In a speech before the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York last week (24/9/2014), David Cameron stated that he intends to defeat not only violent “extremists”, but “all extremism”, in which he includes alternative narratives about the cause of 9-11 and 7-7. Although he does not use the term “conspiracy theory”, in this, deliberately or not – echoed George W. Bush’s famous quote following 9-11, “Let us not tolerate absurd conspiracy theories”, underlining that “conspiracy theory” is a rhetorical term employed by those with power to silence dissent from the “official line”.
As evidence emerges about the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offences, it is clear that many of them were initially influenced by preachers who claim not to encourage violence, but whose world view can be used as a justification for it.
The peddling of lies: that 9/11 was a Jewish plot and the 7/7 London attacks were staged.
The idea that Muslims are persecuted all over the world as a deliberate act of Western policy.
The concept of an inevitable clash of civilisations.
We must be clear: to defeat the ideology of extremism we need to deal with all forms of extremism – not just violent extremism.
For governments, there are some obvious ways we can do this.
We must ban preachers of hate from coming to our countries.
We must proscribe organisations that incite terrorism against people at home and abroad.
We must work together to take down illegal online material like the recent videos of Isil murdering hostages.
And we must stop so called non-violent extremists from inciting hatred and intolerance in our schools, universities and prisons.
Of course some will argue that this is not compatible with free speech and intellectual inquiry.
But I say: would we sit back and allow right-wing extremists, Nazis or Klu Klux Klansmen to recruit on our university campuses?
So we shouldn’t stand by and just allow any form of non-violent extremism.
We need to argue that prophecies of a global war of religion pitting Muslims against the rest of the world are nonsense.
We need Muslims and their governments around the world to reclaim their religion from these sick terrorists.
We all need to help them with programmes that channel young people away from these poisonous ideologues.
And we need the strongest possible international focus on tackling this ideology… which is why here at the United Nations, the UK is calling for a new Special Representative on extremism.
Watch further, however, and you will see Paul Joseph Watson, Alex Jones’ UK representative, relate this clip to Jones’ larger narrative of the immanent takeover of the West by the New World Order. While I agree with Watson’s questioning how Cameron’s words can be reconciled with the freedom of speech enshrined by democracies, I think the claim that he is criminalising all dissension is a bit of a stretch.