On Aug. 4, in Dayton, Ohio, a gunman opened fire and killed nine people. The day before, another shooter killed 22 people in El Paso, Texas, apparently after posting a racist message to the anonymous online forum 8chan decrying an ostensible “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Though there is no indication so far that the Dayton shooting was motivated by extremist political beliefs, the violence in El Paso is the third mass shooting in 2019 to be linked to 8chan and to some form of far-right extremism.
Countering Violent Extremism
Introduced as part of an Obama administration counterterrorism program, the phrase “Countering Violent Extremism” (or “CVE”) refers to a broad spread of ideas and strategies aimed at dissuading and understanding radicalization. CVE initiatives range from academic research on extremist propaganda and the role of religion in violent ideology to civil society programs aimed at reintegrating disaffected youth. Despite its recent popularity, however, CVE faces some notable problems. While some Muslim community leaders view CVE programs as a welcome alternative to police surveillance, other leaders argue that it is simply surveillance by a different name. Perhaps even more seriously, critics have charged that the definition of CVE is so vague as to be almost unformed: what, after all, do we define as “violent extremism”? And what does it really mean to “counter” it?