The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has recently been working on a site to educate children against extremism. Named “Don’t Be A Puppet: Pull Back the Curtain on Violent Extremism“, the site intends to inform youths of the tactics employed by extremist elements and how to avoid falling prey to them.
With the ongoing efforts to prevent ‘radicalization’ and the prevention of those who would join terrorist elements for travelling abroad to join them, this sounds like a good idea to let kids be aware of the risks from extremists before it is too late. Covering many topics from the basics of what violent extremism is and how they make contact to being aware of their propaganda, use of symbols and ‘groupthink’.
Now, this may seem like a great font of knowledge for the young, however, there is a dark stain on this site, namely the free browser-based game “The Slippery Slope to Violent Extremism.” The game looks like a bad mix of classic colourful blocky games and 3D graphics, seeing the player direct a running goat with the left and right arrow keys to avoid green and grey blocks, supposedly meant to represent extremists. Hitting a block results in the goat exploding into countless small blocks, which is not very hard due to the incredibly imprecise controls in the game. Clearing of each level ‘rewards’ you with distorted logic text, using phrases such as “Our group is under attack;” “Our violent acts will result in a better future;” and “The enemy is responsible for this injustice.” All very bland stock phrases that could be taken from anywhere.
The FBI claims the site is not intended to refute every single thing done or said by violent extremists, instead aiming to teach children how to apply their critical thinking skills in the face of extremism, or in their words: “We’re saying, ‘Don’t be a puppet,’—in other words, don’t just blindly accept what violent extremists tell you or you could end up being controlled and manipulated by people who want you to hurt or kill innocent people.” The site was to have originally gone live in November last year but was sent for reworking after a preview group felt it focused too much on Islamic extremists.