CV NEWS FEED // A now-viral report by British government counterterrorism program Prevent stated that classic novels by authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis can be “red flags” for possible “far-right extremism.”
“We prevent vulnerable people from being drawn into extremism,” Prevent claims on its website. Prevent goes on to describe itself as a “government-led, multi-agency” program that “aims to stop individuals becoming terrorists.” Its website elaborates that “police play a key role” in the program’s efforts.
The Daily Caller’s Kay Smythe reported that while Prevent “was founded to support counter-terrorism efforts” it “has gradually swayed into a focus on only extremists from Islam and ‘far-right’ ideological mindsets.”
“[T]he programme’s attempts to address right-wing extremism were even more inept than some of its attempts to address Islamist extremism,” British author Douglas Murray noted in a February 2023 Spectator piece.
Murray pointed out that Prevent was once “advised by left-wing activist groups like Hope not Hate.”
“Such groups have long believed that the definition of far-right should encompass, for instance, many people who supported Brexit,” he added.
Later in the article, Murray scrutinized a past report by Prevent’s Research Information and Communications Unit (RICU). In one such report, there is a “reading list of historical texts which produce red flags to RICU.”
“RICU warns that radicalisation could occur from books by authors including C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Aldous Huxley and Joseph Conrad,” Murray reported.
Lewis was known for writing the children’s fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia as well as many Christian apologetic books such as The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce.
Tolkien was the author of The Lord of the Rings – an epic novel also published as a three-volume series – and the children’s novel The Hobbit.
A devout lifelong Catholic, Tolkien once remarked that the Lord of the Rings is a “fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.”
Huxley penned the dystopian novel Brave New World. Conrad wrote the classic novella Heart of Darkness, which recounts the horrors of Belgian colonial Africa in the late 19th century.
“I kid you not, though it seems that all satire is dead, but the list of suspect books also includes 1984 by George Orwell,” Murray wrote. He went on to note that the report also flagged well-known writings by various classically liberal and conservative political philosophers:
These include Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government and Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, as well as works by Thomas Carlyle and Adam Smith.
“So in general, I begin to feel in good company,” Murray wrote in reaction to the list of books. “If government agencies are going to compile lists of suspect books, then I am very happy to stand condemned alongside these fine people, both living and dead.”
News of the years-old report circulated through the social media application X (formerly Twitter) this week.
The platform’s owner Elon Musk slammed the Prevent RICU report for its inclusion of the classic books. “What a crazy thing for them to say,” he commented Thursday.
“Oh no!” quipped journalist and film editor Haley Kennington on X the same day. “We’re all going to start building amazing little cottages in hills upon digesting these books [and] may even find a core group of friends we would do anything for we keep for life.”
“Extremist? Make it make sense,” Kennington added. “This is on par with ‘math is racist!’”
“What about The Old Testament?” asked Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) whistleblower Steve Friend. “Immediately on the No Fly List?”
Also on Thursday, CatholicVote reported that an agency of the U.S. federal government “‘flagged’ Bible purchases as an indication of ‘extremism’ in communications with banks following the events of January 6, 2021.”
The Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) “warned financial institutions of ‘extremism’ indicators that include … ‘the purchase of books (including religious texts) and subscriptions to other media containing extremist views,” wrote House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-OH, in a letter last month.