The Department of Homeland Security's funding of propaganda targeting conservatives raises significant concerns.
A recent investigation has unveiled that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) allocated $700,000 to the University of Rhode Island's Media Education Lab for creating propaganda under the guise of "media literacy", primarily targeting conservative ideologies.
The Media Research Center's investigation revealed that the grant was part of the Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) Program. It aimed to counter conservative narratives and ideologies through "counter-propaganda" initiatives.
According to the University of Rhode Island's Media Education Lab, their application stated a belief in the potential of using propaganda for socially beneficial outcomes. They argued that historically, the U.S. has utilized propaganda during major conflicts and the Cold War for positive impacts.
The funded project, named "Courageous RI", engaged in paying individuals $250 to write blog posts. These writings predominantly criticized figures and policies associated with conservative values, such as former President Trump, the National Rifle Association (NRA), and Stand Your Ground laws.
Not only did these blog posts critique conservative elements, but they also advocated for more stringent censorship measures by social media companies. This stance was justified by the argument that the First Amendment does not bind private companies in terms of content moderation.
The implications of this project extend beyond blog posts. "Courageous RI" was involved in training educators to address what they termed as "misinformation" and "controversial current events" in classrooms. This training is part of a broader push by a group known as Media Literacy Now, which advocates for mandatory media literacy training in schools nationwide.
Renee Hobbs, the head of the Rhode Island Media Lab, plays a significant role in this push as she is on the advisory board of Media Literacy Now.
Rhode Island Secretary of State Gregg Amore expressed a view that resonates with the ethos behind these initiatives. He suggested that the focus on individual rights has overshadowed the collective good in society. This perspective aligns with the broader narrative of the funded projects.
The origins of the TVTP grant program date back to the Obama administration, with its continuation under the Trump administration, despite apparent opposition from former President Trump. The Rhode Island Media Lab applied for and received the TVTP grant during this period.
The lab utilized this grant to produce content critical of conservative viewpoints. In a future event, scheduled for June 2023, the lab plans to host a "Courageous Conversation" event in Charlottesville, VA, furthering the discussion on these topics.
As part of the program, DHS agent Robert Mahoney commented on the approach towards individuals with anti-government or conspiracy theories. He highlighted the focus on intervention over immediate assumptions of violence.
Content moderation decisions of digital platforms do not violate ordinary people’s constitutionally guaranteed speech rights. That’s because the First Amendment does not bind private social media companies.
The DHS's funding of the University of Rhode Island's Media Education Lab under the TVTP Program has sparked debate. The use of federal funds for propagating specific political narratives, particularly targeting conservative ideologies, poses questions about the balance between media literacy and political bias. With ongoing efforts to expand such media literacy programs nationwide, the implications of this project are significant and far-reaching.