70+ Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Organizations Warn Against Repealing or Making Overbroad Changes to Section 230 in Wake of Capitol AttackJanuary 27, 2021
Defending Rights & Dissent Joins Press Freedom Groups in Calling on Biden Admin to Drop Assange ChargesFebruary 9, 2021
By Chip Berlet
In 2017, the US Department of Homeland Security launched the My DHS Idea campaign featuring an online forum where people are invited to:
post your own ideas to address the homeland security challenges that are important to you and your community, comment on other people’s ideas, and vote on the issues and approaches you think are the most important for DHS to consider. This interactive format allows everyone on the site to see the issues that are most important to other participants, and which ideas generate the most interest and support. The Department’s Office of Policy staff will moderate and contribute to discussions on an occasional basis, incorporating key ideas into the strategy review process as appropriate.
DHS has an unfortunate habit of asking the general public to help protect the homeland in ways that that predictably reinforce racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and other profiling. We see it in the Suspicious Activity Reports the public is encouraged to file, and Countering Violent Extremism grants awarded to community groups. It is unclear if any DHS staff are actually moderating or contributing to discussions on the website, and what, if any ideas promoted on the website are being incorporated into the DHS strategy review process.
But, what is clear is that openly anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are being promoted on the site, including the same type of conspiracy theories that DHS has warned against in its most recent Homeland Threat Assessment.
The Academic Engagement section includes at least one lengthy essay based on anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that have circulated for centuries in various forms. “The Federal Government, along with DHS, the US Military, are all engaged in Soft Genocide,” the author, Lindsay Wheeler proclaims. “And all of this is linked to the religious teachings of Judaism that require the Unity of Man to be accomplished for their Messiah to appear.”
People have a First Amendment right to believe in, and talk about, whatever conspiracy theory they want, but taxpayer funds shouldn’t be used to promote them on a government-run website.
Chip Berlet served over 30 years on the Board of the Defending Dissent Foundation. He is co-author the book “Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort,” which warned of the rise of a populist far right Presidential candidate. A forthcoming book from Routledge traces his journalism and scholarship. Berlet is publicly releasing much of his journalistic work and images here.