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Even though the Department of Defense (DOD) carried out a military-wide “stand-down” training on “extremism” early into Joe Biden’s tenure, the DOD still has not promulgated an official definition of extremism. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin refused to give a definition at a congressional hearing this week, and on Thursday, the DOD confirmed to PJ Media that it has not adopted a definition. However, a working definition that the Army Recruiting Command apparently uses to screen applicants should raise alarm bells for conservatives.
“I’m very concerned about the recent order that you have conducted regarded looking at so-called ‘extremism,’ and I have sent to you two letters, Mr. Secretary, asking for the definition of what the Department of Defense views as ‘extremism,’ and have not heard back from you yet,” Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) told Austin at a hearing on Wednesday. “Could you just share with me, does the Department of Defense have a definition of extremism?”
Austin did not answer Hartzler’s question. He assured her, “I believe that 99.9 percent of our troops are focused on the right things, embracing the right values, each and every day. Small numbers of people, in this area, can have an outsized impact on our organization.”
“We are focused on extremist behavior, not what people think or political ideas or religious ideas, but extremist behavior,” Austin insisted.
“So, do you have a definition of what extremism is and what that behavior is?” Hartzler asked.
“Again, we’re focused on behavior,” Austin repeated, dodging the question.
“Well, you had a stand-down and you had a pause over the entire military for an entire day to do training to talk about this, and you don’t have a definition yet of what the purpose was and what extremism is?”
“The purpose was to have a discussion with our troops and our leaders on the issue of extremism, and that was very productive,” Austin said.
Hartzler brought up a new DOD screening procedure, asking, “What, specifically, would you be screening for?”
“Our screening is focused on screening those applicants that are coming into the military. We want to make sure that we’re bringing in the right type of people, quality of people,” Austin replied.
“So, if someone says that they’re for President Trump, would that be viewed as extremism?” Hartzler pressed.
“As I said earlier, this is not about politics. I want our troops to participate in our political system,” Austin replied. “That’s what they’re fighting to defend. But I will also say that we will continue to be a diverse and inclusive organization.”
PJ Media reached out to the DOD on Thursday, and a spokesperson confirmed that the Department had not put out any guidance defining extremism. However, various training materials used for the military-wide “stand down” to combat “extremism” follow the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) playbook for demonizing conservatives through the biased application of terms like “discrimination.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) shared the reports of whistleblowers who said the DOD pushed “anti-racist” and Marxist critical race theory (CRT) materials in trainings to combat “extremism.” One whistleblower said his or her unit was forced to read White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. One Army officer said his general officer told him “that the entire U.S. Army is racist.” Earlier this week, Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended teaching CRT in the military and repeated CRT propaganda against the Constitution.
This context suggests that the DOD may hesitate to define “extremism” because its likely definition will involve demonizing conservative views. Indeed, on Wednesday morning, a communique sent to Army Recruiting Command — and first reported by PJ Media’s Stacey Lennox — presented a slanted definition of “extremism.” The DOD has not adopted this definition, but it seems the Army is using this definition to screen applicants.
The document laid out an illogical definition of extremism: “Extremism is defined as an individual that advocates for any of the following:
- Hatred or intolerance on the basis of race, sex (including gender identity), sexual orientation, or ethnicity.
- Creating or engaging in discrimination based on race, color, sex (including gender identity), national origin, religion, or sexual orientation.
- Use of force or violence or unlawful means to deprive individuals of their rights to achieve political/religious/discriminatory goals.
- Support for terrorist or criminal organizations or objectives.
- Overthrow of the U.S. Government by force, violence, or sedition.
- Subversion (i.e., violations of law, disobedience to lawful orders or regulations).
It stands to reason that the U.S. military would define extremism to include advocacy for the “overthrow of the U.S. government by force, violence, or sedition,” and that aspect of the definition seems unassailable. Subversion may also count as extremism, so long as the definition does not exclude certain forms of civil disobedience that should fall under the First Amendment’s speech protections. Support for terrorist or criminal organizations also seems a reasonable aspect of an extremism definition.
The use of force or violent means to deprive people of their rights may also reasonably fit a definition of extremism. While Stacey Lennox was right to warn about the Left applying rights language to abortion and other issues, opposition to abortion should involve reasoned debate, not violence.
However, the first two aspects of this Army definition should raise red flags for conservatives.
Conservatives do not support “hatred or intolerance on the basis of race, sex (including gender identity), sexual orientation, or ethnicity,” but the Left often twists the definitions of “hate” on these hot-button issues. For example, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) routinely brands mainstream conservative and Christian organizations “hate groups” due to their opposition to the Left’s narrative and activism on LGBT issues, Islam, and immigration.
In the wake of a scandal involving claims of racial discrimination and sexual harassment that saw the SPLC fire its co-founder and lose its president and legal director, a former SPLC employee outed the “hate-group list” as a “masterstroke of [the founder]’s marketing talents.” This seemed to confirm claims that the hate group list is a cynical fundraising scheme, rather than a legitimate report.
The “hate group” accusation also gives the SPLC a way to destroy its political enemies. Former SPLC spokesman Mark Potok also revealed an animus against the organizations on the list. He said the SPLC’s “aim in life” is to “destroy these groups.” In 2012, a deranged man targeted the Christian non-profit organization the Family Research Council (FRC), aiming to kill everyone in the building and smear a Chick-fil-A sandwich into his victims’ faces. He told the FBI he targeted FRC due to the SPLC’s “hate group” accusation. The SPLC has not dropped that accusation.
Democrats have endorsed the SPLC’s “hate group” accusations, while some Big Tech companies and some corporate boards have also adopted this twisted weaponization of the “hate” label.
In a similar vein, Biden’s definition of civil rights law would implicate many social conservatives in “discrimination” — especially when it comes to “gender identity.”
According to the Biden administration, the “discrimination” that fits the second part of the Army recruiting definition of “extremism” would apply to one person who refers to biological males who identify as female with male pronouns, who advocates for excluding biological males from women’s sports, or who warns against the abuses of subjecting gender-confused children to chemical castration, among other things.
Biden has even fought to resurrect an Obama-era HHS rule that would force Roman Catholic doctors to perform transgender surgery, in violation of both Catholic teaching on sexuality and the Hippocratic oath. If refusing to perform transgender surgery counts as “discrimination,” that might make every Catholic medic in the military an “extremist.”
Without a definition of “extremism,” the DOD cannot allay conservatives’ fears about the whistleblower reports and about the Biden administration’s radical twisting of civil rights law. While the DOD claims to be formulating an official definition, Austin’s decision to stonewall Hartzler instead of giving her even a working definition seems mighty suspicious. The Army Recruiting Command’s slanted definition only underscores conservatives’ worries.