Revealnews.org, an online nonprofit investigative news organization decided to investigate the participation of law enforcement officials in extremist groups. What they found gives rise to some concern. To do this, they wrote software to down-load membership lists from Facebook, which the platform allowed at the time. Reveal ran two datasets against each other to find users who were members of at least one law enforcement group and one far-right group. They got 14,000 hits.
Then, this investigative news agency spent months poring over individual Facebook pages, looking for clues, such as photos of the officer in uniform from a database hit, or posts about police events, etc., to verify that the match was for sure one-in-the-same person. Once a bingo came up, Reveal would then call the law enforcement agency to confirm the individual still or had worked there. Ultimately, the investigators came up with 400 user matches who were either currently employed as police officers, sheriffs, or prison guards or had once worked in law enforcement.
Four hundred confirmations may not seem like a lot, but there are two things to consider. This was a limited investigation, and yet it took a great deal of time; further, this sample would indicate a larger overall participation of officers being in racial groups. Once the individual officer was identified in an extremist group, the reporter would contact the closed group and ask to join. While Reveal news didn’t try to find every extremist group on Facebook (There are thousands), they infiltrated such closed groups as “Stop Radical Islam in America,” which asked, “Why do you personally think Islam should be banned in America?” Note the subtly. Touted by title as being for banning radical Islam, but in purpose and action is a hate group wanting to ban all of Islamic teaching and religion in America.
Quoting Megan Squire, a computer science professor from Elon University in North Carolina, this is “a tiny postage stamp-sized window into Facebook’s skyscraper of data.” Squire has studied hate groups on Facebook for years. She says the social media platform, and especially closed groups, are used by hate groups such as white supremacists to plan events and build camaraderie.
Sociologist Peter Sims said white supremacists and other extremists have been working hard to integrate their hateful views into society in as many ways as possible. “Leaders have long been advocating for infiltration of society --- graduate from high school, go to college, join the military, become a police officer, become a school teacher --- get inside the system. That’s why it’s so difficult to get a handle on the scope of this, because the purpose for those who are infiltrating the systems is to be careful not to tip their hand. So we are always dealing with the tip of the iceberg.”
Reveal is doing a complete series on extremism in law enforcement and Twogaa highly recommends following it. It’s not that extremists cannot belong to a group and as a matter of free speech say a lot of detestable and hateful things. The concern here is how can any individual bifurcate extreme attitudes and beliefs from a required unbiased duty in law enforcement service to the general public?
In next week’s Twogaa Sunday Post, we shall take a look at the cozy relationship within fundamentalist Christianity and white supremacy.
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