The Resurgence Of Far-Right Extremism In The United States – OpEd


The rise of right-wing extremism in the USA is concerning. Over the past decade, the number of terrorist assaults committed by extremists on the right have increased. White nationalists and anti-government extremists, such as militia organizations and so-called sovereign citizens, who are planning assaults on government, ethnic, religious, and political objectives in the USA, are a major cause for alarm. 

The current incidents that seem to be part of this pattern include the massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27 by Robert Bowers and the indictment of Cesar Sayoc, the guy who allegedly mailed pipe bombs to famous Democrats. They were both far-right fanatics. Even though violent left-wing groups and individuals are likewise a problem, far-right networks appear to be bigger and well-equipped. Another persistent danger comes from IS and al Qaeda sympathizers. However, since 2014, right-wing extremists have carried out more assaults than Islamic extremists combined.

Many far-right organizations were momentarily silenced after January 6, 2021, out of fear of being targeted next. The latest report from the database that records political violence, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), however, reveals that these organizations are once again mobilizing in various ways. It wasn’t until 2020 that ACLED started gathering information about the United States. Its most recent study recorded activities by various far-right organizations, such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, from the beginning of that year through the conclusion of 2022. Demonstrations, membership, training, propaganda, and violence are all part of their repertoire of tactics.

Substantial changes in American politics, the economy, and society have resulted from the growth of the far right. Racist attacks and restrictions on basic liberties are on the rise due to the far-right’s policies. It has also contributed to wider political divides and a significant rise in mistrust across social groups. More than that, it has contributed to the decline of democratic norms and principles and the rise of authoritarian methods of government. The far-right has been capable of using its political ability to influence popular sentiment and legislation, as evidenced by the increase in hate crimes, white supremacy, and the degradation of civil rights.

Some people confuse far-right groups with terrorist ones, but there are important distinctions between the two that should not be overlooked. While both organizations seek to further their respective political or ideological agendas, they take very different approaches to do so. In contrast to radical terrorist organizations like ISIS or Al Qaeda, far-right groups like the neo-Nazis and white supremacists tend to employ more nuanced strategies to get their ideas across. They try to get people interested in their stance through various means of outreach, such as rallies and press conferences. On the contrary, terrorist groups resort to increasingly severe measures like suicide bombings and hostage-taking to accomplish their objectives.

Terrorist groups and those on the far right vary not just in strategy but also in organizational systems. Terrorist organizations are structured with a hierarchical management structure that is geared for optimum efficiency, while far-right organizations seem to be more casually organized with no apparent hierarchy of command. There are a variety of ways in which far-right militant groups can be distinguished from the jihadist militants represented on our Global Al Qaeda and Global Islamic State maps. Participation in far-right groups is sometimes unstable, and their frameworks are frequently loosely governed. A person may belong to a variety of groups or “float” from group to group. Although collectively violent behavior is prohibited, organizations may motivate or urge members to behave violently.

Prioritizing the emergence of right-wing extremism requires the attention of federal, state, and local departments. Similar to the Foreign Terrorist Organization designations issued by the United States Department of State, there should be a similar designation for domestic terrorist organizations to draw awareness to the danger posed by right-wing and left-wing extremists.
Second, just as the United States has worked with the commercial sector—including social media companies—and European allies to battle Islamic extremism, so too must it engage directly with the private sector and European allies to fight right-wing extremism. Particularly in situations when persons and organizations advocate violence, the USA should specify clear criteria and evaluate what extra levels of regulation and statements of obligation might be implemented to guarantee maximum adherence.

To sum up, extremists in the United States have been around practically since the country’s inception. Throughout the nation’s history, it has played a significant role in shaping politics, culture, and society. The election of Donald Trump and other populist candidates in the United States in recent years is proof of a comeback of far-right beliefs. Much social and political upheaval can be traced back to this divisive issue. Actions of a practical nature are urgently required to address this growing far-right problem.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.


Simon Hutagalung

Simon Hutagalung is a retired diplomat from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry and received his master's degree in political science and comparative politics from the City University of New York. The opinions expressed in his articles are his own.

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