chance to vote in the recent by election they chose the Lib Dems!

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Although they could fill Wembly stadium 100 times with far Left Trots

George Glashan
George Glashan
8 months ago

2nd great article from SIMON COTTEE this week

Last edited 8 months ago by George Glashan
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
8 months ago

The little stories are divided fairly evenly between vulnerable individuals lured into extreme right and Islamic groups. The solution seems in both cases to appoint a mentor to correct the false narratives.
They may not have killed anyone but BLM (in the UK at least) and various left wing groups appear to have disrupted life for many and are fanatical enough to transition to terrorism so why don’t they appear?
As far as I know the very few people who have killed espousing something resembling a right wing cause have simply been lone nutters rather than members of some right wing organisation they have been lured into.
Let us have some evidenced based anti-terrorism not woke fantasy.

Last edited 8 months ago by Jeremy Bray
Mel Bass
Mel Bass
8 months ago

This is a painfully simplistic article, from someone who knows nothing about terrorism and counter-terrorism in the UK.
Stopping terrorism isn’t just about filling the streets with armed police or clever GCHQ shenanigans, and I doubt if Counter Terrorism are going to tweet about any of that, but ideally, we stop terrorism before it even starts. That’s where ACT Early comes in, because in the real world, people with limited skills and bleak futures can be sucked into any ideology, if it appears to offer them with brighter prospects or a chance to ‘get even’ on some level. Some of those people are indeed extremely vulnerable, and can be groomed and used by clever recruiters, either online or in person, or even just by their own efforts as they find internet echo chambers and escalating reinforcement of their ideas. They become cannon fodder for the ideology, and the idea of ACT Early is to interrupt that process before the person gets so fired up that they do become dangerous, with the obvious potential repercussions.
It’s never going to be possible with some would-be terrorists because their desire for ‘revenge’ and violence are too entrenched, they won’t come to the attention of the authorities or they’re groomed in the home etc, but that’s no reason to discount the idea completely. For example, one young man who I encountered was very much like the John in the story. Socially isolated, vulnerable, with various mental health issues. He went down the echo-chamber rabbit hole to the point where he focused all his hatred on a certain sector of society, blaming them for his own and more grandiose world problems. Hearing him rant was chilling and it’s impossible to predict what he might have done if left unchecked, but that’s the kind of vulnerable person that they’re trying to target. In his case, violence was headed off, nobody was hurt, he got help, his family didn’t have to deal with the aftermath of some atrocity and there were no media howls of outrage as to why an atrocity hadn’t been prevented.
So, naivete, on the part of Counter Terrorism Policing? I don’t think so. On the part of the author, definitely.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
8 months ago
Reply to  Mel Bass

I’ve given you a thumbs up for sharing your experience. I haven’t come across any fired up vulnerable right wing individuals myself, but what I find strange is that I do come across angry fired up vulnerable individuals that blame capitalists, meat eaters, consumers, fascists…all the enemies of the left but there seems no mention of them in the scenarios.
For some reason Prevent doesn’t seem to see any terrorists on the left despite the fact that most of the non-Muslim terrorists in my lifetime have been left wing terrorists. A Greek friend of mine was murdered by a left wing terrorist, and I remember the Bader Meinhoff gang. Sinn Fein was not exactly extreme right wing and I could pick out numerous other left wing terrorists from Europe.
Perhaps having some familiarity with the subject you might suggest why Prevent seems not to want to correct the false narratives of extreme left wing zealots and put them on the path of being decent citizens.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
8 months ago
Reply to  Mel Bass

I agree, and I’ve been surprised that this article has attracted so much favourable comment. It must be obvious that the hotbeds of terrorist recruitment are amongst those who are shut out from a happy and prosperous life in society. The classic illustration is the young men from the Maghreb who fill the suburbs of the main French cities, and who went off to fight for Isis and came back to carry out the Bataclan atrocity. Recognising this, and trying to reduce the incidents by early intervention in individual cases, is not naive; nor is it excusing the wickedness of those who do go on to kill and maim.

Will R
Will R
8 months ago
Reply to  Mel Bass

Quite – this campaign is (we hope) just one of a number of initiatives , not the full solution

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
8 months ago

Only last month Patrick Harvie, a Scottish Parliament minister of Something or Other in the minority Greens coalition with the SNP, stated confidently that “only the hard right” support oil & gas development in the UK. There was very little pushback on this statement.
There are over 100,000 people working in the UK Oil & Gas sector, and many more who are dependent on them. Clearly, the Hard Right threat is even worse than people think.
Police need to start acting NOW, and round up these extreme Hard Right Climate Criminals.

Adrian Maxwell
Adrian Maxwell
8 months ago

No doubt defence counsel will rush to play this video when mitigating on behalf of convicted terrorists seeking a lower sentence. Indeed, this sort of post modern thinking embedded in UK Anti Terror policy could be applied to all crime and all criminals. Personal responsibility and accountability inches yet further away from reality.

William Hickey
William Hickey
8 months ago

I know exactly what the authorities mentioned (CTP-UK) are trying to do.

Here in the US we have an man, a thoroughly unscrupulous Senate leader, misleading disgruntled, pandemic-ridden losers with wild tales of planned insurrections, right-wing coups and fantasies about a coming segregationist campaign to suppress the black vote and “Put y’all back in chains.”

Of course there’s little he might honestly avail himself when his party has no positive accomplishments of which they can boast and is in fact overseeing an economy that is staggering toward stagflation.

But by preying on the weak and easily-led, as the council notes, Chuck Schumer can stir up racial animosities and get lots of radicalized college kids angry enough to support revolutionary schemes to re-make the political landscape of America.

I hope the counter-terrorism officials here are giving this devious misleader the old “hairy eyeball.”

Last edited 8 months ago by William Hickey
R S Foster
R S Foster
8 months ago

…from the names of those seven exemplars,2 appear of Muslim origin, 3 are British/European…and the two versions of “Michael” might be either…but in this Century, Islamist Terrorists have killed almost a hundred people in this Country and (possibly) right-wing British/European ones have killed no more than half-a-dozen…so there should be a list of ten…just one of whom would have a traditional British/ European name…who do these people think they are kidding?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
8 months ago

Spot the Plod braincell… oops… left at the Kent masonic lodge….