Right wing extremism
It is a common misconception that international Islamic extremism is currently the biggest terrorist threat to our country. The truth is that domestic right-wing extremists have been more active and deadly, since 9/11. As of 2017 in the U.S., there are 130 active Ku Klux Klan groups, 663 militia groups, and 99 neo-Nazi groups. Some of the different ideologies, which will be discussed later on, experienced not only an increase in the number of groups, but an increase in membership from 2008-2016 as well.
Right wing terrorism has historically not been confined to one specific time period, like other forms of terrorism (anarchists in the late 1800s and left wing in the late 1900s for example). This is because right wing terrorism is highly contextual, meaning that the set of circumstances that leads to the creation of a right wing group depends greatly on the individual situation of a country. This form of terrorism is also typically focused on resisting social/political change and these groups tend to be extremely conservative.
Right wing terrorism also encompasses a number of different ideologies, a few popular belief systems today are anti-government, nationalist, racist, or a combination of the three. There are many well-known right wing groups in the United States, but Europe has it’s share of groups and movements as well.
Right wing terrorist groups typically fall into a number of different categories, white supremacists, anti-government groups, and christian fundamentalists. In many cases, right wing groups incorporate parts of all three of these ideologies into their own belief systems to varying extents.
This form of right wing terrorism has gotten a lot of attention lately, specifically during the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. These terrorists believe that the white race is superior to any other and they often back up their beliefs with faulty science (white people have higher IQs simply because they are white, for example). White supremacists also believe that the white race is being threatened by the growing population of non-white people in some areas. This terrorist ideology became especially popular in the US during the Civil War and during Reconstruction with the fall of slavery and the creation of the Klu Klux Klan (KKK). Other popular types of white supremacist groups are neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, Christian identity groups, and white supremacist prison gangs.
The Fourteen Words: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” (Very common white supremacy “slogan”)
The anti-government movement in the US has grown significantly over the past 10 years. In 2008, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported that there were 149 active groups, but that number jumped to 1360 in 2012. The last report done in 2016 estimates that there was a decline to 623 active groups, but this is still a greatly concerning number. Possible reasons for this growth include a change in the demographics of communities due to immigration, the election of the first African-American president, as well as economic struggles this country has experienced in the last decade.
There are a few different types on anti-government groups, militia groups, sovereign citizens, and anti-taxation groups. Militia groups combine their anti-government ideology with paramilitary tactics, although a number of these groups don’t resort to violence. There were two events in American history that really spurred on anti-government groups, particularly militia groups, the stand off in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and the standoff with the Branch Davidians at their compound in Waco Texas. The Intelligence Project, a research program that studies intelligence and policy process, found that there were 165 active militia groups in 2016.
The sovereign citizens movement has been around since the late 1900s and it is estimated that their numbers could be upwards of a few hundred thousand nationwide. They believe that the U.S. government does not have any authority over them. They believe that the government can’t tax them or make and enforce any laws. As for the anti-taxation groups, their beliefs are more specific, they think that the US uses taxation as a form of oppression and they have a legal and moral right not to pay their taxes. Both types of groups have been known to attack the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and other law enforcement officers.
christian fundamentalist and identity groups
The Christian Fundamentalist groups, or Christian Identity groups, typically believe in 3 things: 1. Aryans are put on the Earth to do God’s work, 2. Jews are the offspring of Satan and Eve, and 3. The world is about to fall into an apocalyptic struggle between good and evil. Violence committed by Christians in the name of their extreme beliefs can actually be traced back to the early 1600s. In 1605, a group of Catholic fundamentalists, including a man named Guy Fawkes, planned what was today known as the Gunpowder Plot. England was largely Protestant at the time and Catholics felt oppressed by the monarchy. Fawkes and a few other men stored up barrels of gunpowder in a vault below Parliament, but were caught and executed before they were able to carry out the attack.
Klu Klux Klan
After the end of the Civil War in the United States, the South went through a period of reconstruction. It was during this time, 1866, that the Klu Klux Klan was founded. They wanted to overthrow the southern republican governments by attacking white, and especially black Republican leaders. But in 1871, the group practically disappeared, but regained popularity in 1915. The group started to hold marches and rallies, as well as lynch, rape, and commit other violent attacks against Catholics, Jews, black people, and immigrants. At it’s peak during this time the KKK had over 4 million members.
A third wave of the KKK’s popularity began in the 1950’s during the Civil Rights movement. Klan members would actively oppose any effort to improve the rights or lives of black people by bombing their houses, schools and churches and by attacking and even murdering black people or civil right’s activists of any color. The KKK is significantly weaker today, but there are still factions of the group all over the country. While they still protest and still occasionally commit violence, the The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that there are about 130 different Klan groups in operation as of 2016, with anywhere from 5,00-8,000 members total.
The group has made use of social media in recent times, especially twitter.
The Sovereign Citizen movement is made up of people who hold anti-government beliefs. These people feel that the U.S. government does not have any authority over them. They believe that the government can’t tax them or make and enforce laws. This movement has its beginnings in the late 1900’s and began with racist and anti-Semitic beliefs, namely that Jewish people were controlling and manipulating the government.
It is not known how many people belong to this movement as it is not a unified and centralized group. The Southern Poverty Law center has estimated that there could be around 300,000 sovereign believers across the country. Whenever a sovereign citizen gets into trouble with the law, whether it be for tax evasion, or a speeding ticket, they flood the courts and government agencies with documents that often don’t make sense to anyone but another sovereign believer.
But, their methods of protest are not always so peaceful. In November of 2015, 4 sovereign citizens carried out an attack against a Black Lives Matter rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where 5 people were injured. In 2014, another sovereign citizen opened fire at Forsyth County Courthouse in Cumming, Georgia, injuring a Sheriff's Deputy. The perpetrator was armed with multiple guns, homemade explosives, smoke bombs, grenades, and tire spikes.
Founded in 1970, in West Virginia, the National Alliance (NA) is one of the most infamous and dangerous neo-Nazi terrorist group in the United States. They believe that Jews, among other races, must be eliminated from America in order to create an all-white, Aryan nation. The group's founder, William Pierce, formerly associated with the American Nazi Party, was one of the United State’s leading voices in the white nationalist movement. He wrote The Turner Diaries, a very important and influential piece of white supremacy literature, about how Jews and other non-Aryan races should be killed. This book was also the inspiration behind the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing.
One reason the NA was so well organized and funded was because of Resistance Records, a “white-power” music label created by former neo-Nazi group and taken over by Pierce. The group made about $1 million in 2002, mostly thanks to the record label, but they also received some revenue from their advertising campaign, members' dues, and their book company, National Vanguard Books. But later that year (2002), Pierce died and the group was then led by Erich Gliebe, who was never able to keep the group as united and well organized. It lost more and more members, and by 2009, it was all but gone.