New study: Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right


Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

A new study
from the Combating Terrorism Center at the West Point Military Academy
highlights the threat of violent far-right movements in the United
States, leading to the conclusion that, while diverse in in their
causes, they are similar in their use of violence to achieve their aims. New Study Highlights Threat From Far Right-Wing Groups In U.S.:

Titled “Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right
(.pdf), this new report instead looks as the risk that domestic groups pose to
the U.S. Breaking down these groups into three categories — the
Racist/White Supremacy Movement, the Anti-Federalist Movement, and the
Christian Fundamentalist Movement — allows the study to examine the
background ideologies and methods of each subset thoroughly, opposed to
lumping them all together as most studies have.

Each of the groupings in the study represent competing ideological
views, with none of them likely to cooperate in achieving their aims.
The chances that each of these groups will use violence also varies.
What they share, however, is a use of violence against their chosen
targets — be it minority races or abortion clinics — to draw attention
to and emphasize their given ideology. After charting out the various
instances of violence carried out by each of the categories, the paper
offers up several policy recommendations on responding to their actions:

From a theoretical perspective, this constitutes a
further indication of the perception among some parts of the academic
community that terrorism is an instrument of symbolic discourse which
is shared by violent groups and their adversaries. Target
selection is thus not based just on operational considerations, but is
one component, among others, which allows violent groups to shape their
message using violent practices—timing, weapons used and target
locations, are only a small measure of the other components which
contribute to the shape of the symbolic message conveyed via the

In this context, policy implications are clear. If the
numerous far right groups are driven by different ideological
sentiments, and are thus also engaged in distinguishing tactics, then
the response in terms of counterterrorism policies must be flexible and
group/movement oriented.

The conservative Mooney Times (Washington Times) took notice of the report, West Point center cites dangers of ‘far right’ in U.S.:

The West Point center typically focuses reports on al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists attempting to gain power in Asia, the Middle East and Africa through violence.

But its latest study turns inward and paints a broad brush of people it considers “far right.”

It says anti-federalists “espouse strong convictions regarding the federal government,
believing it to be corrupt and tyrannical, with a natural tendency to
intrude on individuals’ civil and constitutional rights. Finally, they
support civil activism, individual freedoms, and self government.
Extremists in the anti-federalist movement direct most their violence
against the federal government and its proxies in law enforcement.”

report also draws a link between the mainstream conservative movement
and the violent “far right,” and describes liberals as “future oriented”
and conservatives as living in the past.

“While liberal
worldviews are future- or progressive -oriented, conservative
perspectives are more past-oriented, and in general, are interested in
preserving the status quo.” the report says. “The far right represents a
more extreme version of conservatism, as its political vision is
usually justified by the aspiration to restore or preserve values and
practices that are part of the idealized historical heritage of the
nation or ethnic community.”

The report adds: “While far-right
groups’ ideology is designed to exclude minorities and foreigners, the
liberal-democratic system is designed to emphasize civil rights,
minority rights and the balance of power.”

The report says there were 350 “attacks initiated by far-right groups/individuals” in 2011.

about what makes an attack a “far right” action are not clear in the
report, which was written by Arie Perliger, who directs the center’s terrorism studies and teaches social sciences at West Point.

Let the right-wing freak-out begin! Like the DHS-authorized study in 2009 on the same topic, this paper is drawing predictable outrage from the mighty Wurlitzer of the right-wing noise machine.

Excellent point from Ed Kilgore at the Political Animal blog, Can “Patriots” Be Terrorists?

The conservative movement really does need to distance itself from
“right to revolution” talk, particularly when connected to absolutist
notions of “legitimate” or “American” governing models for the nation.
If that’s too much to ask, then conservatives need to stop carping every
time the rest of us get a little worried about armed-to-the-teeth
wingnuts shrieking hatred at the duly elected U.S. government.


  1. Some context here, please. The study was done by that bastion of liberal thought, the West Point Military Academy.

    The Washington Times seems confused about the term “far right.” Hopefully this will help:

    Yes, there will be a freak-out, but no one will take responsibility. I can’t imagine anything said or done by right wing extremists (including the gun fringe) and TeaPublican politicians that will cause anyone to sever ties with them. This is the base of the Republican Party.