Inside the Biden Admin’s New Strategy to Censor, Push Leftist Activism Into American Classrooms

Gun Rights

Executive Summary

In Part 1 of this report, the MRC Censorship Investigation Project uncovered how the Biden administration used the federal government to silence Americans who don’t support its leftist agenda through a year-long series of State Department seminars that trained teachers to use censorship tools in their classrooms. Now in Part 2, we detail how the federal government is using taxpayer money from the Department of Homeland Security’s terrorist prevention program to censor conservatives nationwide. 

Like the State Department before it, the DHS is using the University of Rhode Island’s Media Education Lab (the “Rhode Island Lab”) to accomplish its anti-American goals of training teachers to use censorship tools in the classroom and silence political dissent. Biden’s DHS approved a three-phase censorship strategy, set to culminate close to the 2024 presidential election. 

The DHS funded this endeavor through the Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) Grant Program. MRC Free Speech America previously reported on this controversial program and how it has been weaponized to target Christians, conservatives and the Republican Party.

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Phase 1 of this strategy was the launch of a public awareness campaign, featuring DHS-commissioned blog posts attacking former President Donald Trump, “MAGA supporters,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, free speech and the Second Amendment. The campaign also included controversial podcasts, panel discussions and community events to generate support for censorship. The blog-post portion of the campaign used incendiary language disparaging Biden’s political opponents, all funded with taxpayer dollars. Examples include: 

  • “We are all living in a darker, scarier, angrier, less hopeful country thanks to Mr. Trump’s influence. Are we on the verge of civil war?”
  • “Donald Trump was also adopting the shock-jock style that Rush Limbaugh built into a cultural phenomenon, including his misogynistic and racist comments, conspiracy theories, and grievances.”
  • “It won’t be easy, but we really have to reduce Trump’s influence” 
  • “[I]t’s tempting and entertaining to tune into the circuses of the Marjorie Taylor Greenes, Louis Farrakans [sic], and MAGA supporters.”
  • “It turns out even Fox Media has limits on how much misogyny and racism it will tolerate from its stars–witness the canceling of Tucker Carlson’s show last week.”

Phase 2 of the strategy finances the current and ongoing, nationwide expansion of the seminars initially established by the State Department. These seminars train educators across the country on how to divert students away from conservative ideas and media sources skeptical of the administration’s agenda. While these seminars are now closed to the public, it is highly likely that the same censorship methods introduced during the State Department-funded seminars continue to play a central role in the DHS seminars since the same organizations continue to lead the effort. These tactics include pushing educators to put censorship tools from for-profit media ratings firms Ad Fontes and NewsGuard into American classrooms. 

  • It is telling that before being allowed to participate in the DHS-funded seminars, educators must declare their political ideology. One teacher who declared herself “conservative” reported that she was confined to a breakout group controlled by the director of the Rhode Island Lab so as to limit her access to the most damning material.

Phase 3 of the recently launched strategy provides cash prizes of up to $1,000 for children who create social media posts to increase demand for “media literacy” mandates — a euphemism for censorship. The program mimics the German socialist model introduced as part of the Rhode Island Lab’s partnership with the State Department, which focuses on pushing teachers to turn children into “media producers.” 

  • To enhance this astroturf campaign, Biden’s DHS selected the leftist lobbying group “Media Literacy Now,” which lobbies state legislatures for laws requiring “media literacy.” Media Literacy Now has a revenue-sharing agreement with Ad Fontes, the company that provides the “Media Bias Chart” used to disparage conservative media. Because the two organizations also have overlapping board members and staff, they essentially function as a single enterprise.

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Report

Inside the Biden Admin’s New Strategy to Censor, Push Leftist Activism Into American Classrooms

A “whole of society approach.” That is the phrase the Biden administration uses to describe its plan to harness an interconnected alliance of public and private actors for the purpose of targeting its political opponents and turning children into left-wing activists. 

In Part 1 of this report, the MRC Censorship Investigation Project detailed how President Joe Biden’s State Department used the University of Rhode Island’s Media Education Lab (the “Rhode Island Lab”) to push German censorship and indoctrination to American teachers. After this grant concluded, Biden’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) used the Rhode Island Lab to coordinate with a vast array of domestic actors, from local politicians to left-wing activist organizations to a lobbying group to the American public school system.

The DHS’s program consisted of three phases. The first phase, which has concluded, consisted of propaganda work, ranging from podcasts to community events to blog posts that directly attacked and disparaged the Biden administration’s opponents. The second phase, which is ongoing, is a turbocharged version of the State Department seminars detailed in Part 1. These seminars explained how to bring censorship tools and German activist techniques to American classrooms. The final phase, which has just launched, pays children up to $1,000 to create social media posts so as to increase demand for “media literacy” mandates — a euphemism for censorship.

Phase 1 of this strategy was the launch of a public awareness campaign, featuring DHS-commissioned blog posts attacking former President Donald Trump, “MAGA supporters,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, free speech and the Second Amendment. 

Phase 1 of the DHS project is its most sprawling, consisting of community events, a well-produced podcast series, a flashy website and a series of blog posts. This strategy was consistent with the administration’s “whole of society approach,” where private and public actors are seamlessly integrated into a unified whole.

The DHS financed the Rhode Island Lab with $700,000 awarded through the Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) Program. MRC Free Speech America has previously reported on this controversial program, and how it has been hijacked for left-wing advocacy. First proposed by the Obama administration to combat Al Qaeda’s domestic recruitment efforts and later put on hold, the TVTP grant program was revived by a small number of DHS bureaucrats in 2019 who “circumvented the White House budgeting process” in the chaos after the ouster of Secretary Kristjen Nielsen. This quiet resurrection of TVTP was conducted by then-Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan after months of behind-the-scenes pressure by Miles Taylor. Taylor was the then-“Anonymous” author of the infamous New York Times opinion piece “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.” In that article and a follow-up book, Taylor — who had served as the Chief of Staff for the DHS — bragged about spending years “working diligently from within to frustrate” the mission and objectives of then-President Donald J. Trump. Taylor later told Politico he masterminded the TVTP revival and redesign against the direction of Trump’s White House, which was not “initially all that interested” in funding the program.

Scandal-plagued DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called TVTP a “priority … of the highest importance,” placing it under the Center for Prevention Programs & Partnerships (CP3).  Mayorkas personally attended every session of a DC-area meeting of TVTP grantees, and bragged that under his leadership, CP3 “has helped 143 different … pilot programs get off the ground and flourish.” One of those programs was PREVENTS-OH in Dayton, Ohio, where the DHS directed TVTP funds to promulgate a “Pyramid of Far-Right Radicalization” tying Christians, conservatives and the Republican Party to militant neo-Nazis. 

When the Rhode Island Lab — a part of the University of Rhode Island (a taxpayer funded, public university) — petitioned Biden’s Department of Homeland Security for TVTP money to promote “media literacy” and combat “disinformation,” it had a peculiar request. The Rhode Island Lab proposed  creating a program  “using the Media Literacy Now national network.” 

As Part 1 of this report detailed, Media Literacy Now is a lobbying group, not an academic institution. It defines itself as an “advocacy nonprofit” dedicated to “ensuring that media literacy is recognized by policymakers and the public as an essential part of K-12 education.” Due to overlapping staff, finances, and revenue-sharing agreements, Media Literacy Now effectively functions as a single entity with the Rhode Island Lab and media ratings firm Ad Fontes. Media Literacy Now requested to be the DHS grant’s “fiscal agent” — the same role it had played when part of the “Project Team” overseeing the completion of the State Department grant detailed in the previous report. 

The Rhode Island Lab and Media Literacy Now used the TVTP grant money to begin “Courageous RI,” a “media literacy program” that — in its words — “aims to mobilize RI residents with the skills to counteract the societal forces inciting intolerance, hate and violence.” Courageous RI is run by two people: Renee Hobbs and Pam Steager. The mastermind of the State Department seminars, Hobbs is both an advisory board member for Media Literacy Now and the founder and CEO of the Rhode Island Lab. Steager, meanwhile, is the Rhode Island chapter president for Media Literacy Now and the Rhode Island Lab’s director of community engagement. As detailed in the first report, Hobbs and Steager previously worked together for the State Department using “media literacy” to overhaul the Austin, Texas, Police Academy.

Once receiving their grant, the Rhode Island Lab and Media Literacy Now quickly activated the “national network” they had bragged about. Steager coordinated with the Rhode Island Department of State and Secretary of State Gregg Amore, the chief elections officer for Rhode Island. Amore had previously worked with Steager and Media Literacy Now on a media literacy bill when he was a state representative. 

As Secretary of State, Amore made the Department of State an official partner of Courageous RI and assigned his Associate Director of Education and Public Programs, Lane Sparkman, to ghostwrite Courageous RI’s “Manifesto” for Steager. This “Manifesto” emphasized how “political extremism, rage, and anti-government theories … can lead to targeted violence and domestic terrorism.” Sparkman then helped Steager and Hobbs plan Courageous RI’s launch event. To thank Sparkman for her help, Steager sent Sparkman an offer to accept a $50 digital gift card paid for with taxpayer dollars as a “small token of gratitude.”

Steager helped draft Amore’s statements at Courageous RI’s launch event, where the Secretary proclaimed, “[W]e have become so focused on individual rights, we have forgotten about the collective good.” 

Another featured speaker at the event was Cranston Public Library Director Edward (Ed) Garcia. Neither Hobbs nor Steager objected to Garcia using his speech to rant against “a small but vocal minority … relying on disinformation and fear tactics.” Though he did not invoke its name, Garcia was seemingly referring to the Independent Women’s Network (IWN), a women’s rights group that advocates for school choice and against child sexual mutilation. IWN was forced to pay $1,200 in police security last year in order to host a dialogue at Cranston Library that was targeted by left-wing protestors, according to DailyMail.com. After IWN’s event, Garcia temporarily banned “outside use of our library space” (and thus future IWN assemblies). At the same time, he celebrated the hostile protestors for their “stand against divisive and discriminatory rhetoric.” 

The launch event, which was a “packed” in-person ceremony, was followed by a series of virtual follow-up events dubbed “Courageous Conversations.” These community events were structured to promote “media literacy” strategies for tackingling “propaganda, disinformation, and conspiracy theories in social media.” In their events, Hobbs and Steager repeatedly reiterated that the entire “Courageous Conversations” were intended to be replicated across America so as to “keep the conversation going,” and that the Rhode Island Lab would be offering material support for participants willing to conduct an event of their own. 

Unsurprisingly, Steager and Hobbs used 2023’s “Courageous Conversations” to push far-left propaganda, with staff often jumping in to make provocative, politically-charged claims on pop culture and politics. Among the more outlandish inputs to their “conversations” were that “content moderation” could never be censorship, that Russia had “influence[d]” the 2016 election and that actress-turned-conservative activist Gina Carano had “a long history of making really creepy, antisemitic comments.”

One May 2023 event, titled “Feelings and Facts,” ordered participants to explore an interactive “Conspiracy Chart.” The chart provided a list of alleged conspiracy theories that it described as past “THE ANTISEMITIC POINT OF NO RETURN” and equivalent to “Holocaust denial.” Among the supposedly hateful “theories” were the idea that American institutions are permeated with “cultural Marxism” and use of the phrase “Trans Agenda.” The Conspiracy Chart also claimed the “only one sordid reason” why “conservative and far-right media” investigate George Soros (a prominent activist billionaire) is “because he is Jewish.” 

As Part 1 of this report detailed, the Rhode Island Lab pushed a curriculum created with money from Soros himself. This curriculum ordered teachers to use the censorship tool NewsGuard in their classrooms.

Another “conspiracy theory” the chart labeled as equivalent to “Holocaust denial” was belief in a  “deep state” — a bureaucracy within the administrative state which sought to sabotage the Trump presidency. 

As described earlier, the current TVTP program was masterminded by DHS bureaucrat Taylor, author of the infamous Times article “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.” In the article, a then-“Anonymous” Taylor bragged that “many of the senior officials in [Trump’s] own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda … I would know. I am one of them.” A mere five years after that article, the Rhode Island Lab is using the funds it received from the TVTP program Taylor helped design to erase the memory of what he did.   

A June 2023 event encouraged attendees to watch a propaganda video titled “Misinformation in the Latino Community.” In this video, NBC/Comcast pundit Carmen Sesin claimed that Florida’s shift towards Trump from the 2016 to 2020 was “absolutely” because of “disinformation” in “Spanish-language media.” 

This same video disparaged attendees at a rally for then-candidate (and now Republican Congresswoman) Monica de la Cruz and identified Telegram channels for nationally-syndicated radio host Dan Bongino and publication The Western Journal as problematic. The video claimed (without evidence) that Spanish-language radio channels like Actualidad 1040AM and Radio Mambi had spread disinformation against “Joe Biden” and that the stories may have come from Russia. 

The video also warned of “a wave of misinformation aimed at Latinos heading into 2022” that could hurt Democratic Party candidates and recommended that platforms like Meta and Telegram be more aggressive with their censorship efforts to prevent the spread of so-called misinformation.

In its DHS grant application, the Rhode Island Lab explained that “[a]fter the grant program funding has expired, we will continue to offer ‘Courageous Conversations’ as a community-based program with support from the Rhode Island philanthropic community.” True to its word, the Rhode Island Lab is currently touting a new “Courageous Conversation” for 2024, this time based in Charlottesville, Virginia and commencing on Jan. 17. 

In addition to the “Courageous Conversations,” the Rhode Island Lab and Media Literacy Now used DHS funds to create a glossy podcast series, aptly titled “CourageousRI: A Podcast Series.” DHS Agent Robert Mahoney, the Rhode Island Lab’s CP3 grant administrator, appeared on the show. Mahoney used the platform to sing praises of the Biden administration’s “whole of society approach,” emphasizing that the DHS sought to “have a way of reporting” examples of “unusual behavior,” such as “somebody who has access to guns or has anti-government [views] or has conspiracy theories of a lot of things.” 

Mahoney stated that such enemies of the state were “picking and choosing what they believe and how far they want to go with that conspiracy theory or how much they believe in a certain ideology. And they sort of weave that into a narrative, almost like a quilt.” 

Mahoney’s comments are disturbing as they mirror those given by his coworker Joseph “J.R.” Masztalics, who touted the “whole of society approach” when he spoke in his official capacity at the DHS-funded seminar that unveiled the aforementioned “Pyramid of Far-Right Radicalization.”

The other podcast guests also tended to be quite radical. In April 2023, the Courageous RI podcast hosted left-wing activist Jennifer Lima, a North Kingstown school board member who received international attention for bizarre antics like demanding that students who engage in “misgendering” should be sent to prison. Hobbs heaped praise on Lima, proclaiming: “[I]n my world, you are the epitome of a courageous leader” and “[W]hat could we do, moving forward, to inspire people to be as courageous as you are?”  

In another episode, Steager urged listeners to implement a specific Holocaust education lesson plan. This curriculum exploited the worst atrocity in human history for political points, equating opposition to open borders with genocide and claiming “Christianity historically promoted antisemitism, [and] anti-Judaism.” 

One passage required students to read an essay by now-presidential candidate Cornel West, wherein he declared that “antisemitism has proven itself to be a powerful force in nearly every post of Western civilization where Christianity has a presence.” In the passage, West — who said elsewhere “the Israeli state … has been racist in practice since its inception” — went on to remark, “I am not going to believe the hype, even when I see Jews highly assimilated sometimes at high levels in American civilization believing they’ve been fully accepted by the Goyim.”

Another guest was then-Congressman David Cicilline, who joined the podcast to hawk his controversial book House on Fire. According to the book description on Amazon, “House on Fire identifies the key threat to our democracy—that the GOP has become a Trumpist authoritarian cult—and outlines how we fight back.” Cicilline resorted to similar incendiary language on the podcast, deriding a proposed Utah women’s rights law as “targeting trans kids” and demanding censorship legislation “to be sure that these [social media] platforms are responsible for the amplification of dangerous, toxic, untrue content” such as (in his words) “misinformation” from “Trump.” Steager enthusiastically endorsed Cicilline’s comments.

Cicilline concluded the podcast by saying that “media literacy ought to be taught in every single school in this country, and every grade, because it’s never too young to begin to develop those skills.” Steager responded “Thank you. We believe that too.”

Interestingly, while still serving in Congress,  Cicilline wrote a letter asking the DHS to approve the Rhode Island Lab and Media Literacy Now’s grant request. 

It is unsurprising Cicilline would take particular interest in the Rhode Island Lab’s insidious agenda to push censorship under the guise of media literacy. As the Chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial & Administrative Law, he made his signature issue a (failed) effort to reshape telecommunications law so as to target conservative speech. Cicilline left Congress shortly after filming the podcast to run the Rhode Island Foundation, a powerful “community foundation” that is a public partner of Courageous RI.  

“The left’s ‘whole of society approach’ is really about empowering leftwing organizations to fight against American values and democratic norms,” commented MRC Free Speech America Vice President Dan Schneider. “It is clear that Cicilline realized that he would have more power as the head of the Rhode Island Foundation to push a leftwing agenda than he had as a duly-elected Member of Congress who chaired an influential committee. The usurpers of our Constitution are well organized and are colluding with the Biden administration to bring our democracy to an end.”

The Rhode Island Department of State and the Rhode Island Foundation are not the only formal partners of Courageous RI. Also included on that list are the Rhode Island Department of Health (which advocated for the Rhode Island Lab to get its grant), the Rhode Island School Superintendents Association and the office of Biden’s U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island, Zachary Cunha

Another official partner is more overtly partisan: Moms Demand Action (MDA). MDA is a radical gun-confiscation group which has pledged to “fully embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).” MDA, a part of the umbrella organization Everytown for Gun Safety, is backed by activist billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the owner of Bloomberg News and former New York City Mayor . (Part 1 of this report detailed how Rhode Island Lab’s “affiliated faculty” member Lauren McClanahan, a graduate of the State Department series of seminars, had students in her Bellingham, Washington class create a propaganda video advocating for donations to the Everytown for Gun Safety network.) 

While most taxpayers would likely be alarmed that the DHS-created “Courageous RI” partnered  with a hyper-partisan activist group like MDA, such an alliance is emblematic of the Biden administration’s “whole of society approach.” The Rhode Island Lab and Media Literacy Now are able to act as a conduit between the government and the more extreme elements of the left in order to enact “systemic change in K-12 education.” 

The Rhode Island Lab is using taxpayer money to fund a campaign against Second Amendment liberties. The first way it went about doing so was by commissioning taxpayer-funded blog posts. At $250-a-piece, and paid for with the TVTP grant money, the blog posts were commissioned to educate on “misinformation, disinformation, media literacy … and more!” After being selected and approved by the Rhode Island Lab, the articles were featured on the taxpayer-funded Courageous RI website. 

One DHS-financed article raged at “Second American Sanctuaries” and “the NRA,” while advocating for an “assault weapons ban” and other draconian restrictions on gun ownership. Another piece enthusiastically directed readers to Bloomberg-backed Everytown for Gun Safety and the Giffords Center for Violence Intervention (GCVI), an anti-Second Amendment liberties advocacy group linked to left-wing Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) (GCVI often works with Bloomberg’s Everytown/MDA organizations in order to coordinate its advocacy). A third piece eagerly proclaimed, “We can urge our state governments to repeal Stand Your Ground and Open Carry laws” because “Stand Your Ground laws allow individuals to shoot anyone they believe is threatening them” (they do not).   

The writings were not limited to advocacy against Second Amendment liberties or for gun confiscation. They also made sure to disparage journalists, former President Trump’s supporters and even the First Amendment. 

One detached-from-reality screed lamented: “We are all living in a darker, scarier, angrier, less hopeful country thanks to Mr. Trump’s influence. Are we on the verge of civil war?” The piece complained that the former President Trump “was able to crawl into the safety of First Amendment protections” and “was able to sidestep the only societal controls against hate speech by buying Truth Social, his own media outlet.” The taxpayer-funded blog ominously concluded that “[i]t won’t be easy, but we really have to reduce Trump’s influence.”

Another taxpayer-funded blog the Rhode Island Lab published with TVTP money complained that “preserving freedom of expression from censorship is often invoked to counter efforts to regulate hateful expression, in particular in online environments” and asked “whether social media platforms should really have the power to be such empty vessels for people to fill up with invective, fights over politics, disinformation, propaganda, racism, and misogyny.” 

The Rhode Island Lab article further argued in favor of censorship along the lines of what the Biden administration has been accused of: strongarming social media companies to silence dissident speech. The blog suggested that “leaders have the capacity to stand up against false narratives in real time, flag inflammatory content for removal by social media companies, and provide non-partisan online spaces for intercommunal engagement.” 

This same DHS-funded article wrongly claimed that “the political right enjoys higher amplification” on social media “compared to the political left.” This is untrue. As MRC’s CensorTrack.org shows, conservatives are overwhelmingly more likely to be censored than those on the left.  

Another of the blogs even disparaged the late Presidential Medal of Freedom-winner Rush Limbaugh, commenting that “Donald Trump was also adopting the shock-jock style that Rush Limbaugh built into a cultural phenomenon, including his misogynistic and racist comments, conspiracy theories, and grievances.” The piece also attacked Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) as “the extreme fringe of the right wing,” and remarked, “It turns out even Fox Media has limits on how much misogyny and racism it will tolerate from its stars–witness the canceling of Tucker Carlson’s show last week.” 

A different piece — centered on “the hijacking of our public dialogue” but titled “Time to Focus on Unity” — told readers not to “tune into the circuses of the Marjorie Taylor Greenes, Louis Farrakans [sic], and MAGA supporters.” 

“Louis Farrakhan is a virulently antisemitic hate group leader who has repeatedly referred to Jewish people as ‘termites,’” said MRC Free Speech America Vice President Dan Schneider. “It is unconscionable to equate such a person to the seventy-four million Americans who supported Donald Trump, especially in a piece professing to signify ‘unity.’” 

The Rhode Island Lab did not conceal its intention to engage in left-wing activism when it applied for its grant. On the contrary, its proposal attacked Trump supporters from the “north, south, east, and west” of the state, suggesting they posed a “threat of violent extremism.” After all, as Part 1 of this report detailed, it was no secret that the Rhode Island Lab and its deeply partisan founder Hobbs had long engaged in extreme and conspiratorial left-wing activism. 

Phase 2 of the strategy finances the current and ongoing, nationwide expansion of the seminars initially established by the State Department.

Part 1 of this report detailed how the State Department paid the Rhode Island Lab to conduct a year-long series of seminars training educators how to inoculate students against conservative ideas. Phase 2 of the DHS grant program replicated this structure, but with the intention of bringing the scheme nationwide.

The State Department seminars focused on bringing longstanding German censorship strategies to American classrooms. Among the strategies educators were instructed to employ were using videogames to teach children to reject so-called “misinformation,” instructing students to rely on hopelessly biased, anti-conservative fact checking sites like PolitiFact and Snopes and training educators how to use censorship tools like Ad Fontes and NewsGuard to block student access to websites with dissident views. This last aspect is particularly disturbing, as Media Literacy Now — the Rhode Island Lab’s fiscal agent for the grant — received 10 percent kickbacks from certain Ad Fontes subscriptions. 

In Courageous RI’s formal announcement, the Rhode Island Lab explained that for Phase 2 of the program, it would conduct a series of seminars for American educators. These seminars, which are currently being conducted, mirror what was done at the State Department events covered in Part 1 of this report — training educators how to implement “media literacy” in American classrooms. However, unlike with the State Department seminars, the work is being done behind closed doors, but evidence shows that these seminars are still being conducted in a hyper-partisan manner. 

The application for the DHS seminars reveals that potential participants were asked to rank their ideology on a 1–10 scale from “Strong Red Conservative” to “Strong Blue Liberal.” A teacher who participated in this program told the Media Research Center (MRC) she believed that, after self-identifying as a “conservative,” she was deliberately confined to a breakout group controlled by the director of the Rhode Island Lab so as to limit her access to the most damning material.

While the State Department series of seminars concluded in April of 2022, the DHS-funded seminars are designed and intended to be perpetuated indefinitely. The Rhode Island Lab boasted that after receiving the seeder money from the DHS, it has “a blueprint for raising the money to expand this statewide program in Rhode Island and to serve the needs of people in other states.” 

Phase 3 of the recently launched strategy provides cash prizes of up to $1,000 for children who create social media posts to increase demand for “media literacy” mandates — a euphemism for censorship. 

While Courageous RI is intended to exist in perpetuity, the culminating phase of the DHS grant  is a scheme to pay children to be activists for censorship, including paying students up to $1,000 per Instagram blog post. These payments are specifically intended to apply pressure to governments to comply with the demands of these young activists.

Among the educational programs the Rhode Island Lab promoted at the State Department seminars was one crafted by the organization MEET Tolerance (MEET is an acronym signifying “Media Education for Equity and Tolerance”). As detailed in Part 1 of this report, the MEET Tolerance curriculum explained how to use “children as media producers,” where young students would be “[a]dvocating intercultural values and social justice through [their] own media productions and practices.” Part of MEET Tolerence’s curriculum is a strategy developed by socialist German politician Konstantin von Notz to reward grade school students with prizes for crafting Instagram posts as part of a seemingly grassroots push for censorship laws

This German astro-turf model is Phase 3, titled the “Youth Media Contest, is “Phase 3” of the TVTP grant program. The Rhode Island Lab is currently offering cash prizes to “high school and college students” who create social media posts “designed to raise public awareness of the harms of hateful extremist propaganda.” In order to “win” their payment, children and young adults must produce “videos, billboards, memes, screencasts, infographics, and simple video productions” to “reduce the power of harmful propaganda and disinformation.” 

In its grant proposal to the DHS, the Rhode Island Lab boasted that this third phase would create “[p]ublic demand for media literacy in public education,” as “[p]ropaganda can be used in socially-beneficial ways.” The Rhode Island Lab predicts that as a long-term result of Phase 3s astroturf push for “media literacy” mandates, “[p]ublic demand for media literacy in public education [will be] increased.” 

As Part 1 of this report detailed, Media Literacy Now defines “media literacy” as “a tool to create the society we all deserve: one that nurtures racial equity, social justice, and true democracy. Media literacy equals cultural change.” Its quest for “media literacy” is based on the idea that making too much information available to the public is inherently a threat. Media Literacy Now subscribes to the fringe idea that society is threatened by an “infodemic.” This theory defines “[a]n infodemic [as] an overabundance of information,” and this overabundance could only be corrected by having “media and social media platforms … collaborate with the UN system with Member States and with each other” to censor information with which the collective disagrees. 

The Biden administration is able to get something quite special with its $700,000 TVTP grant. Harnessing the Media Literacy Now “network” and, ultimately, paying children to advocate for “media literacy” mandates ensnares the whole of the American public school system in its agenda. “Eighteen states, plus countless additional school districts, have already required ‘media literacy’ education, creating an easy path for Ad Fontes and NewsGuard to enter American classrooms,” commented Schneider. “With Courageous RI’s renewed efforts, this number will likely rise much higher.”

Increasing demand for media literacy is just one side of the Rhode Island Lab’s Phase 3 social media contest, though. Because prizes can be awarded for anything that the Rhode Island Lab’s believes will “raise public awareness of the harms of hateful extremist propaganda,” Schneider sees more trouble on the horizon.

 “We saw the State Department seminars push censorship and leftist activism,” he warned. “We saw the Lab’s McClanahan — a graduate of those State Department seminars — push censorship and leftist activism. We saw the blog posts push censorship and leftist activism. It is abundantly clear what these $1,000 social media posts are going to be doing.” 

Conclusion

What makes the Rhode Island Lab uniquely dangerous is that it offered a seemingly limitless army of outside groups which the Biden administration could activate with a relatively small amount of money. With just two grants — first from the State Department, and now from the DHS —  the Biden administration has been able to artificially create a perpetual “[p]ublic demand for media literacy in public education,” supercharging a censorship industry devoted to an inherently anti-American philosophy hidden beneath the asinine monicker of “media literacy.” 

The Rhode Island Lab’s “media literacy” is an ideology that views the greatest danger to society as an “overabundance of information.” It treats knowledge as a disease to be prevented or destroyed. Students are taught to avoid media critical of the left and to consume a relentless diet of authoritarian propaganda pushing racialist social structures, political violence and subservience to the State. 

Kingston, Rhode Island may not be a place most Americans have heard of. But in a single university building in this mid-sized New England town, the Biden administration is harnessing the power of foreign governments; ruthless billionaires; demagogic politicians; radical, extremist groups and unscrupulous censorship firms. It is a “whole of society” approach with a single target: America’s youth. 

Recommendations:

It will take a whole of society response to fight the Biden administration’s whole of society approach:

  • Parents should call their local school boards and check if Ad Fontes and/or NewsGuard have been imposed in their children’s classrooms. If they have, parents should demand their removal. 
  • Congressmen and state attorneys general must investigate media literacy advocacy groups like Media Literacy Now for receiving potentially unlawful kickbacks from censorship firms. 
  • New England nonprofits should distance and disentangle themselves from activist groups like the Rhode Island Foundation that masquerade as non-partisan community organizations.
  • Congress must defund all domestic censorship programs, including the TVTP program that targets Sec. Mayorkas’s critics and finance anti-American activism.
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