In recently released documents from the Department of Homeland Security, DHS states that white supremacy extremism is “the most lethal and persistent” current domestic national security threat and expected to remain as such for the remainder of 2020 and the entirety 2021. As domestic extremism has dominated recent public discourse, it is important to delve into the key groups that attract the most membership and which specific groups pose the greatest threat to civilians.
Who are the most prominent white supremacist extremist groups in the United States?
The white nationalist group was established in 2016 by former Vice Media co-founder, Gavin McInnes. The Proud Boys ideology, which condones violence, can be characterized as misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic despite the group’s denial of any association with the alt-right. The exact membership number is unknown, but it has been estimated that there are hundreds of members in the United States. In terms of tactics utilized, they hold rallies and large events where members are armed. They also engage in hand-to-hand combat as seen when two Proud Boys were arrested for assaulting four protestors in October.
David Duke, the self-proclaimed ‘Grand Dragon’ of the group claims that the Knights of the Klu Klan was founded in 1956; however, the group was formally established in 1975 in Louisiana. Duke sought to re-create a new image of the Klan from the infamous white robes and hoods to suits and formal attire. In addition, they underwent a shift, as well. Their rhetoric changed from racist against African Americans to a more Neo-Nazi stance focusing more on Jews as their primary target and concern. Nationally, Klu Klux Klan membership is approximately 3,000. This figure at first glance might seem high, but it is much less compared to numbers in the previous century. Their tactics, similar to the Proud Boys, include hosting of public events and rallies. Also, they participated in the infamous 2016 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in which protestor, Heather Heyer was killed.
Lastly, this organization started in Washington state around 2018 and now is composed of small cells throughout the United States and Canada. Their ideology is to implement a new socio-political order through a race war which they believe will be instigated by non-Western peoples. As of January this year, seven men, who are suspected members of the Base, have been arrested in different parts of the United States on murder and illegal firearms charges. The Base’s founder Rinaldo Nazzaro, who goes by the monikers Norman Speer and Roman Wolf online, promulgates and condones violence. Unlike other WSE groups, the group uses social media to encourage members to perpetrate lone-wolf attacks rather than adhere to a group ideology.
The main difference between alt-right, or WSE groups, and other extremist groups abroad is that WSE groups in the West lack a global banner that unifies all right-wing extremist groups in the United States and the world. Moreover, another difference between the two types of groups is that WSE groups do not have a main organization that funds their objectives and their attacks. Most white supremacist groups rely on crowdfunding, membership dues, and smaller donations.
Since the focus of this article is on domestic terrorism, specifically WSE groups, these extremists pose a threat to United States citizens and are primarily a quagmire for United States law enforcement at the local and federal level. Going forward and in light of excerpts from the DHS report, it is recommended that the United States pursue the following policies to efficiently and effectively tackle home-grown WSE actors, primarily active engagement in the counter-extremism messaging and wider education in general.
The Base actively recruits members through fliers and social media as well as posting instructional material on how to commit attacks online. The Klu Klux Klan also engages in a similar tactic by leaving papers on their movement and their ideology on doorsteps, as well. Engaging in a similar tactic allows United States law enforcement to better protect civilians and critical infrastructure. Additionally, utilizing a similar tactic to those allows United States law enforcement to alter the balance of power from these radicalized groups and take power back.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES ACT passed in March invested $16.5 billion for public schools across the nation; yet, financial and education experts say this figure is too low for what is actually needed. With several counterterrorism officials warning of the impact of quarantine and online self-radicalization, diverting more funding towards the education sector has become vital.
In all, United States law enforcement should focus on a strategy that simultaneously focuses on preventing WSE groups from mobilizing as well as preventing individuals from becoming radicalized. In addition to the strategy, United States federal and local law enforcement should engage in similar tactics through making use of spreading fliers or pamphlets. Lastly, the United States should formulate legislation that invests more in public education in regard to the link between the COVID-19 quarantine and online radicalization.
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