Groupthink In Action

I mentioned an episode of the BBC Radio 4 series called “Law in Action” in a recent post. The episode was:

Terrorism, Extremism and the Law

In this episode the BBC presenter Joshua Rozenberg (JR) talks with a Muslim called Dr. Salman Butt, with the former GCHQ director Sir David Omand, and with David Anderson QC (DA QC), about the government’s “Prevent” strategy and the surveillance bill known as the Snooper’s charter.

[Note: The longer 45 minute version of the program is found by clicking on the download MP3 link in the above web page]

I decided to write a specific post about this program because I think it helps to shine a light on the way the government and the mainstream media (particularly the BBC) exist in a narrow-minded ideological group-think bubble. Together they reinforce each others’ prejudices and work to block voices from outside the bubble from being heard. Many people consequently have come to the view that the current establishment is engaging in a sort of conspiracy that is actively working for the benefit only of a narrow rich elite, and against the interests of ordinary people. Unfortunately I think there is a degree of truth in this, although I think the closed nature of the establishment “clique” is also a problem in its own right. Even if there is such a big conspiracy going on, it will eventually come back to haunt the establishment elite themselves as the whole Western world will either likely descend into chaos and conflict, or become part of a theocratic caliphate which will not be kind to the former elite. Either way, they are living in a deluded ideological bubble which needs to be burst, and soon.

[Click the READ MORE button to see this post in full:]

In her proposed Counter Extremism bill the Prime Minister Theresa May (then the Home Secretary) threatened to reinforce the bubble even further – by vaguely legislating against anyone whose views fall outside the bubble, using “Extremist Banning and Disruption Orders“. I am glad to report that all of the people interviewed in this program did at least oppose this Orwellian proposal, as should any believer in freedom of speech, democracy and equality before the law.

WHAT IS GROUPTHINK?

For those not familiar with the term it was apparently coined by William H. Whyte, Jr. in 1952.

A definition from wikipedia:

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.

INTRODUCING – DR. SALMAN BUTT

[Note: I incorrectly said in that previous post that Salman Butt was bringing a libel case against the government, in fact it is a judicial review case although he has also accused the govt. of libelling him apparently – not sure if he is planning on also bringing a libel case.]

The first section of the program is an interview with Dr. Salman Butt who apparently has been accused by the government of being an extremist. Dr. Butt is clearly quite litigious, clearly he has been well trained in the art of Islamic Lawfare. He also appears to be very well funded – seemingly having both the financial resources to take the UK govt. to the High Court and also the spare time to contemplate such an enormous endeavour. Most of us simply have neither the time, legal knowledge or the financial resources for such activities (he must be very rich (or something)). I had never even heard of such a thing as a “judicial review” before I listened to this program. I will therefore not be too critical of Dr. Butt at this point (slightly fearful as I am of “what might happen”), lets see how his court case goes first before we call him any names (due in December apparently). The only fleeting observations I will make are that:

  • I think his defence can be fairly neatly summarized thus – “Extremist, who me?”
  • I visited his twitter feed briefly where I saw a tweet that said that Maajid Nawaz was a white supremacist collaborator. Now if anybody has libelled anybody, I think surely Dr. Butt has libelled Mr. Nawaz here but hey, none of my business.
  • It seems roughly that Dr. Butt thinks that a 7th century barbaric belief system can be adapted in some useful way somehow to fit in with the 21st century. My anti-virus software warned me against visiting his website, which is called Islam 21c, so don’t lets go there.

Regardless of all this I wish him well in his court case because I think Theresa May’s Counter Extremism bill is a load of anti-democratic nonsense which needs to be ripped to shreds and thrown in the waste paper basket.

INTERVIEWING SIR DAVID OMAND

The style of the interviewer was deferential throughout – he didn’t really challenge the interviewees, but much was said that should have been challenged. As one of the original key architects of the Prevent strategy, Sir David Omand in particular is partly responsible for a scheme that wasted hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money. This money was not just wasted it actually helped to exacerbate the problem of Islamic extremism in the UK because much of it was simply handed out to Islamic organizations that the government mistakenly believed (or claimed) were preaching a more moderate “version” of the religion. I’m sure that Sir David would disagree with me if I said that it was a bit like a Mafia protection racket where you give money to the gangsters who are threatening to hurt you in the hope that they won’t attack. I wrote about this first period of the Prevent strategy here (this post includes links to articles detailing this spending):

The Pretend Strategy – The Story So Far

At the point in the program where Joshua Rozenberg (JR) introduces Sir David Omand, he implicitly suggests that the Prevent strategy was originally well conceived, despite the above evidence to the contrary:

[08:54 JR] …. Law in Action has discovered that one of the key architects of Prevent believes that the strategy has lost its way. He’s Sir David Omand ….

Straight away I had the feeling that JR was going to give Sir David an easy ride – old boys in the bubble having a cozy chat. The “Prevent” strategy had never found its way in the first place, it was utterly ill conceived from the very beginning.

Although the aim of the program in general was mainly to criticize Theresa May’s proposed extremist banning and disruption orders, some of the thinking that led to her drafting this proposal was evident in the views expressed in the program. Crucially there has been a consistent failure to listen to voices that say that it is the Islamic religion itself that is extreme and that incites violence and terror. Until we address the religion directly the “Prevent” strategy will always continue to be a “Pretend” strategy. It could only ever at best be expected to fail to do anything about Islamic “extremism”, but in practice will inevitably actually make matters worse (by suppressing the honest debate about Islam that needs to be had) and, as Douglas Murray has put it, “alienate just about everybody”.

Sir David continues to talk about the thinking behind the “Prevent” strategy:

[11:10 Sir D] Can you spot the young people who are at risk…. and begin to talk to them seriously about the risks they are running if they do fall into violent extremism.

The risks are kind of obvious really – if you strap on a suicide belt things are probably not going to go very well for you from then on. Unless of course you can think of nothing better to do with your life than making a swift exit and taking as many other people with you as possible. I think this illustrates the huge gulf between Islamic thinking and the establishment’s idea that all they need to do is convince the young people that joining the Islamic State for example might be a bit dangerous.

[11:50 Sir D] It should be dealing with some of the worst areas of deprivation in terms of social facilities and housing.

Ah – another plank of the groupthink bubble’s thinking – deprivation is a contributory factor to Islamic extremism, and that a solution to this problem is for governments to spend more money on deprived areas. Its strange that all the extremely deprived areas of the UK never fostered any significant amount of violent extremism during the 19th century when the degree of hardship was beyond most people’s imagination today. Hm, I wonder what possible factors could be different between these two cases of “social deprivation” (lets not mention Islam)? Actually it seems to me that the state is already extremely generous to the poor, paying them to have unlimited numbers of children and providing free housing, free healthcare, free education etc..

[12:15 Sir D] ….but if you’re pursuing counter-terrorism, then sticking to preventing violent extremism, that’s a legitimate task for the police, policing “Britishness” is not a legitimate task for the police.

Here at least I wholeheartedly agree with Sir David.

They also discussed the part of the strategy that relates to interference in education which hasn’t been going very well lately either, with legal “duties” causing disquiet among teachers and pupils alike. JR suggests that the legal duties will discourage pupils from talking to their teachers and talking to their imams. This is where I see a big flaw in the bubble’s thinking – the idea that talking to their imams will help to steer children away from extremism. Of course SOME of the imams do correctly misunderstand their own religion and so it is preferable that the children talk to those imams rather than reading the Quran directly. If the children read the Quran directly they might just notice all the over 100 incitements to wage violent jihad against the disbelievers and so forth.

The problem is that the number of imams who do misunderstand their religion in line with government guidelines is not really as big as the government likes to think it is. Even those imams who do misunderstand Islam don’t do nearly enough to discourage their flocks from reading the Quran directly – many even actively encourage this unfortunate activity. A further problem is that the Quran is widely available in English on the internet and all good bookshops so there is nothing the government can do to “prevent” Muslims from just reading the holy book themselves in their spare time as well.

(Of course you may have guessed by now that my own “Prevent” strategy would involve steering impressionable young people away from the religion altogether. Unfortunately this is not a course of action that the bubble will contemplate because they regard religions as invariably a good thing and they have brainwashed themselves into believing that Islam is a good religion, a religion of peace.)

JR then informs us:

[15:38 JR] The Home Office told us that legislation to tackle extremism was being considered and the govt. would consult fully on any legislation

This is a lie – the govt. is not planning to consult “fully” except with Muslim “communities” and with people strictly inside the groupthink bubble. They will not be asking persona non grata such as Robert Spencer or Chauncey Tinker for example what we think about the Prevent strategy. Consequently the excellent suggestion I made above – to persuade people to abandon the religion altogether, will not even be considered. This is a shame because it is the one “Prevent” strategy that would actually be likely to work. The fact that the current UK Prime Minister Theresa May actually banned Robert Spencer (and Pamela Gellar) from coming to the UK is an illustration of an aspect of the groupthink bubble in action – “actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences”.

INTERVIEWING DAVID ANDERSON QC

[26:56 DA QC] Violent Islamism is a dangerous virus and there are equally dangerous viruses coming for example from the extreme right wing

A very troubling statement, not least because he doesn’t explain what he even means by the “extreme right wing” and he also says “for example” suggesting that there may be other “dangerous viruses” coming from other directions which he doesn’t even specify. He then talks in creepy language about “inoculating the young” and about “de-radicalization”. De-radicalization is surely something he has no clue about because he has misdiagnosed the “virus”. To paraphrase Boris Johnson – the virus is Islam, Islam is the virus.

There is then some talk about how the strategy lately has been alienating Muslims, something I talked about before here:

The Pretend Strategy – A New Orwellian Direction

Clearly the strategy is difficult no matter what is tried, so why don’t we just bite the bullet, go the whole hog, and challenge the Islamic religion head on? Alternatively we could abandon the “Prevent” strategy altogether and just stop banning sensible people like Robert Spencer from visiting the country, and allow a proper debate to take place OUTSIDE of government interference. We do, after all, believe in the freedom of speech, do we not? JR next talks about disquiet among Muslims particularly about the Prevent strategy. Mr. Anderson responds:

[28:32 DA QC] Well you hear about that a lot, and you have to wonder why it is that you hear it.

Mr. Anderson thinks a wider range of Muslims need to be engaged and involved in the “Prevent” strategy instead – but clearly doesn’t think me and Mr. Spencer should be “engaged” because he doesn’t even mention us. Silly man, we could straighten this whole thing out in a flash for him, if he gave us a chance.

[29:44 JR] Muslims are the victims of terrorism just as many terrorists happen to be Muslims themselves

Oh I’m getting a bit weary by now, not these tired old chestnuts again – Muslims are victims and many terrorists “happen” to be Muslims just by a coincidence (its nothing to do with Islam). I just smashed my radio set on the floor, hold on while I go and buy a new one….

OK, I’m back. Right, let me explain something – Muslims are victims OF THEIR OWN RELIGION – it is time we persuaded them the whole thing is just a giant fraud that has been misleading them for centuries.

There is a priceless joke about a terrorist house at 30:35, I won’t spoil it you will have to listen to the podcast for that! Lightens the mood a bit I suppose. Right, I’m back on an even keel again now, just about.

[31:43 DA QC] ….one knows for example that a significant proportion of prevent interventions now relate to the extreme right wing and I believe that that proportion is growing very strongly

Here he goes again. Really??? Is he referring to “interventions” like this one perhaps:

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/685502/redcar-middlesborough-teesville-primary-prevent-legislation-radicalisation-brexit

or this one:

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-hampshire-35671519

How many times have the “extreme right wing” committed terrorist attacks in Europe lately? There have been a few attacks but the numbers of casualties are far outnumbered by the numbers of casualties caused by Muslim terrorist attacks. Perhaps indeed the govt. should publish more statistics about these “interventions” as DA QC suggests, it would be very interesting to hear about those “interventions”.

Of course what is really happening here is that the establishment voices are trying to convince the Muslims particularly that Prevent isn’t just about Islam, its about tackling “extremism in all its forms” (the sinister Orwellian phrase so oft-used by Theresa May). Absolute codswallop, how dare they suggest there is just as big a problem among non-Muslims currently, and that it is “growing very strongly”. I don’t believe a word of it.

[33:28 DA QC] Taking it further and applying it to ideas that are for example un-British or opposed to democracy seems to me very dangerous and quite wrong. We got through the cold war after all without making it illegal to be a communist or express communist opinions.

Now speaking of the cold war, imagine if Joseph McCarthy had tried to pretend that Communism was really a mainstream centre-left political ideology and that Communists were actually misunderstanding their own political ideology when they called for shared ownership and the dictatorship of the proletariat and all that. It would not have worked very well, would it? Not many communists would have been convinced by that now would they?

[36:09 DA QC] ….the single document that has alarmed me most is the early draft (I emphasize) of the Counter Extremism bill….

“alarmed me most” – you and me both Mr Anderson, its a shame with your prominent advisory position you could not manage to persuade the Prime Minister what a hopeless load of nonsense it is.

[36:20 DA QC] commitment of consultation on every aspect of the bill

Consultation with who? Muslims and members of the groupthink bubble, that’s who.

Then JR has a go at winding me up, saying:

[36:55 JR] but whatever the bill says you could say …. there would be restrictions and safeguards. Surely its necessary to give these broad powers to make sure you catch the bad guys even though in theory it could make life difficult for people acting perfectly lawfully.

It almost seems that JR is trying to push the government to become more wildly authoritarian here, but thankfully DA QC challenges this at least.  Then JR presses the point again, saying:

[38:34 JR] We should be doing something about non-violent extremism shouldn’t we – it can sow the seeds of division, it can encourage segregation…. it can create a mindset open to exploitation by people geared to violence – surely this is something the law should be trying to tackle?

By this point JR seems to be actively pushing Mr Anderson to agree that “something must be done” to combat “non-violent extremism” but Mr Anderson doesn’t quite rise to the bait (is JR trying to influence government policy here?). Mr Anderson does however say:

[38:47 DA QC] Yes, we are in a battle for hearts and minds, there’s no question about that, there is a public debate going on that is absolutely as it should be – that argument has to be won by the forces of diversity, tolerance, open-mindedness.

What, exactly does he mean by “the forces of diversity, tolerance, open-mindedness” I wonder? Does he mean, as the PM appears to believe, that we should tolerate those who break our laws by inciting violence and rape against us? What exactly is open-minded about “inoculating” the “virus” of non-violent extremism? Why should we continue to accept “diversity” when the “diversity” begins to threaten our very existence? Has he even thought before he speaks here? Of course, these contradictory “values” are part of the very heart of the collective insanity that is the groupthink bubble’s ideology. Mr. Anderson does at least end this statement by saying that he doesn’t think the government should try to close “that debate” down.

Then JR asks about how leaving the EU will make it more difficult to combat terrorism (loaded question here).

[39:20 JR] What do you think the effect of Brexit (assuming it goes through) is going to have on these areas, is it going to make it more difficult to tackle terrorism….?

In reply, DA QC plugs the value of the EU in enabling cooperation in anti-terrorism – JR doesn’t challenge this, of course, this is a BBC program! He doesn’t for example mention the problems that open borders and mass immigration have brought in this area, and the problem of weapons being smuggled across borders into Europe from former eastern bloc countries and the middle east. Of course not, because the members of the groupthink bubble are very disproportionately PRO-EU and pro open borders.

http://conservativepapers.com/news/2015/09/02/isis-smuggling-weapons-into-europe-asylum-seeker-terrorist/

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/poland-weapon-smuggling-following-ukraine-war-arming-organised-crime-terrorists-western-europe-1533683

THE SNOOPERS’ CHARTER

JR asks Mr Anderson about the Snoopers’ charter, Mr Anderson responds by saying:

[21:45 DA QC] That phrase was disavowed by all sensible political parties and quite right too.

Again, JR doesn’t challenge this statement.

Of course talking about the “groupthink bubble” is a wild generalization to describe a problem – there are people in parliament whose opinions to some extent fall outside the bubble. David Davis is a minister in the Conservative party, the closest approximation we have currently to a “sensible political party”, and David Davis is one of the most sensible members of it (he almost became the leader of the party at one point). He (with several other Conservatives) is closely associated with an organization called Big Brother Watch which recently published an article in which the phrase “The Snooper’s Charter” actually appears in the title:

Boing Boing – The Snoopers Charter is now law in the UK: “extreme surveillance” rules the land

Quote:

The Snoopers Charter — AKA the “Investigatory Powers Act” — is the most extreme surveillance law in Europe, more extreme that America’s Patriot Act and associated presidential orders and secret rulings from the Foreign Intelligence courts. Snowden nailed it when he said it “goes further than many autocracies.”

Also in another article on their site:

The Bill will make the UK the only European or Commonwealth country to retain records of every citizen’s internet browsing history. It also confirms the ability of the intelligence services to gather vast amounts of personal information in bulk from citizens, intercept communications and hack into devices.
…..

The much vaunted “double lock” on authorising surveillance isn’t strong enough and leaves too much power in the hands of politicians. There is no guarantee that citizens will be told if they have been put under surveillance wrongfully. Perhaps worst of all the use of Technical Capability Notices to weaken encryption will harm security for everyone, not improve it.

So much for “disavowed by all sensible political parties”. Clearly there is a lot about this bill that should be challenged by believers in civil liberties, but the bill is now set to become law.

[24:16 DA QC] I think its quite difficult to look at that report and not agree that these powers whatever you might think of them are pretty useful in attacking serious crime, paedophilia and terrorism.

We don’t doubt that Mr. Anderson, in fact allowing the police to enter anybody’s home at any time without a warrant would no doubt also be pretty useful in attacking serious crime, paedophilia and terrorism. That doesn’t mean that its a good idea to give the police such a power, considering where it might lead.

JR then questions Mr Anderson about the Snowden revelations:

[25:30 DA QC] I don’t condone for a moment what Edward Snowden did but one cannot deny that the increased openness that one is beginning to see all over the world has been prompted by the revelations that he made.

He then goes on to describe all the good effects that Snowden’s revelations have had – how it has led to much greater transparency about such infringements on our civil liberties.

CONCLUSION

To be fair Mr. Anderson QC is arguing for more transparency in these policies, and this should be welcomed.

Near the end, he admits that:

Ministers are in thrall to the media

Exactly, this is exactly what I am talking about – the groupthink bubble in action where the media and parliament reinforce each others’ narrow minded view of the world.

We urgently need to burst the groupthink bubble and end the government’s pathetic “Prevent” strategy. If you live in the UK please write to your MP explaining to them why you would like the government to stop trying to police what people think. What we need is a debate about Islam, not Islam”ism”, not “strains” of Islam, just simply Islam. If we fail to have this debate, and win it, we may be alive to witness Western civilization going down the plughole. If the majority of non-Muslims properly understood the Islamic religion I am quite sure that they would call for a complete end to Muslim immigration and for all the mosques in the country to be shut down. We must get the truth out to people before its too late.

RELATED POSTS:

Joint Select Committee Scathingly Dismisses Theresa May’s Counter Extremism Proposals

ELSEWHERE ON THE WEB:

http://hurryupharry.org/2016/08/11/who-is-dr-salman-butt/

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