Welcome back to CTEC in the News, where we round up CTEC’s recent publications, media appearances, and more! We have a lot of ground to cover in today’s edition, so let’s get started.
Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act
CTEC Director and Middlebury Institute professor Jason Blazakis was quoted by HuffPost in an article on the proposed Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act and the opposition it has faced by some in the Senate and the Department of Justice. He stated that this pushback on legislation combatting domestic terrorism should be evaluated “through the lens of the cult of personality driving executive branch decision-making.”
Digital Research Lead Alex Newhouse was quoted by Yahoo News describing the way QAnon followers have leveraged social media recommendation algorithms to spread their conspiracies to other users. He explained how they exploit these algorithms by linking their ideas to other popular conspiracies, such as those surrounding vaccines and 5G, in order to “drive engagement to their videos or posts”.
On Thursday, Jason penned an article for Slate analyzing the steps taken by militia members who were arrested for plotting to kidnap and assassinate Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. He pointed to the careful decision-making of the arrested militia and willingness to wait for the right time, and wrote that “the plotters were aspiring students of terror–not just blowhards repeating stale mantras.“ He also warned of the potential consequences of President Trump’s tweets in response that day, stating that his words would be interpreted by members of these extremist militias as a “siren call” that could put other policymakers at risk.
He was interviewed by CBS News on the same subject, describing the motivations of and steps taken by the arrested members. He highlighted the efforts by the FBI to mitigate this threat, and how they were able to infiltrate the group through undercover agents. He strongly urged that further measures be taken to prevent similar events in the future, especially around polling places during the upcoming election which he described as “soft targets” for such attacks.
Jason was also interviewed by Darren Adam on Leading Britain’s Conversation for their segment on the ISIS “Beatles” Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh and the recently announced charges they will face in court. He commented on his time working on the case in 2017, as well as the charges these two will face in the US court system. The two ended the interview by discussing the agreement the US made with UK officials not to pursue the death penalty in exchange for additional intelligence to use as evidence in the case.
White Supremacist Extremism
Finally, Jason was interviewed by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in a video describing the rise of white supremacist extremist groups like the Proud Boys and the Atomwaffen Division, their goals, and their methods for recruiting new members. This was a video that was recorded in advance of his talk on the subject for the Institute’s WorldViews speaker series, which is this Wednesday, October 14th from 4:30 - 5:30 PM PST. Click here to register for the event.
That’s all for now! Stay tuned for more news from CTEC.