During the 2014 Values Voter Summit, Brigitte Gabriel enticed audience members to join her organization by claiming, “We are building the NRA of national security” organizations. Following this declaration, Gabriel’s group ACT! for America unveiled a new website last week that seeks to frame its bigoted agenda to appear more mainstream.
It’s important to realize that anti-Muslim bigotry remains a major part of ACT! for America’s agenda, even if one has to look a little harder to recognize it.
While ACT! may bill itself as a “national security” organization, there is a more fitting and apt way to classify it: anti-Muslim.
ACT! coordinates an array of chapters nationwide as well as a handful internationally. The group’s goal is to organize grassroots-led initiatives to pass policies both nationally and locally aimed at inciting fear and hatred of Muslims. ACT! claims to have more than 280,000 members, however it considers anyone who receives the group’s emails a member.
And, clearly, Gabriel’s aim was to capitalize on the Values Voter Summit attendees’ anxieties and prejudice toward Muslims to expand ACT!’s “membership.”
“I need your help to join us,” Gabriel told the crowd. “We want to able to reach you when there is a bill coming down for a vote so you can make your voice heard. The only way we can reach you is via email.”
And the way to sign up for ACT!’s email is through its website. Thus, it appears ACT!’s newly refurbished website aims to give the veneer of an organization legitimately concerned about national security, instead of a group comprised of anti-Muslim activists. It has also omitted some of the more egregious language that may turn away the more moderate conservative. However, a closer look at the site reveals anti-Muslim underpinnings are still present.
ACT!’s surface-level makeover
First of all, ACT!’s welcoming and “about us” pages takes a lighter tone than its previous site. ACT! says its goal for its chapters is to train “citizens to recognize and help prevent criminal activity and terrorism” in the U.S. “while preserving civil liberties protected by the United States Constitution.”
It adds ACT!’s members are interested “in keeping our homes, streets, towns, States and Nation safe and secure from harm.”
This a change of pace compared to ACT!’s previous welcoming page, one that steers away from tin-foil-hat territory. The previous version warned Muslim sleeper cells are seeking to influence various cultural institutions by way of “stealth jihad” in order to implement Shariah law.
But traces of this were not entirely excluded from the new site, but rather were rebranded under the page, “Confronting Terrorism.” Here, ACT! provides materials purporting conspiracy theories that “jihadists” are seeking to establish an “Islamic government in North America.” The page also features a link to the “Thin Blue Line Project,” a biased online “anti-terrorism” training tool for law enforcement officials ACT! developed in collaboration with disgraced former FBI agent John Guandolo.
Another page on the new website is dedicated to showcase that ACT! is committed to “Preserving the Constitution.” A closer look at the page shows this is just a clever way of showcasing the anti-Muslim legislation ACT! seeks to pass, and in turn actually makes a mockery of the U.S. court system and legislative process. One of the featured bills is an “American Laws for American Courts” (ALAC) measure, a pointless law aimed at preventing state courts from recognizing Shariah law. The mastermind behind the bill, David Yerushalmi, even admitted that these bills are “heuristic” and serve to provoke ordinary people into regarding Muslims with suspicion.
The website’s new definition of ALAC laws also purposely omits any mention of Shariah, and instead carries a more neutral phrasing, “foreign law.” This more generic wording has been forced upon ACT! following a case in Oklahoma where a federal judge ruled specifically citing “Shariah” alone was unconstitutional.
ACT! incorporates ‘illegal immigration’ into platform
It came as no surprise that ACT! dedicated an entire page on its new website to immigration, calling it “Secure the Border.” The nativist crossover between the organized anti-Muslim movement and the organized anti-immigrant movement has been well-documented here at Imagine 2050 and elsewhere. While ACT! has previously alluded to incorporating a ban on Muslim immigration into its framework, the new site revealed the group has made it an official plank in its agenda.
On the website, the group claims one of the “gravest threats” to the U.S. “stems from the illicit flow of illegal immigrants, terrorists, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction” among other things.
“America sovereign prerogative is to secure its borders,” it adds. “Without serious boarder (sic) security measures, no nation can escape the consequences of its inaction.”
ACT! uses this to justify the increased militarization of the border and a more reinforced fence. However, the prevalence of terrorist groups using exploiting the Southern border has been questioned, but it remains an oft-used argument by nativist groups to capitalize on general fears in order to push for more draconian anti-immigrant policies.
During her aforementioned speech at Values Voter, Gabriel told the crowd, “We are looking for chapter leaders nationwide. We are looking for members nationwide.” And in order to do, ACT! has unveiled a new website with more palatable language and imagery in hopes to appeal to a more mainstream audience. It’s important to highlight that anti-Muslim bigotry remains prevalent on the site, even if one has to look a little harder to recognize it.