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Identifying Three Trends in Far Right Violence in the United States
USMA Combating Terrorism Center ^ | September 26, 2012 | Arie Perliger

Posted on 09/27/2012 4:23:04 AM PDT by Travis McGee

n the morning hours of August 5, 2012, the Sikh temple at Oak Creek, Wisconsin, was crowded with children and mothers engaged in preparations for the Langar, a traditional Sikh communal meal scheduled to be held later that day. At around 10:00 AM, Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old from nearby Cudahy, Wisconsin, arrived in the temple parking lot and started firing at the temple’s inhabitants using a pistol purchased several days earlier. He then entered the temple and continued his killing spree until he was gunned down by police forces that arrived to the site. At that point, he had already killed six worshippers and a police officer.[1]

While details from the investigation have not yet been officially released, a growing body of evidence links Page to various far right elements, mainly the skinheads subculture and the white power music scene. As a result, policymakers and intellectuals expressed concerns about a potential revival of far right violence in the United States. Many of their responses also reflected common misconceptions and deficiencies that dominate the popular discourse about the American far right, such as the inability to distinguish between its different components, lack of understanding of its ideological tenets as well as the tendency to ignore the fact that American far right violence was never really absent; if anything, the level of far right violence has been rising steadily for the last two decades.

This article provides clarity on the various components of the American far right. It also offers a basic analytical model to better understand its current violent trends. The article’s findings—which are based on a dataset of more than 4,400 cases of violent attacks by far right elements during a 22-year period—will be expanded in a more detailed study that will soon be published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

Typology of the American Violent Far Right Three major ideological trends can be identified within the American violent far right: racist, anti-federalist and fundamentalist. The ideological characteristics of the various groups impact their operations in terms of tactics used and target selection.

Racist Trend The ideological trend most familiar to Americans is the racist one, which is comprised of white supremacy groups such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), neo-Nazis such as the National Alliance, and skinhead groups such as the Hammerskin Nation. The racist groups are interested in preserving or restoring what they perceive as the appropriate and natural racial and cultural hierarchy by enforcing social and political control over non-whites—such as African Americans, Jews and various immigrant communities. Their ideological foundations are based mainly on ideas of nativism (rejection of foreign norms and practices), racism, segregation and xenophobia. Other popular components of the far-right ideology—including strong affinity for order and social control, traditional values and anti-democratic dispositions—are manifested by some of these groups, but are usually secondary.

Since the mid-1980s, many of the racist groups framed their ideas in a defensive context and started to utilize “civil rights” rhetoric, usually presenting themselves as dedicated to the promotion or protection of the white race, and preserving their heritage and culture. Other groups, however, intensified their usage of Nazi heritage, symbols, rituals and ideological foundations to justify and promote anti-Semitic, racist and nativist ideas, as well as exclusionism. More specifically, since some of these groups believe that territorial and racial purity is a condition for the survival of the “white race,” they developed the idea of enforced segregation, including concrete “programs” to eliminate inferior races, expel others or divide the United States into racially homogeneous geographical areas.

In terms of target selection, and in line with the trend’s ideology, the great majority of attacks perpetrated by these groups are aimed against individuals or organizations affiliated with a specific minority ethnic group, or non-Aryan facilities (mosques, synagogues, or schools affiliated with minority communities). While the KKK is heavily involved in acts of vandalism, the skinheads and the neo-Nazi groups are more engaged in attacks against human targets and show a higher affinity for mass casualty attacks.

Anti-Federalist Trend The anti-federalist trend (which is usually identified in the literature as the “militia” or “patriot” movement) appeared in full force only in the early to mid-1990s with the emergence of groups such as the Militia of Montana and the Michigan Militia. Anti-federalist and anti-government sentiments existed in U.S. society before the 1990s via diverse movements and ideological associations promoting anti-taxation, gun rights, and a “survivalist” lifestyle. Yet most scholars concur that the “farm crises” of the 1980s combined with the implications of rapid cultural, technological and normative changes in American society, as well as attempts to revise gun control and environmental legislation, facilitated the emergence of a fairly ideologically cohesive movement, as well as its rapid growth.[2]

Ideologically, anti-federalists are interested in undermining the influence, legitimacy and practical sovereignty of the federal government and its proxy organizations, such as the U.S. military or Federal Bureau of Investigation.[3] This rationale is multifaceted, and includes the belief that the U.S. political system and its proxies have been hijacked by external forces interested in promoting a New World Order (NWO),[4] in which the United States will be absorbed into the United Nations or another version of global government; strong convictions regarding the corrupted and tyrannical nature of the federal government and its related natural tendency to intrude on individuals’ civilian lives and constitutional rights; and finally, perceptions supporting civilian activism, individual freedoms, and self governing the way they were manifested in the frontier culture in U.S. history, especially during the Revolutionary War and the expansion to the American west. Hence, anti-federalist groups see themselves as part of a struggle to restore or preserve the United States’ “true” identity, values and “way of life” and as the successors of the country’s founding fathers.

Recent research conducted by this author shows that in the case of the anti-federalist trend there is compatibility between ideological tenets and operational characteristics. Two-thirds of the attacks by anti-federalist groups were directed against the government and its proxies, such as law enforcement (65.8%); while attacks against minorities (11%) and infrastructure (6.1%, which could also be seen as attacks against the government) comprise most of the rest.

Fundamentalist Trend The fundamentalist trend, which includes mainly Christian identity groups such as the Aryan Nations, merges religious fundamentalism with traditional white supremacy and racist tendencies. It promotes ideas of nativism, exclusionism, and racial superiority via a unique interpretation of religious texts that focus on division of humanity according to primordial attributes. More specifically, these groups maintain that a correct interpretation of the holy texts reveals that it is not the people of Israel but the Anglo-Saxons who are the chosen people. Moreover, the war between the forces of light and darkness, as portrayed in the Bible, will be (or has already been) manifested via racial war between the white Anglo-Saxon nation and various non-Anglo-Saxon ethnic groups such as the “Children of Satan” (Jews) and “mud people” (non-whites). The identity groups tend to utilize religious heritage, symbols, rituals and norms to instill and spread these ideas, as well as to provide moral justification for, and encouragement to, political activism against elements that are threatening the materialization of the appropriate sociopolitical order.

Operationally, identity violence focuses on minorities and has a higher tendency to involve mass casualty attacks (in comparison to the other two trends).[5]

The Iceberg Model and American Far Right Violence In the early 1980s, the Israeli political scientist Ehud Sprinzak published a paper on the irredentist Israeli religio-political movement Gush Emunim (The Bloc of the Faithful) entitled “The Iceberg Model of Political Extremism.”[6] He argued that the Gush is best understood not as a classical protest movement, but as the extremist tip of a large social and cultural “iceberg,” in effect a religious subculture, which supports and nurtures the Gush. Pyramidal in structure, this iceberg—Gush’s social and political bases of support—broadens as one moves from the politically extremist tip to the less extremist base. Based on analysis of 4,400 cases of violent attacks by far-right elements in a 22-year period, the iceberg model could be applicable for understanding some of the characteristics of the American violent far right as well.

To begin with, the American far right is characterized by a large base of supporters (the base of the “iceberg”) who are usually engaged in low level violence (usually minor incidents of vandalism or low sophisticated attacks against individuals) and are not affiliated with any formal organizational frameworks (for example, just one percent of the attacks by unaffiliated members includes the use of firearms or explosives, well below what could be observed in any of the other trends). Based on the body of literature developed in the last few years regarding political radicalization, it is possible to carefully assume that the perpetrators of these attacks are the future recruitment potential of the more institutionalized organizations. In other words, after crossing the line and performing some minor attacks on their own initiative, at some point these individuals may look for more organized, systematic mechanisms to express their ideas for political activism, and thus will join one of the other, more formal, streams of the American far right toward the top of the iceberg.

If this perspective is indeed a reflection of the movement’s structure and dynamics, then the United States may be facing a continuous rise in the level of violence, especially since the last six years have been characterized by an overall increase in the “base” of the iceberg (i.e., there has been an increase in the number of low sophisticated, unaffiliated and spontaneous attacks, which have been followed by an increase in the number of mass casualty attacks). It should be noted that most of these low sophisticated/spontaneous attacks have received relatively little attention from the media, political authorities and law enforcement, while the few mass casualty attacks attracted most of the attention.

Which groups contribute most to the tip of the iceberg, and which are closer to its base? The findings show that the KKK (and on some level anti-abortionists), with its current informal and fragmented structure and low level of operational sophistication, is the formal movement that is closest to the base of the iceberg (and may be the first station for those joining the “formal” American far right). The higher one “climbs” to the top of the iceberg, the more lethal the group’s attacks and the smaller they are in volume. Therefore, following the KKK, the order can be ranked as follows from least to most lethal: skinheads, militias, neo-Nazi groups and finally attacks perpetrated by individuals or groups affiliated with the Christian identity movement. To illustrate, while Christian identity elements perpetrated “just” 66 attacks in the last 22 years, their attacks generated close to three victims per attack on average. The skinheads, which are part of the racist trend, were responsible for more than 200 attacks, but averaged close to one victim per attack.

While the model is not perfect,[7] overall it seems that the iceberg model fits the findings, as there is a clear base which is wider in terms of the number of attacks but is less “sharp” (in lethality), while the narrower parts of the iceberg are indeed sharper and more lethal.

Conclusion Conventional wisdom suggests that the most damaging and dangerous mass of an iceberg is actually the section that is underwater. Indeed, the high volume of far right violence reflected in vandalism and attacks against individuals is probably a better indication of the growing threat from the far right than the small number of mass casualty attacks. A group or individual will rarely engage in mass casualty attacks without first moving through the lower base of the iceberg by engaging in low profile attacks. A rise in the number of low profile attacks should eventually result in an increase in mass casualty attacks.

In more specific terms, the findings reflect a steady rise in the level of far right violence in the United States during the last two decades. While some far right groups are clearly in decline, such as the KKK and anti-abortionists, others such as the skinheads, neo-Nazis and militias are still active and represent a growing threat.

Dr. Arie Perliger is the Class of 1977 Director of Terrorism Studies at the Combating Terrorism Center and Assistant Professor at the Department of Social Sciences, U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

[1] Page was shot in the abdomen during a firefight with police. He then shot himself in the head.

[2] Richard Abens, American Militias (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1996), pp. 7-20; Joel Dyer, Harvest of Rage (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998), pp. 24-44; Kathlyn Gay, Militias: Armed and Dangerous (Springfield, NJ: Enslow Publishers Inc., 1997), pp. 36-52.

[3] A development that may be responsible for the growing concern and awareness of a militia movement revival is the popularity of the Sovereign Citizen movement. Simply put, the Sovereign Citizen movement opposes formal governmental regulations of their “basic rights” such as “driving the land” (thus, Sovereign Citizen members will refuse to apply for, or to have, a driver’s license and car registration) or working for a living (thus refusing to pay taxes). Several violent incidents involving Sovereign Citizen members, including the killing of two West Memphis, Arkansas, police officers during a traffic stop in May 2010, provided an indication that some members of the movement were indeed willing to use violence to protect and follow their principles.

[4] They believe in the existence of a conspiratorial organization allegedly masterminding events and controlling world affairs through governments and corporations to establish a New World Order (see, for example, the Illuminati movement, which originated initially in 18th century Germany).

[5] There are two reasons for this. First, some scholars have suggested that the more the group’s agenda is framed in religious and totalistic ideas, the more it will be willing or determined to use exceptionally lethal tactics. Second, while the skinheads and KKK members are in many cases a part of the social fabric of a specific community, this is not the case with many members of identity groups. This isolation, which creates a social distance between members of the group and mainstream society, may serve not just as a breeding ground for radicalization, but may facilitate a stronger sense of alienation toward the mainstream culture and willingness to engage in extreme, harmful activities.

[6] Ehud Sprinzak, “Gush Emunim: The Iceberg Model of Political Extremism,” Jerusalem Quarterly 21 (1981): pp. 28-47.

[7] For example, excluding the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, militias generated fewer victims than the neo-Nazi groups, despite engaging in a lower number of attacks.

TOPICS: Conspiracy; Government; Military/Veterans
KEYWORDS: cw2; cwiiping; farright; kkk; military; militia; nazi; politicalcorrectness; propaganda; rightwing; sovereigncitizen; teaparty; threatmatrix; usma; westpoint
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To: Travis McGee
Conventional wisdom suggests that the most damaging and dangerous mass of an iceberg is actually the section that is underwater.

TRANSLATION: Just because right-wing violence is practically non-existent doesn't mean we can't pretend it is threat #1.

41 posted on 09/27/2012 5:47:32 AM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum (Government is the religion of the sociopath.)
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To: Tublecane
Why does everyone assume neo-nazis are “far right”?

Because the left succeeded in whitewashing history.

42 posted on 09/27/2012 5:49:16 AM PDT by fso301
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To: fso301

It’s a “teachable moment” every time the leftists try to conflate “right wing” and “Nazi”.

See #10.

43 posted on 09/27/2012 5:55:34 AM PDT by Travis McGee (
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To: PapaBear3625
Ideologically, anti-federalists are interested in undermining the influence, legitimacy and practical sovereignty of the federal government and its proxy organizations, such as the U.S. military or Federal Bureau of Investigation.

I guess I'm far right then. Although I don't want to undermine the legitimacy of the federal government - I want to maintain that legitimacy and it seems to me that it is far more legitimate when it keeps to its proper bounds.

Also, I didn't know that I engaged in low level violence, vandalism or unsophisticated attacks against individuals. Either I'm an exception, or political discussion and conservative voting is low level violence.

44 posted on 09/27/2012 6:06:46 AM PDT by heartwood
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To: cripplecreek

Interesting history lesson. Thanks.

45 posted on 09/27/2012 6:07:08 AM PDT by TADSLOS (Conservatism didn't magically show up in Romney's heart in 2012. You can't force what isn't in you.)
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To: Travis McGee

More psy-op prepping the battle-space.

If we do need to take back our Country via kinetic ballot, we’ll be fighting this bias as well...

46 posted on 09/27/2012 6:11:02 AM PDT by Dead Corpse (I will not comply.)
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To: Travis McGee


47 posted on 09/27/2012 6:14:07 AM PDT by Weirdad (Don't put up with ANY voter fraud...)
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To: DuncanWaring

They are painting us to resemble Emmanuel Goldstein.

48 posted on 09/27/2012 6:14:55 AM PDT by Dead Corpse (I will not comply.)
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To: Travis McGee
Lucky for us, the federal government is way out in front, preparing to battle the Evil White Racist Right Wing Tea Party KKK Nazi Militia Extremists.

Oh look, the police have themselves an RV.

49 posted on 09/27/2012 6:19:33 AM PDT by IYAS9YAS (Rose, there's a Messerschmitt in the kitchen. Clean it up, will ya?)
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To: Travis McGee
You would be amazed by the percentage of former military SpecOps guys currently employed by the federal alphabet agencies in their “Special Response Teams.”

It’s almost a prerequisite for entrance today. USMC MarSoc, SEALs, Rangers, SFs etc.

True. The skill sets that once were restricted to US military SOF conducting combat operations exclusively against foreign enemies has dramatically morphed into para-military operations against domestic "terrorists" since 2001, thanks in no small part to the passing and implementation of the Patriot Act (a most cynical term if there ever was one). The draw is the adrenaline rush of the work, remaining in what is considered an elite force, and the money. The question is, how many of these former special operators will remember and honor their oath to the Constitution rather than go into "accomplish the mission" auto mode when the domestiic SHTF? We shall see...

50 posted on 09/27/2012 6:22:36 AM PDT by TADSLOS (Conservatism didn't magically show up in Romney's heart in 2012. You can't force what isn't in you.)
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To: Travis McGee
Here is a key phrase in this article, citing Ehud Spinszak, an Israeli political scientist: "He (Ehud Spinszak) argued that the Gush (a nationalist Israeli group) is best understood not as a classical protest movement, but as the extremist tip of a large social and cultural “iceberg,” in effect a religious subculture, which supports and nurtures the Gush. Pyramidal in structure, this iceberg—Gush’s social and political bases of support—broadens as one moves from the politically extremist tip to the less extremist base."

In other words, the occasional act of violence by a "lone nut" or small group of racists is supported by the culturally and religiously conservative, though not violent, community. In Israel, that would be the most orthodox Jews, especially those who support the expulsion of all non-Jews from the nation. In the United States, that would be primarily fundamentalist Christians, especially homeschoolers, self-reliant rural people, gun enthusiasts, etc. Other, smaller groups with a similar profile include traditionalist Catholics, especially those who believe that no Pope since Pius XII is legitimate; Mormons in several LDS offshoots that support polygamy; Objectivists and freethinkers in the Lysander Spooner mode; believers in "Identity" religion (Anglo-Saxons are the real children of Israel and the actual Jews impostors); and the stricter Mennonite sects.

The fact is that the Nazi, Klan, militia, Identity, and similar movements are heavily infiltrated by Federal, state, and local law enforcement, as well as non-government groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. Said groups have been under surveillance and subject to infiltration since the 1960s, following the murder of civil rights workers in the South. It is unlikely a member of one of these group buys a loaf of bread or a tank of gas without being watched and reported on. They constitute minimal threat and most of the group actions are provoked or at least countenanced by law enforcement.

The real goal of these "extremist" alerts is to smear the broader base with the actions of a few violent individuals. Conservatives play the same game. Senator Joseph McCarthy was mostly correct in his identification of Communists in the State Department and the military, but others, such as Martin Dies, used the treason of Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs to smear leftists and liberals in the entertainment business. However, the Left now controls the levers of power, especially under Obama. (Even with a Romney victory, leftists are well positioned in academia, the foundations, local and state governments in the Northeast, Great Lakes, and West Coast, and the Federal civil service to continue their war.) The Communists suppressed similar groups in the hellhole called the Soviet Union, first by ridicule, then by isolation, and finally by imprisonment. The Nazis did the same with the Jews. Our leftists have a similar goal.

51 posted on 09/27/2012 6:22:36 AM PDT by Wallace T.
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Bernays was the nephew of Sigmund Freud. I’m actually torn on whether to consider him evil but reading some of what he wrote makes it hard to see him any other way. He was a manipulator and the chief propagandist of the Creel Committee under Wilson. (George Creel was a journalist) The committee propagandized us into WWI.

Creel was a true progressive scumbag. Don’t be fooled by the fact that he was an anti communist, so was Hitler.

52 posted on 09/27/2012 6:30:06 AM PDT by cripplecreek (What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?)
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To: cripplecreek

Left wing violence is so much more common, have they ever polled prisons? I bet the left wins in a walk.

53 posted on 09/27/2012 6:31:44 AM PDT by GeronL (
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To: Travis McGee

Careful, you’re falling into their very effective trap.
They don’t care what it _means_. It’s a loaded pejorative, a label slapped on you to cause others to instantly avoid you. You standing there arguing about the nuanced historical meaning is, as they intend, you wasting time & energy while they’re moving on to hitting the next target.
It’s kinda like you standing there arguing about the difference between FMJ vs BTHP and whether the latter is allowed under the Geneva Convention whilst the is satisfied that whatever he shot you with, you’re suffering a sucking chest wound.

54 posted on 09/27/2012 6:57:11 AM PDT by ctdonath2 ($1 meals:
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To: Travis McGee

“Workplace Violence vs. Domestic Right-Wing White Christian Terrorism” was always a class I struggled with in Summer Re-Education Camp.

55 posted on 09/27/2012 6:57:31 AM PDT by DTogo (High time to bring back the Sons of Liberty !!)
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To: cripplecreek

Looks like Bernays was an unprincipled opportunist, which pretty much defines a career in PR or political campaign management.

56 posted on 09/27/2012 7:04:04 AM PDT by TADSLOS (Conservatism didn't magically show up in Romney's heart in 2012. You can't force what isn't in you.)
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To: Travis McGee

These all look like left-wing examples.

The most obvious is the KKK, which is leftist and was formed by the Democrat party.

57 posted on 09/27/2012 7:18:38 AM PDT by <1/1,000,000th%
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To: Travis McGee
So am I in trouble with the Federal Government if I am a constitutional conservative, believe in limited government at all levels, decreased rules and regulations, lower taxes, decrease entitlements, especially welfare, strong believer in the 1st and 2nd amendments, believe in religious freedom, the Ten Commandments, basic sense of right and wrong, common sense, live and let live, freedom, free markets, capitalism, family, property rights, and ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’?
58 posted on 09/27/2012 7:44:07 AM PDT by Art in Idaho (Conservatism is the only hope for Western Civilization.)
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To: Travis McGee

“Indeed, the high volume of far right violence reflected in vandalism and attacks against individuals “

Nothing like brainwashing a bunch of kids that think they are the elite and therefore what they are thinking at the moment is the truth, even if that truth was handed to them by extreme left-wing liberals with such false statements as that one.

My tagline is my motto.

59 posted on 09/27/2012 7:45:53 AM PDT by CodeToad (Be Prepared...They Are.)
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To: Art in Idaho


60 posted on 09/27/2012 7:48:12 AM PDT by antisocial (Texas SCV - Deo Vindice)
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