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I believe that 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

Extremism is any ideology (particularly in politics or religion), considered to be far outside the acceptable standards of the society whose laws govern them.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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?
  • 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 is a sinner.
    • Malcolm X, Oxford Union Debate (3 December 1964).
  • 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).
  • 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).

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