August 16, 2019 Abdul Haqq

“…a riot is the language of the unheard.” Exposing Big Brother

…a riot is the language of the unheard.[1]

Most governments create or facilitate institutions that deliver social control strategies aimed at regulating societal behaviour within acceptable norms.[2] In other words, they endeavour to provide a premise upon which citizens adopt ‘legitimized identities’, becoming law-abiding members of society. This type of identity can be characterised as:

“…that which is introduced by the dominant institutions of society in order to extend and rationalise their domination (through social actors).”[3]

Social control and subsequent engineering of societally acceptable ‘legitimized identities’ often include considerations and values as (seemingly) innocuous as public education, media literacy, moral or religious training and higher/adult education.[4] These are universal aspects considered sacrosanct by those societies afforded such opportunities. However, what happens when a government changes or even revokes aspects of these considerations or values? Examination of two examples should provide illustrative overviews of the trajectories that emerge as a result of such changes at state level.

In October 2018, mass protests began in France as a result of the government’s decision to introduce an increase in fuel prices. Existing high costs of living and the disproportionate burden of tax reforms targeting the working and middle classes further galvanised large sections of society to protest. A political initiative – The Yellow Vests (or Jackets) movement – subsequently emerged as protests gathered momentum across France.[5]

Elsewhere, in Hong Kong we continue to witness an almost identical trajectory in which civil society opposed its government’s attempt to introduce a bill that would enable the extradition of its residents (among others) to China. Despite the withdrawal of the bill, the possibility of it being resurrected by the legislative body for reconsideration at a later date has resulted in continuing protests and escalating civil unrest.[6]

Both democratic societies enjoyed the legitimized identities and conformity of their citizens – up until the above-mentioned amendments were introduced. State legislated social control mechanisms were now being challenged by an opposing counter trajectory of ‘deviance’ and ‘dissent’.

Deviance & Dissent: Stratagems for Civil disobedience?

These two elements contrast social and government control, which run along a parallel trajectory.[7] In these examples, the government’s preferred identity construct is subsequently rejected, resulting in:

“…the dissolution of former legitimizing identities that used to constitute the civil society…giving rise to resistance identities which are pervasive in the network of society.” [8]

The initial focus of dissent in France and Hong Kong was protest in opposition of proposed changes to policy and legislation; however, this rapidly escalated into more severe forms of confrontation precipitated by either;

  1. increased confrontational tactics, i.e. disturbance of the peace, illegal assembly, non-violent mass protest from civil society actors and/or;
  2. aggressive arrests, search and seizure, riot and crowd control initiated by state/security apparatus.

Crelinsten’s theoretical framework highlights parallel but oppositional trajectories between state and civil society actors as the former attempts to regain social control amongst an upsurge of civil deviance and dissent emanating from increasingly galvanised resistance identities. The question as to which entity precipitated such escalation is likely to be contested by either side with each attributing liability to the other in an attempt to justify their consequential actions.

The UK Context: Are we there yet?

Legal Dissent [9] can be considered the natural reaction among Muslims to the increased securitisation and targeting of our communities via the now discredited and toxic Prevent programme. Under the guise of this flawed initiative, government agencies continue to deploy proactive policing that includes surveillance, use of informants, target-hardening and entrapment – not to mention, political policing [10] (utilising the services of other Muslims of a liberally extreme persuasion who subscribe to the government’s socio-ideological objective to replace socially conservative, mainstream Islam with a more insipid ‘British’ brand). If these somewhat repressive strategies weren’t enough, Muslim communities have also been subjected to security intelligence that includes infiltration and covert facilitation as methods to either diminish or at least discredit legitimate dissent. Evidence to support these assertions can be found in the recent revelations of a covert counterterrorism programme – Woke – that has been introduced to: “…effect behavioural and attitudinal change…” targeting “Prevent audiences…particularly, males aged 15 to 39.” [11] The Home Office’s Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) is apparently behind the creation of this initiative. However, it has refused to disclose any information for fear of “jeopardising UK national security”.[12] Even participants enlisted to contribute to the initiative, like Elif Karim, were unaware of its overarching remit:

“We certainly weren’t told it was anything to do with the Prevent programme.” [13]

Conclusion

Government attempts to stifle, discredit and – as has been highlighted in this and related articles – even deploy covert methods in an effort to counter and realign resistant identities and legitimate dissent are reminiscent of big brother strategies from a bygone era. The futility of these efforts confirms, yet again, the bankruptcy of Prevent. As one previously involved and engaged with what is now referred to as Prevent MKI – and witnessing the morphing of the existing model into an overwhelmingly community-targeted coercive strategy – I believe myself well positioned to comment in this regard. The structural and increasingly institutionalised Islamophobic policies directed towards British Muslims – overtly and covertly – continue to cause alarm. It is therefore imperative that they be resisted. This article commenced with a quote from Martin Luther King, so it is apt to end with another from him:

“…I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channelled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action…” [14]

In reality, Muslims in the UK are ‘woke’ to the reality of this government’s liberally extreme agenda while it sleepwalks into oblivion with Brexit.

 

 

 

 

[1]60 Minutes Overtime: ‘MLK: A Riot is the Language of the Unheard’, CBS News, 25thAugust 2013: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/mlk-a-riot-is-the-language-of-the-unheard/

[2]Crelinsten, R D: ‘Analysing Terrorism and Counter-terrorism: A Communication Model’, Terrorism and Political Violence, 14:2, 77-122, pp.3 & 4, 22ndJanuary 2002

[3]Castells, M: ‘The Information Age Economy, Society and Culture’, Volume II: ‘The Power of Identity’, Blackwell, GB 1997, cited in Baker, A: ‘Countering Terrorism in the UK: A Convert Community Perspective’, PhD thesis, pp.65-66, University of Exeter, 2009.

[4]Crelinsten, R D: ‘Analysing Terrorism and Counter-terrorism: A Communication Model’, Terrorism and Political Violence, 14:2, 77-122, pp.3 & 4, 22ndJanuary 2002

[5]Yellow Vests Movement: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_vests_movement

[6]Willis, J: ‘The Hong Kong Protests, Explained’, GQ, 14thAugust 2019: https://www.gq.com/story/hong-kong-protests-explained

[7]Crelinsten, R D: ‘Analysing Terrorism and Counter-terrorism: A Communication Model’, Terrorism and Political Violence, 14:2, 77-122, pp.3 & 4, 22ndJanuary 2002

[8]Castells, M: ‘The Information Age Economy, Society and Culture’, Volume II: ‘The Power of Identity’, Blackwell, GB 1997, cited in Baker, A: ‘Countering Terrorism in the UK: A Convert Community Perspective’, PhD thesis, pp.65-66, University of Exeter, 2009.

[9]Crelinsten, R D: ‘Analysing Terrorism and Counter-terrorism: A Communication Model’, Terrorism and Political Violence, 14:2, 77-122, pp.3 & 4, 22ndJanuary 2002

[10]Ibid

[11]Cobain, I: ‘The ‘Woke’ Media Outfit that’s actually a UK Counterterror Programme’, Middle East Eye, 15thAugust 2019:
https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/revealed-woke-media-outfit-thats-actually-uk-counterterror-programme:

[12]Ibid

[13]Ibid

[14]Martin Luther King: ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail, [King Jr.]’ 16th April 1963, African Studies Centre – University of Pennsylvania: http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

 

 

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