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UK’s counterterrorism program says interest in great literature is a sign of far-right extremism

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The UK’s counter-terror program Prevent flagged some of the best works of fiction, including books, films, and television shows, as signs of far-right extremism. It said that comedies like The Thick Of It and Yes Minister and even The Complete Works of William Shakespeare are “key texts” for “white nationalists/supremacists.”

A report by Prevent’s Research Information and Communications Unit (RICU) said that far-right extremists promoted “reading lists” online. It referenced an image of a list of “important texts” that was being shared in the far-right corners of the internet.

Other works of fiction that were flagged include The Lord of the Rings by JR Tolkien, George Orwell’s 1984, and Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, The Daily Mail reported.

According to Andrew Roberts, a broadcaster and historian, the books that were flagged are on “the reading list of anyone who wants a civilized, liberal, cultured education.”

“It includes some of the greatest works in the Western canon and in some cases – such as Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent – powerful critiques of terrorism. Burke, Huxley, Orwell, and Tolkien were all anti-totalitarian writers.”

In an article in The Spectator, Douglas Murray, a writer whose book was flagged by the Prevent program, wrote: “A number of books are singled out, the possession or reading of which could point to severe wrongthink and therefore potential radicalization… It seems that RICU is so far off-track that it believes that books identifying the problem that it was itself set up to tackle are in fact a part of the problem.”

In his review of the program earlier this month, William Shawcross exposed several failings of the program.

“The Home Secretary made clear that Prevent will now ensure it focuses on the key threat of Islamist terrorism, as well as remaining vigilant on emerging threats. We’ve accepted all 34 recommendations and are committed to protecting our country from the threat posed by terrorism,” a spokesperson for the Home Office said.

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