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Hosting Fear: previewing ACT! for America’s national conference, 9/10-12

Imagine 2050 Staff • Sep 03, 2014

Chapter leaders and members of the anti-Muslim grassroots organization ACT! for America will once again converge in Washington D.C. next week for the group’s annual national conference.

The conference will conveniently take place on September 10 – 12, bracketing the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Using the deaths of Americans as a backdrop, the group is seeking to turn that tragedy into an opportunity to bolster its brand politically and to justify its anti-Muslim mission.

ACT! is attempting to frame its gathering as a memorial for 9/11, and though the group is hoping to attract a larger, fresher audience of young people, appearances by the usual old far-Right, anti-Muslim demagogues litter the conference’s agenda.

Courting the King on The Hill

In past years, the Capitol Hill briefing for attendees has always spotlighted far-Right, Tea Party types such as Reps. Louie Gohmert, Steve King and Marsha Blackburn. Legislators have yet to be announced for this year’s briefing, but there are indications that past allies remain steadfast. ACT! lauded in a fundraising email earlier this summer, for example, how the group’s chief lobbyist met with Steve King and his staff.

For the coming year, no doubt, efforts to lobby legislators and to mobilize its grassroots in order to enact state and federal legislation aimed at disparaging minority groups will remain ACT!’s central strategy.

Featuring Paranoia

ACT! has again recruited a few of the Islamophobia movement’s most paranoid “experts” to speak.

After resigning in disgrace, former FBI agent John Guandolo (pictured above) became a self-styled expert on counter-terrorism. The philandering Guandolo has since attempted to concoct a living by providing “civilian and law enforcement trainings” on the “jihadi threat.” The problem is, his work is steeped in anti-Muslim bias and conspiracy theories.

Guandolo has also previously collaborated with ACT! to create a controversial “online counter-terrorism tool” for law enforcement. The project features a map that pinpoints the addresses of mosques, community centers and vocal activists, leaving its targets open to harassment. The project has been criticized for encouraging the unconstitutional practice of discriminatory profiling.

Also slated to speak is the Christian Broadcast Network’s Erick Stakelbeck. Despite formerly working as a sports reporter and without any training or background in counter-terrorism, Stakelbeck is a go-to pundit on terrorism within far-Right circles. He is often a guest on conservative news outlets where he perpetuates anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and has even advocated against the First Amendment being extended to Muslims.

This year’s keynote speaker will be Jeanine Pirro, a former New York county judge and district attorney. Pirro now hosts “Justice with Judge Jeanine” on the Fox News network. On her show, Pirro regularly hosts anti-Muslim activists in accordance with Fox’s paleo-conservative slant and active role in fomenting anti-Muslim prejudice. Brigitte Gabriel, ACT!’s president and founder, and notorious anti-Muslim figurehead Frank Gaffney have both appeared on her show.

Targeting Campuses

It seems this year ACT! is looking to expand its membership base and to attract a younger demographic to its cause.

The website Right Wing Watch recently reported on a fundraising email ACT! sent to its supporters. That email contained an appeal from Gabriel, urging supporters to fund “scholarships” so that college students can attend this year’s conference. The expressed goal is to prep students on how to launch an ACT! chapter at their universities. Gabriel claims that student chapters will serve as a “counterweight” that will oppose the Muslim Student Association.

In reality, ACT! student chapters will mirror the group’s impact in other sectors of our culture–the incitement of division, fear, and anxiety.

ACT! for America and Gabriel hope the veneer of scheduling its conference around the anniversary of 9/11 will divert attentions from its true agenda of bringing activists together at a centralized event to further foment hatred of Muslims. That in mind, ACT!’s access to influential politicians must not go unexposed or unchallenged. We risk contributing to their veneer otherwise.

Image Source: watchdog.org

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