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Keeping a Close Eye on the Right Wing

The first of the series

panopticonPart 1: Introduction

Towards the end of the 18th century, an English social theorist named Jeremy Bentham designed a new type of institutional structure dubbed the “Panopticon”. The model was intended mainly for use in prisons, but the designer believed the same principle could as easily be applied to schools, hospitals, and other social institutions.

Bentham’s concept was simple: the architecture of the institution would be constructed so that those in charge — wardens, doctors, headmasters, etc. — would be able to observe all inmates under their charge at any time, without those observed knowing whether or not they were being watched. The designer believed that this would train the residents of such institutions to be on their best behavior at all times, and so induce positive social change.

In the early 21st century we are far closer to realizing the Panopticon than Bentham could ever have imagined, using technologies that he could never have dreamed of. With satellites in orbit monitoring our residences and our vehicles, drones tracking our movements via thermal imaging, two-way GPS devices in our cars and hand-held devices, TVs that can look back at us and identify us as individuals, and all our electronic communications digitally recorded and stored in a gigantic database — with all this, we are already under near-constant observation.

Or we might be — who can tell? You’d better behave, just in case!

Many of the surveillance capabilities acquired by our governments over the past dozen or so years were added to their toolboxes to prevent “terrorism”. Needless to say, in order to be fair and inclusive and to avoid “profiling”, our wardens in their digital eyries are required to spend at least as much time and money observing “right-wing extremists” as they do monitoring Muslim mujahideen or radical Greens. Anything less would be evidence of discrimination.

Therefore, if you’re an “Islamophobe”, you may as well get used to being watched. Homeland Security director Janet Napolitano has made it clear that she regards people like you and me as potential terrorists, and the European Union has long considered nationalists and immigration-critics to be de facto enemies of the state. Anders Behring Breivik only served to confirm that position. In the minds of the elites, it has been proved that anybody who opposes Islamization may become dangerously violent at any time, and thus needs to be carefully monitored.

To supplement the state security agencies, numerous quasi- or non-governmental organizations have been set up to keep an eye on “right-wing extremism”, and are often generously funded by the state or its cut-outs. One such group is the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR).

icsr

According to its website, ICSR was founded in 2008 with the support of five academic institutions: King’s College London; the University of Pennsylvania; the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (Israel); the Jordan Institute of Diplomacy; and Georgetown University. It is also affiliated with the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi and the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies in Islamabad.

Not a reassuring masthead for those of us who are “Islamophobes”. Herzliya, however, is a decent organization, and over the past five years ICSR has at least tried to take a look at Islamic radicalism. So this is a serious organization, and not just another cardboard cutout erected by the hard Left.

Like virtually all its sister “observatory” organizations, in the wake of Breivik’s massacre ICSR gave priority to investigating nationalism and anti-immigration movements in European, so that the next wave of right-wing terrorism could be detected in advance. To that end ICSR seems to have secured funding, commissioned a couple of investigators (and presumably a staff of researchers to help them), and spent the past eighteen months compiling a report. Then, a couple of weeks ago, it convened a conference to showcase the results.

The conference was not announced publicly beforehand, but at the beginning of this month ICSR sent out the following invitation to a select private list:

What Is the New Far Right?

ICSR Conference and Report Launch

At this major conference, experts, analysts and policymakers from across Europe will discuss the evolving threat from a new breed of far right extremists, the so-called “Counter-Jihad” movement.

When: Wednesday, 13 March, 10am-5pm
Where: War Studies Meeting Room, War Studies Department, King’s College London
RSVP: Reply with name and institutional affiliation to Katie Rothman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We will then contact you to confirm attendance.

The event will also launch ICSR’s latest policy report, “The Neo-Nationalist Network: The English Defence League and Europe’s Counter-Jihad Movement”, written by Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens and Hans Brun.

A keynote speech will be delivered by James Brokenshire MP, Home Office Minister for Crime and Security.

Other speakers include:

    • DCS Christopher Greany, National Domestic Extremism Unit
    • Matthew Collins, Hope not Hate
    • Professor Roger Griffin, Oxford Brookes University
    • Jamie Bartlett, Demos
    • Maria Margaronis, The Nation
    • Magnus Ranstorp, Swedish National Defence College

The sessions will be moderated by Professor Peter Neumann and Dr. John Bew of ICSR.

This conference is hosted by ICSR in partnership with the Community Security Trust (CST), the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies (CATS) and the Swedish National Defence College.

So what is ICSR? Who considers it important?

Well, our newly-installed Secretary of Defense does — if you look at the “Patrons” page, you’ll find former Senator Chuck Hagel prominently listed there.

Knowledgeable readers may also be interested in some of the names listed on the Board of Advisors and among the Associate Fellows of ICSR.

And then there’s Matthew Collins of Hope not Hate, an organization to which most Gates of Vienna readers need no introduction.

It all seems so predictable — Chuck Hagel, Pakistanis, Saudi sheikhs, and Hope not Hate. But then there’s Herzliya — what’s it doing in there with all the rest?

It’s quite perplexing.

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The event went off as scheduled on the 13th. The final speakers’ list was somewhat different from that sent out with the invitation, adding DCLG and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and dropping the National Domestic Extremism Unit:

A keynote speech was delivered by James Brokenshire MP, Home Office Minister for Crime and Security.

Other speakers included:

    • Ian Bradshaw, Tackling Extremism & Hate Crime Division, DCLG
    • Matthew Collins, Hope not Hate
    • Professor Roger Griffin, Oxford Brookes University
    • Jonathan Birdwell, Demos
    • Maria Margaronis, The Nation
    • Magnus Ranstorp, Swedish National Defence College
    • Vidhya Ramalingam, Institute for Strategic Dialogue

The sessions were moderated by Professor Peter Neumann and Dr. John Bew of ICSR.

This conference was hosted by ICSR in partnership with the Community Security Trust (CST), the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies (CATS) and the Swedish National Defence College.

Those who were not privileged to attend the event may see videos of highlights at the ICSR website.

The 72-page report launched by the conference — “A Neo-Nationalist Network: The English Defence League and Europe’s Counter-Jihad Movement” is of some interest, and will be covered in a fair amount of detail in Parts 2, 3, and 4 of this analysis.

A final note: the institutional sponsors of the report are not listed on the ICSR website, but their names and logos appear at the bottom of the report itself:

Of those five sponsors, only the Regional Centre on Conflict Prevention has no website. ICSR has this information on its director:

Hasan Al Momani is Director of the Regional Centre on Conflict Preventiion [sic] at the Jordan Institute of Diplomacy. Specailizing [sic] in conflict resolution, particularly international negotitations [sic], Dr Al Momani held various senior academic positions at the Faculty of International Studies at the University of Jordan, including Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, Coordinator of the Conflict Management Programme and Chairman of the Department for International Studies. He holds a PhD in International Relations from Keele University (UK).

And the organization seems to have a Facebook page, which provides the following information:

Mission

The main mission of the RCCP is to conduct research promoting conflict prevention as well as conflict management. This includes research on potential (hidden and latent) conflicts, causes of conflicts, mechanism and tools on conflict prevention as well as methods of conflict management and peacebuilding particularly in the Middle East.

Description

The Regional Centre on Conflict Prevention (RCCP) aims to create awareness as a means for early detection of possible conflict between states of the region or within one state, and to prevent disputes from erupting into violence. The RCCP also works to build capacity to resolve such conflicts peacefully, and to reach the root causes of problems in order to resolve them.

To achieve these objectives, the RCCP develops mechanisms for public policy management in the context of possible crises and conflicts, by conducting specialized academic activities for conflict resolution, and making the conclusions and recommendations that result from these activities available to decision makers, researchers, and interested parties.

All this humdrum boilerplate from an Arab think tank about “conflict resolution” and “conflict prevention”… hmm…

So, among the sponsors we have four prestigious transatlantic Western institutions. They employ experts with top-notch credentials and have expensive professionally-designed websites. One of them is Israeli, and is thought to be generally conservative.

And then we have an obscure Jordanian think tank with no web presence to speak of. It churns out vague feel-good bromides about resolving conflicts and helping everyone get along with each other and all the rest of that wonderful peace-loving tolerant inclusive stuff.

It makes me wonder who funded the whole operation — which must, after all, have cost a pretty penny.

I don’t have the answer to that question. However, in Parts 2 through 4 of this analysis we’ll take a fairly close look at the report itself.

 

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