- An individual sitting in front of a computer in one country can communicate with, encourage, and inspire multiple extremist actors thousands of miles away. Social media provides an avenue for the rapid movement of information in a realm where radicalization is often a personal and anonymous process.
- Matthew Alcoke, "The Evolving and Persistent Terrorism Threat to the Homeland". Federal Bureau of Investigation. November 19, 2019
- Much of junk culture has a core of crisis — shoot-outs, conflagrations, bodies weltering in blood, naked embracers or rapist-stranglers. The sounds of junk culture are heard over a ground bass of extremism. Our entertainments swarm with specters of world crisis. Nothing moderate can have any claim to our attention.
- Saul Bellow, "A Second Half Life" (1991), p. 326.
- If you want to know what's shortly due for the guillotine look for the most obvious of all symptoms: extremism. It is an almost infallible sign — a kind of death-rattle — when a human institution is forced by its members into stressing those and only those factors which are identificatory, at the expense of others which it necessarily shares with competing institutions because human beings belong to all of them.
- John Brunner, Stand on Zanzibar (1968), context (12) "The Sociological Counterpart of Cheyne-Stokes Respiration".
- It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars.
- Arthur C. Clarke, The Exploration of Space (1951), p. 187
- The director of the FBI considers racially motivated domestic extremists such as white supremacists the “top threat” facing Americans, as the nation continues to learn more about such people who perpetrated the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol last month.
“The top threat we face from [domestic violent extremists] continues to be those we identify as Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists (RMVEs), specifically those who advocate for the superiority of the white race,” FBI director Christopher Wray testified before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
The FBI has formally elevated the threat from white supremacist groups to its top priority level, alongside Isis and its network of homegrown terrorists, Mr Wray said.
- Griffin Connolly, "White supremacists on par with ISIS as 'top threat,' FBI director says at Captiol riot hearing". The Independent’’. March 3, 2021.
- It seems to me that it is these extremists who are advocating a soft approach. Their oversimplifications and their baseless generalizations reflect the softness of those who cannot bear to face the burdens of a continuing struggle against a powerful and resourceful enemy. A truly tough approach, in my judgment, is one which accepts the challenge of communism with the courage and determination to meet it with every instrumentality of foreign policy—political and economic as well as military, and with the willingness to see the struggle through as far into the future as may be necessary. Those who seek to meet the challenge—or, in reality, to evade it—by bold adventures abroad and witch hunts at home are the real devotees of softness—the softness of seeking escape from painful realities by resort to illusory panaceas.
- J. William Fulbright, "Public Policy and Military Responsibility," speech at the opening session of the National War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Washington, D.C., August 21, 1961, Congressional Record, vol. 107, p. 16444. He was referring to radicals of the right.
- Political extremism involves two prime ingredients: an excessively simple diagnosis of the world's ills, and a conviction that there are identifiable villains back of it all.
- John W. Gardner, "A Nation Is Never Finished", ABA Journal (November 1967), Volume 53, page 1011.
- Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.
- Barry Goldwater, speech accepting nomination for president, Republican national convention, San Francisco, California (July 16, 1964). Congressional Record, July 21, 1964, vol. 110, p. 16388. Senator Goldwater comments that the remark was not original with him: "In fact, I believe Cicero used it in some form at one time, and I have been able to trace it rather faintly back to some of the early Greeks so, while I was very proud of the fact that I made the speech, it's certainly not original".
- I don't like radical anything; left or right. I have a radical dislike of radicals.
- Dr. Temple Grandin, Page 256 of An Anthropologist On Mars By Oliver Sacks
- The federal government doesn’t officially track the size of extremist groups, because it’s legal to join them. Membership also tends to be fluid, which means it’s hard to gauge whether Biden’s strategy is working.
“They’re just much less structured and hierarchical,” said a senior administration official. “They’re better defined as movements. People flow into them, they could dabble in two at the same time, or go in and out.”
- Blake Hounshell and Leah Askarinam, “How Many Americans Support Political Violence?”, The New York Times, (January 5, 2022)
- But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?
- A free culture, like a free market, is filled with property. It is filled with rules of property and contract that get enforced by the state. But just as a free market is perverted if its property becomes feudal, so too can a free culture be queered by extremism in the property rights that define it. That is what I fear about our culture today. It is against that extremism that this book is written.
- In every community there are little knots of fantastic extremists who loudly proclaim that they are striving for righteousness, and who, in reality, do their feeble best for unrighteousness. Just as the upright politician should hold in peculiar scorn the man who makes the name of politician a reproach and a shame, so the genuine reformer should realize that the cause he champions is especially jeopardized by the mock reformer who does what he can to make reform a laughingstock among decent men.
- Theodore Roosevelt, "Latitude and Longitude among Reformers, published in the "Century" (June, 1900); republished in The Strenuous Life: Essays and Addresses (1910).
- Triangle Center Director David Schanzer and UNC Professor Charles Kurzman present the data supporting their research on homegrown extremism. The key findings of this working paper are: 1) Law enforcement agencies in the United States consider anti-government violent extremists, not radicalized Muslims, to be the most prevalent threat of political violence that they face, 2) they perceive violent extremism to be a much more severe threat nationally than the threat of violent extremism in their own jurisdictions, and 3) a large majority of law enforcement agencies rank the threat of all forms of violent extremism in their own jurisdictions as moderate or lower (3 or less on a 1-5 scale).
- David Schanzer and UNC Professor Charles Kurzman; “Law Enforcement Assessment of the Violent Extremism Threat”, June 25, 2015
- I do not refer here to the extreme feelings of the Left and Right. A people that has experienced all that the Germans have been through, naturally offers fertile soil for the extremists. The ballast in the center of the German ship which saved it from heavy rolling in the past, that valuable and steady middle class group, no longer exists. The uprooted saw their hope in a complete reversal of affairs. It was at this time that the great tide of Bolshevism broke over Germany, appearing on the left as Communism and on the right as National Socialism. That a nation, whose currency had collapsed, whose social and economic reorganization had been as ruthless as ours – that this nation, which had to learn to live in an entirely new situation, has been able to master Bolshevism of the Right and of the Left, shows the healthiness of its spirit, the zeal of its industriousness, and the victory of realpolitik over the imaginary and illusory.
- If Republicans are talking only with Republicans, if Democrats are talking primarily with Democrats, if members of the religious right speak mostly to each other, and if radical feminists talk largely to radical feminists, there is a potential for the development of different forms of extremism, and for profound mutual misunderstandings with individuals outside the group.
- My intention is to use music as a tool for social change... Extremism comes in many forms. Some people are extremely capitalistic, extremely reactionary, extremely lazy, dogmatic, pessimistic, hopeful, fearful... I believe, extremism is not always bad — depending upon what sort of "extremism" one allows themselves to indulge in. As a human race, I believe we should be extremely good neighbors, socially conscious, passionate about justice, fairness and truth.
- Dawud Wharnsby, when asked about music as a tool to defeat extremism, Illume Magazine (2005).
- Domestic violent extremism is a threat to the Homeland. As Americans, we all have the right to believe whatever we want, but we don’t have a right to carry out acts of violence to further those beliefs. The Department works with other Government, non-Government, and private sector partners to prevent individuals from making this transition from protected speech to domestic terrorism reflected by violence.
- Chad Wolf, “Homeland Threat Assessment October 2020”, “Department of Homeland Security”, (September 9, 2020), p.3
- Among DVEs, racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists—specifically white supremacist extremists (WSEs)—will remain the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland.
- Chad Wolf, “Homeland Threat Assessment October 2020”, “Department of Homeland Security”, (September 9, 2020), p.18
- WSEs have demonstrated longstanding intent to target racial and religious minorities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, politicians, and those they believe promote multi-culturalism and globalization at the expense of the WSE identity. Since 2018, they have conducted more lethal attacks in the United States than any other DVE movement.
- Chad Wolf, “Homeland Threat Assessment October 2020”, “Department of Homeland Security”, (September 9, 2020), p.18
- I don't believe in any form of unjustified extremism! But when a man is exercising extremism, a human being is exercising extremism, in defense of liberty for human beings, it’s no vice. And when one is moderate in the pursuit of justice for human beings, I say he’s a sinner.
- Malcolm X, Oxford Union Debate (3 December 1964).
"Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2018"
"Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2018", Anti-Defamation League.
- In 2018, domestic extremists killed at least 50 people in the U.S., a sharp increase from the 37 extremist-related murders documented in 2017, though still lower than the totals for 2015 (70) and 2016 (72). The 50 deaths make 2018 the fourth-deadliest year on record for domestic extremist-related killings since 1970.
*The extremist-related murders in 2018 were overwhelmingly linked to right-wing extremists. Every one of the perpetrators had ties to at least one right-wing extremist movement, although one had recently switched to supporting Islamist extremism. White supremacists were responsible for the great majority of the killings, which is typically the case.
- Firearms remain the weapon of choice for extremists who kill. Guns were responsible for 42 of the 50 deaths in 2018, followed by blades or edged weapons.
- Extremist-related killings are few when compared to the total number of homicides in the U.S. each year. Nevertheless, such killings, especially when they are conducted as hate crimes or terrorist attacks, can send shock waves through entire communities—and beyond.
- [F]or each person killed by an extremist, many more are wounded or injured in attempted murders and assaults. Extremists engage in a wide variety of other crimes related to their causes, from threats and harassment to white collar crime. Every year, police uncover and prevent a wide range of extremist plots and conspiracies with lethal intentions.
- In terms of lethal violence, 2018 was dominated by right-wing extremism. Every one of the 50 murders documented by the COE was committed by a person or persons with ties to right-wing extremism…
- 2018 saw the highest percentage (98%) of right-wing extremist-related killings since 2012, the last year when all documented killings were by right-wing extremists. Right-wing extremists also killed more people in 2018 than in any year since 1995. For comparison, only 62% of extremist killings in 2017 were committed by right-wing extremists, and only 21% in 2016.
- [I]t should be noted that we report no killings in 2018 related to left-wing extremism, a category in which we include traditional left-wing extremism, left-wing single-issue movements, anarchists and black nationalists. In a sense, this is not unusual, in that left-wing extremists have not been particularly violent over the past 20 years, and most of the violence that has emerged from that quarter has been directed at property rather than people. ADL’s data shows just 15 murders linked to left-wing extremism over the past 20 years, with 13 of the 15 fatalities occurring in 2016 and 2017, all linked to black nationalists.
- Nearly every year, extremists kill at least one law enforcement officer in the U.S.; 2018 was sadly no exception.
- Regarding cross-era comparisons, it is generally more difficult to find information on extremist-related killings from the 1970s and 1980s, so it may not be meaningful to compare figures from earlier eras with figures from the 1990s or later.
The main limitation of cross-movement comparisons is that extremist connections to killings are easier to determine for some movements than for others. For example, white supremacists, who often display many racist and white supremacist tattoos, or who may be documented as white supremacists by gang investigators or corrections officials, are often more easily identifiable. In contrast, it may be more difficult for police or media to identify a suspect’s anti-government extremist associations. This issue comes up more often with non-ideological killings. It is likely that non-ideological murders committed by extremists other than white supremacists are underrepresented in ADL’s data.
In addition, because murders behind bars tend to often attract little or no media attention and are typically not publicized by prison officials, incidents of prison-based deadly violence committed by adherents of all extremist movements are under-represented.
"Attacks by White Extremists Are Growing. So Are Their Connections" (April 3, 2019)
Cai, Weiyi, Landon, Simone; "Attacks by White Extremists Are Growing. So Are Their Connections". The New York Times. (April 3, 2019).
- An analysis by The New York Times of recent terrorism attacks found that at least a third of white extremist killers since 2011 were inspired by others who perpetrated similar attacks, professed a reverence for them or showed an interest in their tactics.
The connections between the killers span continents and highlight how the internet and social media have facilitated the spread of white extremist ideology and violence.
The database is a project of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland. It relies on news reports and other records to capture episodes that meet its definition of terrorism: the use of violence by a non-state actor to attain a political or social goal.
Over this period, white extremism — an umbrella term encompassing white nationalist, white supremacist, neo-Nazi, xenophobic, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic ideologies — accounted for about 8 percent of all attacks in these regions and about a third of those in the United States.
Erin Miller, who manages the database, said the increase in white extremist terrorism parallels a rise in hate crimes and bias episodes in the West and that deadly attacks are occurring more often.
“There’s a common framing of far-right terrorism or domestic terrorism as being ‘terrorism lite’ and not as serious,” she said. “It’s an interesting question given that far-right attacks can be quite devastating.”
- Retribution was suspected to be a motivating factor in at least 19 attacks. White extremists responded by attacking mosques after two Muslim men killed a British soldier in 2013. Similar retaliations took place after terrorism attacks on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper by Islamic extremists, and a wave of attacks in Paris in November 2015.
- About a quarter of white extremist attacks in Europe targeted Muslims and mosques. These attacks increased significantly starting in 2015 along with a wave of xenophobic violence reacting to the migrant crisis.
- Xenophobia was behind the spike in attacks Europe saw in 2015. At least 86 attacks that year specifically targeted refugee shelters and migrants, and dozens more followed in 2016 and 2017.
- There were five white extremist attacks in Australia from 2011 through 2017, all of which were attacks on mosques and Islamic centers. There were no such attacks in New Zealand during that same period.
- Experts say the same broad motives are at play whether the target is a mosque in Perth or an asylum seekers’ shelter in Dresden or a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Attackers who identify as white, Christian and culturally European see an attack on their privileged position in the West by immigrants, Muslims and other religious and racial minorities.
The difference now is that it is easier than ever for extremists to connect both domestically and across continents, according to Mr. Berger, the “Extremism” author. The entry point for radicalization is less narrow than it was during earlier waves of white supremacist action, when finding ideological fellow travelers typically required meeting in person.
“This is a particularly strong wave,” Mr. Berger said, “and I think it’s being fueled by a lot of political developments and also by the sort of connective tissue that you get from the Internet that wasn’t there before that’s really making it easier for groups to be influenced and to coordinate, or not necessarily coordinate but synchronize over large geographical distances.”
Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, said that given these international connections, it’s important to reconsider the nature of the threat. “We conceive of this problem as being a domestic one,” she said. “But that’s not the case.”
The challenge for law enforcement will be to buck a sometimes myopic focus on Islamic extremism as the only driver of international terrorism.
It may also require rethinking the legal framework for what constitutes terrorism: from violence that arises from a command and control structure to a looser definition that can account for a wider range of violent actors who share a common ideology.
“They don't see themselves as Americans or Canadians, very much like the Christchurch killer didn’t see himself as an Australian; he saw himself as part of a white collective,” Dr. Beirich said.
“It has never been the case that these people didn’t think in a global way. They may have acted in ways that looked domestic but the thinking was always about building an international white movement.”
“White Supremacist Terror: Modernizing our Approach to Today’s Threat” (April 2020)
Seamus Hughes, Jon Lewis, Ryan Greer; “White Supremacist Terror: Modernizing our Approach to Today’s Threat”, George Washington University, (April 2020)
- In a February 2020 hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Christopher Wray stated that the FBI has, “elevated to the top-level priority racially motivated violent extremism so it’s on the same footing in terms of our national threat banding as ISIS and homegrown violent extremism”
A month prior to Director Wray’s comments, his colleague at the Justice Department was raising similar concerns. Thomas Brzozowski, the Counsel for Domestic Terrorism at the Department of Justice, stated the threat of domestic terrorism is no longer confined to our borders: “This issue, in many respects, has become transnational in nature.” At the same event, Brzozowski also cautioned against underestimating the severity of the threat: “We are leveraging every tool that we have… to address the issue, but I don’t want anybody laboring under the impression that this problem is solved because it’s not.” While the FBI and Department of Justice have broad authority and a strong capacity to interdict, investigate, and prosecute crimes, these sentiments suggest that there remain inadequacies, and that the pace and severity of the modern threat may exceed those powers.
These pronouncements are supported by publicly available data. While there is a lack of accurate, reliable government data on this issue, policymakers have long benefited from the work done by groups like ADL (Anti-Defamation League). For example, ADL’s annual Murder and Extremism report counted a total of 42 domestic extremism-related deaths in 17 separate incidents in 2019, the sixth deadliest year since 1970, with three of the previous four years also in the top six. Furthermore, a recent report by ADL’s Center on Extremism showed the number of incidents of white supremacist propaganda doubled from 2018 to 2019-from 1,214 to 2,713-the highest number of incidents the organization has recorded.
- In contrast to some other forms of extremism, white supremacist and similar extremist organizations tend not to form cohesive and rigid groups, but instead tend to be more fluid. At the same time, while most domestic extremists are typically described as lone actors, online platforms serve as non-stop, virtual white supremacist rallies where coordination can happen in real-time, regardless of location. Indeed, the recent arrests of several geographically disparate but ideologically aligned cells of individuals are emblematic of the increasingly networked nature of this domestic terror threat.
These white supremacists may live thousands of miles apart, but they are united by their belief that whites should have dominance over non-white people, whites should live by themselves in a whites-only society, white people have their own “culture” that is superior to other cultures, and white people are genetically superior to other people.
- While international ties of U.S.-based extremists to foreign white supremacists groups may be the exception rather than the rule, the State Department nevertheless should determine whether there is evidence sufficient to designate any of the existing foreign white supremacist organizations as foreign terrorist organizations. At present, none of the current 69 organizations on the FTO list is a white supremacist organization.
Designation could be a powerful tool to leverage against foreign white supremacists and other racially and ethnically motivated terrorists, as well as Americans who provide support to them. Similar provisions have been implemented by Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom. If a group were found to meet the threshold base d on U.S. law, such a designation could enhance investigative and prosecutorial tools, allow for closer cooperation with foreign partners, and allow for the full toolkit of federal government responses currently used to address foreign and foreign-inspired terrorism.
- Given the spread of domestic extremism online-and that law enforcement’s authorities to counter domestic terrorist groups are limited-the public sector role in information-sharing is critical.
- Extremist threats now move at the speed of the internet, and the social divisiveness that can exacerbate extremism must be met with community resilience to heal community divides. For those reasons and more, we must invest in preventing targeted violence and violent extremism, in our communities as well as online. To date, efforts to prevent extremism have been overwhelmingly focused on Islamist-inspired extremist threats-we need immediate and uncontroversial investments in prevention to change the trajectory of extremism in the United States as soon as possible.
Extremist threats now move at the speed of the internet, and the social divisiveness that can exacerbate extremism must be met with community resilience to heal community divides. For those reasons and more, we must invest in preventing targeted violence and violent extremism, in our communities as well as online. To date, efforts to prevent extremism have been overwhelmingly focused on Islamist-inspired extremist threats- we need immediate and uncontroversial investments in prevention to change the trajectory of extremism in the United States as soon as possible.
Civil society and other actors can help create off-ramps to prevent individuals from taking up violent extremist’s cause. Investments in academic institutions to research what works in prevention, training law enforcement on white supremacy and extremism, and empowering local communities through civil society are critical to preventing the next extremists. Given that these extremists frequently plot against religious institutions, those deemed high risk should have access to security measures to reduce their vulnerability to attack.
- A precursor to extremism is hate; hate crimes may not be as severe as terrorism, but they are far more widespread, and their permissiveness breed greater likelihood for extremism and have impacts far beyond those targeted. More attention must be given to investigating and prosecuting hate crimes, as well as to collect information on them to improve transparency and reporting. Grants and other support could improve local and state hate crime training, prevention, best practices, and data collection initiatives-such as hate crime reporting hotlines to direct individuals to local law enforcement and support services.
In our modern era, online communities must be given careful attention, and that must start with the private sector. Technology companies must recognize their role in being part of the pollution, including having clear terms of service regarding hateful and extremist content, as well as consequences for violating them.
- Domestic extremist groups seek to mainstream their message, even sometimes purposefully sounding less extreme in order to garner support without raising alarm. Speaking out can not only prevent this mainstreaming, but also make it less socially acceptable to espouse these view. All community members-whether in the White House or a city council-should always speak out against hatred and bigotry, including our nation’s top leaders.
"Home Is Where the Hate Is" (June 22, 2017)
David Neiwart, "Home Is Where the Hate Is", Type Investigations, (June 22, 2017).
- While federal charges of some kind were filed in 91 percent of the Islamist incidents that led to arrests, federal prosecutors handled 60 percent of far-right cases, leaving many in the hands of state or local authorities.
Moreover, three-quarters of the Islamist incidents in the database were pre-empted plots, including elaborate sting operations, while 35 percent of far-right incidents were pre-empted, a much smaller ratio. That disparity, counterterror experts say, is an indication that far fewer investigative resources — such as analysts, paid informants and undercover operatives — have been deployed to halt far-right attacks.
Yet even though most Islamists were charged only in connection with plots, they often were sentenced as harshly as or more harshly than right-wing extremists, who mostly succeeded in committing acts of terror. Among the Islamist cases, 8 percent got life sentences, 2 percent got death sentences, and the average sentence for the other cases was 21 years in prison. Among far-right cases, 12 percent got life sentences, 5 percent got death sentences, and the average sentence for the rest was eight years.
- Warnings included a July 2008 FBI assessment, titled, “White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel since 9/11.” Though the report found that the number of identifiable neo-Nazis with military training was small, a little over 200, it added:
Military experience – ranging from failure at basic training to success in special operations forces – is found throughout the white supremacist extremist movement. FBI reporting indicates extremist leaders have historically favored recruiting active and former military personnel for their knowledge of firearms, explosives, and tactical skills and their access to weapons and intelligence in preparation for an anticipated war against the federal government, Jews, and people of color.
Johnson’s section noticed the same trend and produced a bulletin that was circulated in April 2009 to law enforcement officers around the nation. It alerted them to the rising risk of terrorist attacks by right-wing extremists and noted that the Department of Homeland Security “is concerned that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities.”
Unlike the FBI assessment, Johnson’s bulletin was distributed during the early months of the new Obama administration. This time, a media firestorm erupted. Conservative radio and television hosts from Rush Limbaugh to Michael Savage and Glenn Beck denounced the report, claiming it was “singling out troops” for vilification, along with “normal conservatives” who might share the same concerns that animated the radicals identified in the bulletin, such as opposition to abortion and federal control over public lands. On Fox News, William Kristol charged that Obama administration officials “think about veterans” as “pathological killers.” Once the American Legion, too, denounced the report, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued an apology.
The blowback had powerful long-term effects on the shape of counterterrorism policy. Because of the increasing focus on Islamist terrorism, Johnson’s team already had been reduced.
After the controversy, the office was stripped down to one full-time staffer; Johnson himself departed in April 2010. Efforts to counter far-right terror at the department were effectively dead. As The Washington Post later reported:
The analytical unit that produced that report has been effectively eviscerated. Much of its work – including a digest of domestic terror incidents and the distribution of definitions for terms such as “white supremacist” and “Christian Identity” – has been blocked.
- It was white supremacist Wade Michael Page’s rampage in Wisconsin the following year, in which he gunned down six Sikhs at worship, that finally moved the Senate to hold hearings on right-wing extremism. Johnson, by now a former counterterror official, was invited to testify.
“The threat from domestic terrorism motivated by extremist ideologies is often dismissed and overlooked in the national media and within the U.S. government. Yet we are currently seeing an upsurge in domestic non-Islamic extremist activity,” he said. “Today, the bulk of violent domestic activity emanates from the right wing.”
- While federal officials were turning their attention away from the far right, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups, had noticed something dramatic. While most such groups had collapsed after 9/11, the law center noticed an explosion of so-called Patriot groups that began in 2009, the first year of Obama’s presidency, and reached a peak in 2012, when the group counted 1,360 active Patriot groups and 1,007 hate groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, skinheads and neo-Nazis.
- “Donald Trump wants to remove us from undue federal scrutiny by removing ‘white supremacists’ from the definition of ‘extremism,’” Andrew Anglin, editor of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, wrote in a post. “Donald Trump is setting us free.” He went on:
It’s fair to say that if the Trump team is not listening to us directly (I assume they are), they are thinking along very similar lines. …This is absolutely a signal of favor to us.
- Daryl Johnson, the former intelligence analyst, warns that continuing to focus counterterrorism efforts disproportionately on Islamists risks fueling that threat.
“Muslim Americans already feel targeted and alienated,” he said. Reconfiguring the Countering Violent Extremism program around Islamists “pretty much validates their suspicions” and even risks aggravating extremism within the Muslim community.
“When you turn a blind eye to all the uptick in hate or wait a long time before you even address the hate incidents that we’ve been seeing against Muslims and against the Jewish community,” he said, “I think that just emboldens the far right in thinking that they have free rein to do whatever they want.”
"Homegrown Extremists Tied to Deadlier Toll Than Jihadists in U.S. Since 9/11" (June 24, 2015)
Scott Shane, "Homegrown Extremists Tied to Deadlier Toll Than Jihadists in U.S. Since 9/11". (June 24, 2015)
- WASHINGTON — In the 14 years since Al Qaeda carried out attacks on New York and the Pentagon, extremists have regularly executed smaller lethal assaults in the United States, explaining their motives in online manifestoes or social media rants.
But the breakdown of extremist ideologies behind those attacks may come as a surprise. Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: 48 have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, including the recent mass killing in Charleston, S.C., compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists, according to a count by New America, a Washington research center.
- A survey to be published this week asked 382 police and sheriff’s departments nationwide to rank the three biggest threats from violent extremism in their jurisdiction. About 74 percent listed antigovernment violence, while 39 percent listed “Al Qaeda-inspired” violence, according to the researchers, Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina and David Schanzer of Duke University.
“Law enforcement agencies around the country have told us the threat from Muslim extremists is not as great as the threat from right-wing extremists,” said Dr. Kurzman, whose study is to be published by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security and the Police Executive Research Forum.
- Some Muslim advocates complain that when the perpetrator of an attack is not Muslim, news media commentators quickly focus on the question of mental illness. “With non-Muslims, the media bends over backward to identify some psychological traits that may have pushed them over the edge,” said Abdul Cader Asmal, a retired physician and a longtime spokesman for Muslims in Boston. “Whereas if it’s a Muslim, the assumption is that they must have done it because of their religion.”
On several occasions since President Obama took office, efforts by government agencies to conduct research on right-wing extremism have run into resistance from Republicans, who suspected an attempt to smear conservatives.
A 2009 report by the Department of Homeland Security, which warned that an ailing economy and the election of the first black president might prompt a violent reaction from white supremacists, was withdrawn in the face of conservative criticism. Its main author, Daryl Johnson, later accused the department of “gutting” its staffing for such research.
- “If there’s one lesson we seem to have forgotten 20 years after Oklahoma City, it’s that extremist violence comes in all shapes and sizes,” said Dr. Horgan, the University of Massachusetts scholar. “And very often, it comes from someplace you’re least suspecting.”
"Single Issue Terrorism Commentary" (15 October 2007)
Smith, G. Davidson (1998). "Single Issue Terrorism Commentary". Canadian Security Intelligence Service. (Archived from the original on 15 October 2007. Retrieved 1 September 2011.)
- Legitimate and traditionally moderate organizations such as animal welfare societies have for years achieved notable results on behalf of the causes for which they lobby. But, over the past two decades, some of the more popular issues have attracted radical elements that now form an extremist militant core prepared to resorts to threats, violence and destruction of property to achieve their ends. In the case of the abortion issue, this has included murder
For the most part, legitimate organizations disown the violent fringe. Some, however-notably in the context of the environmental and abortion issues-actively support the militants, or do so tacitly by failing to condemn extremist activities.
- There is no archetypal single issue extremist, but some broad characteristics apply. Animal rights activists, environmentalists and abortionists tend to be on the left, politically. The founder of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) in the UK, for example, is a self-confessed anarchist, as is a senior member of a similar group in Canada. The pro-life side of the abortion debate is drawn largely from the right. The abortion issue, however, is complicated by a religious dimension foreign to the animal rights and environmental questions and draws adherents on both sides from across the political spectrum. Extremists associated with any of these issues come from all walks of life and social levels. For a time, participation in civil disobedience and militancy in support of animal rights campaigns was regarded by many young Britons as an exciting and trendy diversion. A large number of animal rights supporters and environmental extremists can be found among idealistic and impatient university students who have become frustrated with the seemingly slow progress of moderate groups and who seek to achieve their goals more rapidly by direct action.
- The extremist fringe of each movement has published some form of handbook or provides Internet instructions on how to engage in mischief, civil disobedience, vandalism, and sabotage-ecotage as it is known in Enviro-speak. Some of the suggestions are extremely dangerous, among them potentially lethal methods of tree-spiking which have caused serious injuries. The instructions, often resembling those found in The Anarchist's Cookbook, include bomb-making details.
Though the level and scale of single issue-driven terrorism have moderated somewhat over the past two years, certainly in comparison with the turbulent days of the 1980s and early 1990s, the threat has not lessened. Extremist incidents continue to occur, especially associated with animal rights and environmentalism in England and Canada. Currently, abortion remains a volatile issue in the United States, where the first fatal bombing at an abortion clinic occurred on 29 January 1998 in Birmingham, Alabama. The USA has already registered five murders tied to the abortion issue. In Canada, abortion activists are using the tenth anniversary of the Supreme Court decision lifting Canada's legal restrictions on the practice to focus popular and legislative attention on what is seen as flagging enthusiasm for abortion within the medical profession, although in fact the number of abortions has increased significantly in the past ten years.
- As many as 2,000 moderate or extremist environmental organizations are estimated to be active in Canada alone. The radical environmental movement comprises a broad spectrum of groups and individuals involved in diverse extremist variations of the environmental issue. While resource exploitation and hydro-electric development are their most frequent targets, activists also oppose the nuclear power industry, chemical manufacturers, industrial polluters, urban sprawl, encroaching (sub)urban development of agricultural lands, and other aspects of the modern industrial state.
Animal rights and anarchist groups have made common cause with environmental extremists and in some cases alliances have been formed with native groups. The latter arrangements have not always been popular, however, especially in regard to fishing and hunting issues.
"Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States"
- How does PIRUS define radicalization?
We define radicalization as the psychological, emotional, and behavioral processes by which an individual adopts an ideology that promotes the use of violence for the attainment of political, economic, religious, or social goals. Indicators of radicalization within the scope of the PIRUS dataset consist of arrests, indictments, and/or convictions for engaging in, or planning to engage in, ideologically motivated unlawful behavior, or membership in a designated terrorist organization or a violent extremist group. Radicalization does not necessarily involve violence. For example, under the foregoing criteria, an individual who runs a website for a violent extremist group would meet the criteria for inclusion in the database.
- How does PIRUS define Islamist, Far Right, Far Left, and Single Issue ideologies?
Islamist - We recognize that the terms “Islamist”, “jihadism”, and “jihadist” are applied inconsistently in both academic and policy circles, and can imply a wide range of meanings based on the context in which they are used. For this project, we use the broad term “Islamist” in reference to the religio-political methodology practiced by Sunni Islamist-Salafists who seek the immediate overthrow of incumbent regimes, and the non-Muslim geopolitical forces which support them, in order to pave the way for an Islamist society which would be developed through martial power. Although there are a number of Islamist-Salafist thinkers who do not advocate for violent military strategies to achieve their goals (e.g., Muhammad Nasiruddin al-Albani), in the U.S. context, the individuals we classify as “Islamists” are most commonly connected to, or inspired by, violent Islamist-Salafist groups that have their roots in the onset of “global jihadism” of the 1980s, including al-Qaeda and its affiliated movements. There are a number of ideological tenets commonly elaborated by Islamist-Salafist groups, including the imposition of shari’a with violent jihad as a central component, the creation of an expansionist Islamic state, or khalifa, and the use of local, national, and international grievances affecting Muslims, which are aired in an overtly religious context.
Far right - There exists a broad range of far right beliefs and actors (often overlapping movements), including both reactionary and revolutionary justifications of violence. In its modern manifestation in the United States, the ideology of the far right is generally exclusivist and favors social hierarchy, seeking an idealized future favoring a particular group, whether this group identity is racial, pseudo-national (e.g., the Texas Republic) or characterized by individualistic traits (e.g., survivalists). The extremist far right commonly shows antipathy to the political left and the federal government. As a result of this heterodoxy, this category includes radical individuals linked to extremist religious groups (e.g., Identity Christians), non-religious racial supremacists (e.g., Creativity Movement, National Alliance), tax protesters, sovereign citizens, militias, and militant gun rights advocates.
Far left - The far left in the United States is essentially class-oriented and consists primarily of individuals and groups that adhere to belief systems based on egalitarianism and the mobilization of disenfranchised segments of the population. With roots in the leftist student movement and radical prison reform movement of the late 1960s, traditional far left extremists generally sought the overthrow of the capitalist system, including the United States government, in order to replace it with a new, anti-imperialist economic order that empowers members of the “working class”. The traditional left included groups that maintained a distinct racial identity (e.g., Black Panther Party), which were motivated by a mix of economic grievances and race-based issues. Today, the far left is more commonly identified by followers of animal-rights and environmental protection issues. While not all animal rights or environmental groups are inherently leftist in orientation (for instance, there are Green Fascists), the vast majority of these individuals and groups identify with leftist political positions and have thus been included in the far left category for the purposes of this project.
Single issue - Single issue extremists are individuals who are motivated primarily by a single issue, rather than a broad ideology. Examples in the PIRUS data of single issue extremists are individuals associated with the Puerto Rican independence movement, anti-abortion extremists that were not motivated by traditional far right issues (anti-government, race superiority, etc.), members of the Jewish Defense League, and extremists with idiosyncratic ideologies (e.g., Ted Kaczynski).
"COUNTERING VIOLENT EXTREMISM: Actions Needed to Define Strategy and Assess Progress of Federal Efforts" (April 2017)
"COUNTERING VIOLENT EXTREMISM: Actions Needed to Define Strategy and Assess Progress of Federal Efforts" (PDF). United States Government Accountability Office. (April 2017).
- Violent extremism—generally defined as supporting or committing violent acts to achieve political, ideological, religious, or social goals—has been perpetrated and promoted by a broad range of groups in the United States for decades. Such groups include white supremacists, anti- government groups, and groups with extreme views on abortion, animal rights, the environment, and federal ownership of public lands; and radical Islamist entities, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), among others. The September 11, 2001, attacks account for the largest number of fatalities in the United States resulting from violent extremism. According to the U.S. Extremist Crime Database (ECDB), since the September 11 attacks, 85 attacks in the United States by violent extremists—associated with both radical Islamist and far right ideologies—have resulted in 225 fatalities.
- White supremacists, anti-government extremists, radical Islamist extremists, and other ideologically inspired domestic violent extremists have been active in the United States for decades. Examples of attacks include the 1993 World Trade Center bombing by radical Islamists, in which 6 persons were killed; and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building by anti-government far right individuals, in which 168 lives were lost. The September 11, 2001, attacks account for the largest number of fatalities in the United States in a single or closely- related attack resulting from violent extremism in recent decades. While the September 11, 2001, attacks were perpetrated by foreign violent extremists, from September 12, 2001 through December 31, 2016, attacks by domestic or “homegrown” violent extremists in the United States resulted in 225 fatalities, according to the ECDB. Of these, 106 were killed by far right violent extremists in 62 separate incidents, and 119 were victims of radical Islamist violent extremists in 23 separate incidents. Figure 1 shows the locations and number of fatalities involved in these incidents. A detailed list of the incidents can be found in appendix II. According to the ECDB, activities of far left wing violent extremist groups did not result in any fatalities during this period.
- Since September 12, 2001, the number of fatalities caused by domestic violent extremists has ranged from 1 to 49 in a given year. As shown in figure 2, fatalities resulting from attacks by far right wing violet extremists have exceeded those caused by radical Islamist violent extremists in 10 of the 15 years, and were the same in 3 of the years since September 12, 2001. Of the 85 violent extremist incidents that resulted in death since September 12, 2001, far right wing violent extremist groups were responsible for 62 (73 percent) while radical Islamist violent extremists were responsible for 23 (27 percent). The total number of fatalities is about the same for far right wing violent extremists and radical Islamist violent extremists over the approximately 15-year period (106 and 119, respectively).
- In October 2016, the federal government defined the U.S. approach to countering violent extremism as proactive actions to counter efforts by extremists to recruit, radicalize, and mobilize followers to violence. The three parts of the U.S. approach to CVE efforts are: (1) empowering communities and civil society; (2) messaging and counter–messaging; and (3) addressing causes and driving factors.
- Recognizing that most CVE activities occur at the community level, DHS and DOJ officials leading the CVE Task Force describe the federal role in CVE as a combination of providing research funding and training materials, and educating the public through activities such as DHS or DOJ hosted community briefings in which specific threats and warning signs of violent extremism are shared. According to FBI officials, these outreach efforts also provide an opportunity to build relationships in the community and help clarify the FBI’s role in engaging community organizations. According to DHS officials, DHS also conducts regular community engagement roundtables in multiple cities that provide a forum for communities to comment on and hear information about Department activities, including CVE. In addition to community meetings, education of the public is to occur through a multiplicity of outreach channels, including websites, social media, conferences, and communications to state and local governments, including law enforcement entities.
- In September 2015, DHS recognized that its CVE efforts were scattered across a number of components and lacked specific goals and tangible measures of success.
- Consistent with direction in the 2011 National Strategy, federal CVE efforts have generally been initiated by leveraging existing programs and without a specific CVE budget. For example, activities that address violence in schools or hate crimes in communities may be relevant to constraining or averting violent extremism, but receive funding as part of a different program.
- Although we were able to determine the status of the 44 domestically focused CVE tasks from the 2011 SIP, we could not determine the extent to which the United States is better off today as a result of its CVE effort than it was in 2011. That is because no cohesive strategy with measurable outcomes has been established to guide the multi-agency CVE effort towards its goals.
- Combatting violent extremism is of critical importance for the United States. Extremist attacks of all kinds can have perilous effects on the perceived safety of our nation. It is therefore imperative that the United States employ effective means for preventing and deterring violent extremism and related attacks.