Recent decades have seen the United States experience new waves of violence perpetrated by White Supremacy Extremists, Anarchist Extremists, and Anti-fascists (Antifa) that have resulted in property damage, as well as the deaths of countless innocent persons. These terrorist activities are linked to various triggers, including political, racial, or religious positions. Among others, extremist philosophies exalt a specific group’s supremacy and resist a more inclusive and modern society. For instance, white supremacists perceive themselves as better than others. Extremism presents different but linked challenges for new communities, including the growth of violent extremism and outreach throughout national boundaries and the power of increasing multi-cultural and diverse societies.
The notion of white supremacy supposes the white race ranks above all other races drawing on functions protected in the Constitution, which sees a broad group of racist hate-centered organizations active in the United States, such as racist skinheads and the Ku Klux Klan. The Counter-Terrorism Project (n.d) alleges white supremacists subscribe to neo-Nazi beliefs that the whites are superior to other races. Bjelopera (2013) adds that extremist groups possess complex organizational structures, media wings, and paying subscription memberships with significant numbers of people without formal membership in any particular body embracing extremist ideologies.
On the other hand, anarchists and anti-fascist denote a loose set of groups, people, and networks who believe in active, violent antagonism to white supremacy extremists (Anti-Defamation League, 2019). Similar to the white supremacist group, Antifa is a combination of various groups, including militia anti-fascist, left-wing, and autonomous persons. Anarchists’ philosophy lies in supposing that the Nazis would never have assumed power successfully in Germany if communities had responded violently against the party in the early twentieth century. The U.S. security view anarchist as terrorist bodies (Robinson, 2017).
The right-wing extremists (RWE) and the left-wing extremists (LWE) are a modern reality with established ideologies of intolerance and supremacy of the white race and doctrines of self-defense for white supremacy, respectively. While protecting or expressing their respective stands, these groups’ violent nature raises concerns about the national security of the United States. Accordingly, this research aims to investigate whether or not the violence caused by White Supremacy Extremists, Anarchist Extremists, and Anti-fascist groups constitute a threat to the United States’ national security.
Extremism from the far-right or the far-left is characterized by violence, which extraordinary evidence reveals resulting injuries, deaths, or damage of properties. A considerable number of incidences involve innocent casualties. The United States is devoted to ensuring the protection of its citizens and properties. Admittedly, extremism from domestic perpetrators is unlawful, characterized by aggression against particular population segments, and government intervention is necessary. This work hypothesizes the left-wing and right-wing extremist groups threaten the national security of the United States and, therefore, stringent measures are essential to eradicate or manage them.
This document aims to pinpoint the risks these extremist groups present, considering everything of the United States’ national security and various strategies employed by the groups to facilitate their operations, including communication channels and media support. This work also identifies the nature of these networks, including their capacity in terms of supporting numbers, penetration in the socio-economic and political spectrum, and whether or not the different government interventions can successfully eradicate them.
Domestic terrorism in the United States has continued evolving in recent years, experiencing high frequencies of active shootings, high-profile violence directed against non-white, blacks, and Jews in particular. The United States recognizes the violent threat right-wing and left-wing extremists present to national security through radicalization. The groups influence small terrorists and lone wolves who adopt extremist ideologies (Wright, 2014). Clark (2019) adds this form of extremism poses a leading national terrorism threat in the country that has continued growing at alarming rates. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are at the front line in fighting the extremists and providing essential information on their sites, which help communities understand these groups’ state statewide.
Wright (2014) reveals that the FBI characterizes various domestic terrorist groups, including anti-government extremists, white supremacists, anarchists, and unauthorized militia. White supremacists uphold philosophies similar to those other terrorist groups follow, and as such, the group should be considered domestic terrorists (Fiekistadt and Dilanian, 2019). Anti-Defamation League (2018) reveals white supremacists perceive their race is headed for extinction and so fight to retain it. On the other hand, anarchist feels they must resist nationalism and capitalism (Koch, 2018; Jones, 2018; Williams, 2009). The battle between the two groups often involves extreme violence (Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center, 2016).
Wright (2014) reveals that the FBI characterizes various domestic terrorist groups, including anti-government extremists, white supremacists, anarchists, and unauthorized militia. White supremacists observe philosophies similar to those other terrorist groups follow, and as such, the group should be considered domestic terrorists (Fiekistadt and Dilanian, 2019). Anti-Defamation League (2018) reveals that white supremacists perceive their race as being headed to extinction and so fight to retain it. On the other hand, anarchist feels they must resist nationalism and capitalism (Koch, 2018; Jones, 2018; Williams, 2009). The battle between the two groups often involves extreme violence include loss of life (Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center, 2016).
Describing right-wing extremism is difficult, as Baldoza (2009); Baysinger (2006) acknowledges that government representatives must be careful not to mistake people’s rights with domestic terrorism. While right-wing free speech actions are protected constitutionally, it is vital to understand the unconstitutionality of the far-right extremists’ activities and the far-left extremists. Their ideologies exceed considerably those fought for by the left extremists. Some right-wing extremist groups, such as the Sovereign Citizen Movement, pose considerable domestic threats to U.S. security due to the group’s anti-government doctrine (Ball 2016). Followers of the Sovereign Citizen Movement (SCM) assume almost all current United States government is illegal, and as a result, the group refuses to subjugate to an unlawful government. Ball (2016) adds radical SCM followers turn to violent acts in their fight, perceiving themselves to be “at war” with the government.
Furthermore, the violent extremist alleges an all-out battle against the government is unavoidable and needs to happen for the group to attain set goals. The ideologies spread by these groups and different government issues have seen continuous growth in recruits among the groups, necessitating identifying means employed by the groups to recruit and evaluate these strategies. This study’s available literature provides a wide range of perspectives on domestic terrorism, including their numbers, financial, social, and political muscles. This existing data forms a basis for this study and eventually helps determine the groups’ potential in threatening the U.S.
The belief behind white supremacy is that whites compared to other racial groups, are morally and intellectually superior, a principle originating from socio-cultural and religious and fake scientific allegations (Beutel, 2017; Keenan, 2014). African Americans and Jews had long remained as critical targets of the white supremacy rhetoric. However, this has long expanded to other ethnic groups involving Muslims, Middle Easterners, Asians, and Latinos (Beutel, 2017). The group is also intolerant of different social groups such as the LGBT community and always fight for that which they perceive is the natural racial hierarchy.
Extremists employ various ways when communicating their ideologies to their members or potential recruits, including the internet. Specifically, Behr, Reding, Edwards, and Gribbon (2013) allege extremists utilize the internet to demonstrate and emphasize philosophical stories and messages. The internet allows possible recruits to acquire access to images and videos that are visually powerful and accompany notes that seem to validate the extremists’ controversial ideologies (Behr et al., 2013). Recently, the United States has recorded a rise in social media use to disseminate violent content and helped these groups’ relationships grow substantially (Jensen, 2018). Behr et al. (2013) suggest the internet is a ‘conveyor belt’ that hastens the radicalization process, enabling viewers and listeners to connect instantaneously and persistently. This literature reveals varied perspectives on extremism’s problem, ailing various citizens who believe violence is a justifiable measure to attain goals.
There is a question with regards to a lack of dynamism by both legal and security systems. An analysis of research conducted by the likes of Rodiguez (2014): Ghatak, and Gold (2015): Eddine (2014) indicate a common denominator. That while the United Kingdom suffered from domestic terrorist attacks, America lagged in taking action to protect its citizens. Move, by security forces, the legislative wing, and the judiciary was only realized post 9/11. There is a telling lack of sufficient effort by these superpowers in mitigating extremist attacks and countering violent extremists. The propulsion of conspiracy theories by the media, as Wright (2014) notes, has made efforts towards treating plots by violent extremists all the more difficult. The American security forces have found it challenging to work around information circulating between the media and data gathered from security intelligence. American troops are experiencing difficulty in waging war against an increase in extremist Westerners in Syria. It worth noting that there is limited research concerning the conflict between Americans and extremist Americans who run terrorist cells on American soil.
In summary, various studies regarding extreme ideologies and groups in the United States reveal how members are willing to uphold what they perceive as their rights. Categorically, these researches admit national security implications resulting from violent expression among anarchists and right-wing supporters. This study’s available literature provides a wide range of perspectives on domestic terrorism, including their numbers, financial, social, and political muscles. This existing data forms a basis for this study and eventually helps determine the groups’ potential in threatening the U.S.
This study’s chosen method is the Historical Research Analysis, whereby the research involved explaining already existing data and information concerning far-right extremism and far-left extremism. This historical method consists of a procedure supplementary to observation, a process by which the historian seeks to investigate the truthfulness of the reports of comments made by others (Flippin, 1923). Thus, the author’s understanding that the historical method attempts to narrate an accurate account of some aspects of life events and their scientific analysis and presentation. In answering the question highlighted in the purpose and the research question, this work builds on readily available primary and secondary sources published by different bodies, including government reports, organizational, or individual researchers published online.
Materials analyzed include showing the statistical data impact of leftwing-rightwing extremists’ influence in societies in the form of damage and mortalities. Furthermore, the work utilizes materials that provide a historical and current development of extremism and available interventions by critical stakeholders to combating the issue. The author’s choice of this methodology is hinged to conclude that making creative use of existing data is a quick and productive way for a new investigation with limited time and resources. Most importantly, historical research is critical to providing an account of the aspirations and operation of White Supremacy Extremists, Anarchist Extremists, and Anti-fascists (Antifa) in the realization of their objectives. Historical analysis, aiming to predict future activities, will be based on extrapolation of data from the past (Tan, 2015). Another reason for selecting historical research is as an instrument to discover, document, evaluate, and interpret amounts of the past, aiming to determine indications that assist in understanding the history, the present, and prediction of the future, and searching for solutions to the violence.
Besides providing a narration using the primary sources, the work employed peer-reviewed journals with trustworthy information that proved valuable in this research, ultimately helping confirm or refute the likely domestic security threat presented by violent extremist groups in the United States. Although most existing research has not arrived at an agreement that the internet plays a crucial role in mobilizing and radicalizing members and new members, this absence of precise information proving or disproving the same suggests the need for a more comprehensive academic study. To understand the main question’s scope, identifying relevant materials for the study involved collecting resources with risk information far-right extremist groups pose to national security.
They also identified vehicles the groups employ to communicate their ideas and plan required identifying literature offering expansive details in the area to avoid simplistic assumptions that might prove unreliable for the study. The final type of source used was providing scientific information on the groups’ capacity based on their member numbers, support by the media and prominent reviews, and what the experts say regarding their effort to eliminate the groups. Extremism is not a novice activity, but instead, a long-standing behavior precipitating from years of sustained beliefs in either the white population’s superiority among the far- right-wing the devotion of countering intolerant right-wing activities among the far-left wing. The ultimate choice of sources used depends on whether a particular source met this research’s overall intention and used different text passages.
With globalization having extensive effects in most life sectors, the security industry was not to be left out. There has been an increase in high-standing threats by persons and groups that view themselves as the world’s saviors in light of such events. Koch (2018), for instance, argues that such organizations are now using online media forums and global functions such as the G20 Summit to perpetuate their message. They view these forums as useful media in the advancement of their anti-utilitarian messages. It is important to note that these groups assume a similar agenda and ideology in attempting to rid society of the wealthy’s oppressive and capitalist authorities. That is why they present and shelf themselves under the guise of fighting for the poor; instead, they bring more suffering. This is especially true, seeing that they are based on narcissistic (selfish) ideologies.
Contemporary Modern Anti-fascist Movements in the modern-day appear to thrive in the wave of violence. Violence in this construct is viewed as the only means within which they may realize global attention. Ongoing war and upheavals provide a thriving environment for these groups to bloom. Extremist groups such as ISIS have used such settings to advance their propaganda. While at it, they have also managed to use terror and jihadist agendas to recruit voluntary fighters to wage war for their course. It is vital to note that these groups have now evolved to incorporate specialists in their ranks who aid in their extremist violence. Extremist groups have identified opportunities to thrive by exploiting security gaps and make discrete attacks that have devastating effects on the people. Such attacks include the Boston Marathon attack, the Orlando Night Club massacre, and the 9/11. They have developed a means to exploit crowds in their attacks to capture the global audience leaving everyone in fear of their true capabilities (Schuurman, 2018). As such, the analysis below seeks to analyze the threats posed by White Supremacy Extremis, Anarchist Extremist, and Anti-fascists (Antifa) within the United States. This will be achieved by exploring the ideologies, goals and objectives, political actions, Propaganda techniques, specifics acts related to violence, recruitment, and the radicalization process.
Right-wing sections partake most terror threats and extremist acts of violence within the United States of America. A 2010 Institute for Homeland Security Solutions report, as cited by Wright (2014), agrees with this position stating;
“Less than half of U.S. terror plots examined had links to AQAM, and many non-AQAM plots, primarily those with white supremacist or anti-government/militia ties, rivaled AQAM plots in important ways.” (p. 36).
Right-wing groups favor recruiting and working with people who are both racist and against conservative political ideologies. Instead, they opt to focus their power on developing a society where explicit or implicit racism, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism thrive (Redman, 2013).
The advancements of technology have provided new weaponry to right, leftist, and extremist groups. The Antifa involves several various individuals and autonomous groups who organize protests through social media platforms and websites. These groups prescribe their ideologies through such media, such as communists, socialists, anarchists, social liberals, and democrats, to advance their agenda. (Bale, 2017). They believe in violent actions because, according to them, the elites control the media and the government; thus, there is a need to engage in violence to disrupt their activities, for example, the one in Charlottesville, Virginia. White supremacy movements are viewed as part of a group of sovereign citizens who are the anti-government extremists with plots to attack government officials, religious, racial, and political targets in various states. They consider themselves superior thus; they should not be answerable to any government department such as the tax department, among others (Jongman, 2017).
And according to the annual report released by Anti-Defamation League on Murder and Extremism in the United States — the violent far-right was accountable for approximately all of the 50 murders in 2018:
White supremacist movements are using shell entities and corporations to advance their ideology and obtain funding. Both Right-wing movements and white supremacists are using the economy to promote their factions in opposing the government. They employ violence and threat tactics towards members of non-state and sub-national entities to oppose the government. White supremacists are against any black person (“dark-skinned immigrants” as they refer to blacks) being at the realm of power or holding any legislative seats (Kenney, 2019). Black persons gaining political power are viewed as the ridicule of their power and a mockery of their superiority hence the need for revolt.
The Antifa employs various strategies in the propagation of its ideologies. White extremists attempt to use technology in propagating their values, opinions, and arguments. This has been done through both written and oral media. These movements have published reports and pamphlets against functions such as the G10 Summit, websites, and social media in recent times. Fox (2019) notes that platforms such as Youtube and Facebook have been vital tools in recruiting extremist soldiers. By developing transnational identities, they have radicalized and used their racist views to alienate minority groups that do not conform to their interests (Burley, 2017).
Recruitment is done through social forums, religious meetings, extremist music, and promises of protection. Extremist recruit uses social gatherings to advance their values and induce their targets to their culture. This is reinforced by such activities, such as their music. Extremists also recruit the socially and economically vulnerable with the promise of protection and financial aid. The use of religion to justify their actions serves as a focal point in the recruitment process. It has been used to encourage the aggrieved by giving them a sense of belonging.
The similarity between the two extremist groups: the right-wing extremist and the left-wing extremist, is that they involve several groups (Williams, 2018). For the Right-Wing extremist, the groups include the Ku Klux Klan and the Christian Identity movement. In contrast, they have militia anti-fascists, autonomous, and left-wing people (Ghatak & Gold, 2017). White supremacy involves white races, and they believe to be superior over other races basing their argument on the Constitution. In contrast, the anarchist and anti-fascist include sets of loose groups, networks, and people who believe in ongoing violence and antagonism against the white supremacy extremists. The white supremacist extremists possess structurally complex organizational structures and media wings, and they pay subscriptions for membership to enhance their ideologies.
Analysis and Findings
Antifa operates based on three fundamental theories: developing antipathy toward a target group, creating justifications and mandates for violent action, eliminating social and psychological barriers that might inhibit intense activity (Borum, 2014). Findings indicate that motivation to take part in extremist violence may be classified into either external or internal factors. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Counterterrorism Division (2006) classifies these as the four “distinct” conversion types. These are; jilted believers, faith reinterpretation, acceptance seeking, and protest conversion.
Acceptance seeking is whereby recruitment is based on forming interpersonal relationships; it is as such extrinsically motivated. Protest conversion is where a person’s will is changed, and allegiance shifts due to feeling aggrieved. Alienation results in a feeling of neglect and abandonment, and thus people opt to engage with groups where they feel accepted. Faith reinterpretation involves a person’s willingness to make a religious shift towards more extremist views. This shift in the belief system is attributed to evaluation and introspection. Faith reinterpretation is predominant among Islamic persons who take up extreme views and values. On the other hand, Jilted believers change due to feeling that their religion is unsatisfactory and lacking; therefore, they work towards creating and developing their belief system (Borum, 2014).
Therefore, the categorization of factors influencing terrorism and extremism is based upon the thought that all four distinct categories search for self-discovery. The bearing questions ask who we are. What is my role and purpose on earth, and what am I to do, and why do my actions matter? As such, the rise in extremist violence may be said to emit from the need to identify- a condition which most extremist and white supremacist groups are more than willing to offer.
An analysis of research articles has indicated that Antifa and extremist cell groups pose an imminent threat to persons’ domestic security in America. Ghatak and Gold (2015) agree with this assessment noting that domestic terrorism is by far the most significant part of what forms terrorist violence. Domestic violence is mainly homegrown. That means that most terrorist activities within American soil are conducted in America and, to a greater extent, by American citizens. Terrorism is, as such, seen as a construct that is indigenous to the state. Terrorism is, in some cases, a rational act conceived by its partakers merely to cause harm. Suicide terrorism is often carried out in a balanced state and by a willful mind.
Much of the research study focuses on the negative aspects of terrorists and terrorism and neglects to interrogate persons whose participation in terror is the result of kidnap and force. The researchers fail to examine subjects who are forcefully taken, hypnotized, and sent out as emissaries of war by extremist cell groups. Consequently, there is a need to interrogate further the plight and suffering incurred by such people to develop an accurate understanding of the entirety of the threat posed by unwilling and hypnotized soldiers of war.
Historically, domestic terrorism has been ingrained in American fabrics for over a century ago. From slavery, Jim Crow laws, the Ku Klux Klan’s sweeping propaganda of terrorizing against non-white, and primarily Blacks subsequent the Civil War to the anti-establishment is a history of domestic terrorism in the United States. The January 6 insurrectionism at the Capital building in Washington DC is the byproduct or consequence of American legislators failing to deal head-on with its original sin, white supremacy racism against none-white.
A recent study conducted in 2020 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) corroborated with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s findings that white supremacists’ violence is the dangerous domestic threat facing the U.S. Also, in 2017, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on “Countering Violent Extremism,” stating that far-wring wing extremist groups orchestrated 73 percent of deadliest extremist onslaughts in the U.S. However, the Trump administration has made America less safe now by willfully discounting right-wing white supremacist terrorism. Trump administration has given them a platform to propagate their racism and anti-government ideologies. White supremacist groups have openly targeted all non-white and religious minorities. They continue to do so by force to maximize their political impact in the same fashion other global terrorist groups have impacted the world.
In conclusion, this study finds that Anarchist Extremists and Anti-fascists (Antifa) constitute a threat; however, White Supremacy Extremists pause a high-security danger to the United States’ national security. Most of the American security forces’ strategies cover a small segment of what terror, extremism, and radicalism are. There is conflict in matters regarding each of these actions, which results in power overlap regarding which jurisdiction and which security agency should handle each threat. The belief that eradicating top criminal warlords of these extremist factions will result in extreme violence, radicalism, and white extremism is also baseless and unfounded. There is a need to develop systems that have greater clarity concerning the objectives, limitations of the suggested solutions, and the long-term effect of such activities on society.
The Biden administration has inherited the domestic terrorism mess morphed during Trump’s presidency. Consequently, there is a need for the Biden-Harris administration to create a task force to deal with white supremacist terrorism. This group would be made up of all U.S. Armed Forces branches, law enforcement, and civilians responsible for managing domestic elements presently tasked with countering terrorism. This author believes that getting rid of violence orchestrated by white supremacy, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and other unfound beliefs is necessary because it goes against what the United States stands for. Doing so is in the best interest of the internal security and economic stability of the U.S.
*Dr. Mustapha Kulungu is the Principal Researcher at the ILM Foundation Institute of Los Angeles, California. He graduated from Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara, California.
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