A director at the U.S. West Point Military Academy suggests that a new wave of far-right violence in America is re-surfacing after several years of apparent calm while the Al-Qaeda threat occupied much of the nation’s attention.
Dr. Arie Perliger, Director of Terrorism Studies at The Combating Terrorism Center at Westpoint, concluded in his Nov. 2012 report, “Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right,” that such far-right, violent extremists are undermining the very freedoms they say they espouse.
“In the last few years, especially since 2007, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of attacks and violent plots originating in the far-right of American politics,” Perliger writes. “Does this reflect the return of far-right violence? And if so, should we expect, as in previous waves, the emergence of groups which will be willing to initiate mass casualty attacks, similar to the one perpetrated by (Timothy) McVeigh and his associates?”
In the report, Perliger analyzes 22-years’ worth of data — from 1990 to 2011 — related to the number of attacks conducted by far-right groups and individuals.
“Although in the 1990′s the average number of attacks per year was 70.1, the average number of attacks per year in the first 11 years of the twenty-first century was 307.5, a rise of more than 400%,” Perliger observed.
The report goes on to suggest that far-right groups and individuals are more eager to engage in violence during a contentious political climate, such as in the year preceding or the year of a presidential election.
“Far-right groups assume that during elections years the public is more receptive to political messages, including those conveyed via violent activism,” Perliger writes.
And while the author says the ability of citizens to “hold and appropriately articulate” diverse political views is an American strength, some on the far-right use alternative methods to promote their ideological agenda.
“The inability of far-right groups to penetrate the political system via legitimate means, as well as the marginality of their ideas, is even more sharply emphasized during electoral years,” Perliger suggests.
The report’s data revealed the following trends related to election year violence from the far-right:
- 1999-2000 saw an increase of almost 70% of the number of attacks recorded in 1998
- 2003-2004 witnesses an increase of over 300% of the number of attacks in 2002.
- 2007-2008 saw an increase of more than 100% of those for 2006.
“The trend appears to repeat itself in 2011, although it would be wise to wait until the end of 2012 before confirming this,” Perliger said.
Identifying the Far-Right
The report identifies three major ideological movements within the far-right:
1. Racist/White Supremacy Movement (KKK, neo-Nazi groups such as the National Alliance, and Skinheads groups such as the Hammerskin Nation, Volksfront, The Vinlanders)
“The groups comprising the racist movement are interested in preserving or restoring what they perceive as the natural racial and cultural hierarchy by enforcing social and political control over non-Aryans/non-whites, such as African Americans, Jews and the members of various immigrant communities,” Perliger explained.
2. Anti-Federalist Movement (militia groups, Sovereign Citizens, Patriot groups, anti-taxation, gun rights, survivalist practices, and libertarian ideas)
“The anti-federalist movement’s ideology is based on the idea that there is an urgent need to undermine the influence, legitimacy, and practical sovereignty of the federal government and its proxy organizations,” Perliger said. “Members of these groups see themselves as the successors of the nation’s founding fathers, and as part of a struggle to restore or preserve what they regard as America’s true identity, values and way of life.”
3. Fundamentalist Movement (anti-abortionist groups, Christian Identity groups such as the Aryan Nations, Crusaders of Yahweh, Scriptures for America/La Porte Church of Christ, Church of Israel, Virginia Christian Israelites)
“Christian Identity groups combine religious fundamentalism with traditional white supremacy racist ideology,” Perliger observed. “They maintain that a Manichaean war between evil and good is central to the Bible and will be manifested in 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).”
Tracking the violence
More than forty years ago, much of the South was considered to be a hotbed of what Perliger describes as “racial, anti-abortion and religiously driven” violence.
But now, only two Southern states — North Carolina and Texas — rank in the top fifteen of those with the highest level of far-right violence.
Perliger’s research surprisingly names California and New York, which are traditionally liberal states, as the top locations for violent attacks by the far-right.
Among other “blue state” rankings:
- Illinois – ranked 5th
- Massachusetts – ranked 6th
- Pennsylvania – ranked 7th
- Washington – ranked 8th
- New Jersey – ranked 9th
- Oregon – ranked 10th
“During the last twenty years the violence has shifted from the center/South to the coasts and the North (with the exception of Texas),” Perliger said.
Given these rankings, one might ask what is the apparent link between the increase of far-right violence and liberal regions of the nation?
Perliger suggests the number of minorities in each of the states is directly connected to the number of attacks.
“Basic analysis shows strong and statistically significant correlation between the number of attacks per state and African American populations size, Hispanic population size and proportion, and size and proportion of Jewish population,” Perliger concludes.
While Perliger hopes his report is useful in formulating future counter-terrorism responses to the violent far-right, one group which describes itself as the “Guardians of the Republic” is speaking out about some anti-federalist groups being labeled as extreme with the likes of the KKK and others.
Oath Keepers, a non-partisan group of military, veterans, peace officers and firefighters, said that Perliger’s West Point report is harmful because it teaches military cadets that patriots are terrorists.
“He is teaching the future Army Officers at West Point to distrust those of us in the Patriot movement, or those in the Tea Party,” said Shorty Dawkins, Associate Editor at Oathkeepers.org, in a Feb. 14 website post.
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