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Domestic Violent Extremism: The #1 Most Underfunded Problem in the Country

After Jan 6, multiple government agencies, including the FBI and DOJ, issued a memorandum circulated heavily in the media that extremism was the #1 threat facing the country today. A fund was opened. Applicants were solicited. Think tanks wiggled their formidable antennae, Quantico held symposiums. More than 800 new self-declared extremist groups formed, at the same time. The FBI’s latest report on extremism is 1 ½ years behind the rest of us. No new agencies were formed. Two of three active former-organized deradicalization programs ceased to do business, or stalled. Mass shootings continued, and government officials on the far right are now in power in several states across the USA. Suffice it to say, nothing improved. The situation has worsened, with senators, governors and judges with special protections now openly propagating policies straight out of the Dark Ages. The hue of this latest (but not so old) brand of extremism has the flavor of “Christian identitarianism.” This ideology has been at the root of some of the most violent extremist and terrorist groups, including Atomwaffen Division, The Base and The Order of 9 Angles, among others. Although declaring Judeo-Christian values, the effigy on the alter of these groups is, essentially, White men, not a divinity. Race as a religion…two years after Jan 6.

In 2021, an article by Farah Pandith and Jacob Ware, CFR Experts, suggested strategies that President Biden should implement to address the situation: “The country should ensure that 24-7, evidence-based deradicalization and counter-radicalization machines are at work across the government, built from research, data, and science. The deadly riot at the Capitol is indicative of an underfunded and underprioritized effort on countering violent extremism (CVE), a problem that predates the Trump administration” (“Countering Violent Extremism…”, January 28, 2021). In order to make the “machines” go brrr, of course, a social media campaign should be launched, according to Pandith and Ware, and of course, we need to understand how Gen Z and Gen A use the internet, to this end. The US should empower partnering nations, of course, and provide more funding to NATO…although the problem is domestic. These are from the now-standard counter-extremism vernacular in nearly every grant proposal as part of the push to incorporate technology and social media into any venture that may receive funding. What the authors called for that is not standard is to incorporate participation from non-government stakeholders, including social workers, psychologists, and organizations like Beyond Barriers USA. Beyond Barriers is comprised of former extremists who left their respective movements and now operate completely out-of-pocket to create interventions, conduct data-driven research, spread awareness, and maintain sites for hosting social media campaigns. In other words, organizations like this have already been doing the recommended work – without media attention and without funding. Some are on a purely volunteer basis. Evidently, no one got the memo Pandith and Ware sent out.  

The discourse among counter-extremist organizations has continuously been centered around the frustration in attempting to gain support and funding to continue operating, and to expand. “Why?” is always the closing statement, when the coffee has gone cold and sleep has been missed for the umpteenth time that week. As cultural watchers, we at Beyond Barriers took a look at that question, in earnest. Since Jan 6, the groups keep cropping up and the memberships keep growing. Certainly, radicalizing youth online has been an on-going issue, but with shifts in power dynamics, the narratives are stronger, overt, and escalating in temperature. Extremist communities online are integrating into other social media spaces, actively competing with “the other side” and daring anyone to do anything about it, relying, of course, on 1st Amendment rights. Social media platforms have evolved into a kind of alt-social club for many young people, especially the perennials 4chan and 8chan, Reddit and Twitter. But influencers on other livestreaming sites such as YouTube, and the new alt-right platform are not only promoting far-right ideology and sentiments, they are openly grooming and practicing their brand of hate speech among their own communities, while profiting at the same time through subscriptions, donations and tips.

The internet got ahead of the memo, by light years – of course.

The hurdles for self-start organizations are numerous. For most self-start orgs, funding has been through the private sector or through independent agencies. Very little, if any, comes directly from the government. After all, why would the government ever want to hand funding to citizens they’ve already deemed as part of the problem? The problem with that is – only these citizens understand the mindset and dynamics of extremist groups. They’re the only ones who have the influence and networks to be able to convince members to leave and stay out. They’re the only ones who have the time and the expertise to have a direct impact. The general perspective from the majority of citizens, however, is that extremism is a government problem and therefore, the government should handle it internally. Furthermore, the infamous in-fighting and rivalry among extremist groups persists even when members and leaders do exit. Sabotage, slander, defamation – all common occurrences among self-starts with qualified programs. The tactic seems to be to stand around and sue each other in order to skip the dog and pony show of endless speaking engagements. Such bag-grabs damage the reputation of organizations that don’t resort to shady tactics, and they succumb to the guilty by association mentality that conservative funding and research agencies espouse by protocol. For start-ups committed to working directly with extremists, even conducting their own research, as Beyond Barriers does, these factors create a mountainous obstacle.

Beyond Barriers knows by experience that the organizations that can make a difference are at the bottom, not the top, but, ultimately, the top-down approach is the one most frequently adopted by agencies that could fully support and fund effective organizations. This is the key issue. Without state, local and community support in the form of operational resources and feasible sponsorships, institutional cooperation for outreach and education, the involvement of friends, co-workers and relatives in interventions, and the ability to reach out to qualified volunteers for research, that mountain is a very steep slope made of solid ice. With no concentrated effort locally, for the youth, the highest at-risk demographic, it’s far easier to just join the alt-social club than to ask questions like, “Why hasn’t anything been done about this?”

“Countering Violent Extremism: Three Moves Biden Should Make Now.” Farah Pandith and Jacob Ware. January 28, 2021. Available at

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