It has been a scary realization for many people in the United States as more people are witnessing the re-emergence of right-wing extremism. We are living through a moment of profound yet positive change in attitudes toward race, with a majority of citizens coming to understand more about the deeply embedded historical legacy of racist structures and ideas.
However, there is another more dangerous, group of people. They are seeking to rehabilitate the toxic political notions of racial superiority and stoke fear of immigrants and minorities to inflame grievances for political ends. Furthermore, they are attempting to build a notion of an embattled white majority that has to defend its power. This, achieved by any means necessary.
In the United States, terrorists are usually associated with one of the six most commonly known ideologies: right-wing extremism, left-wing extremism, environmental extremism, nationalist/separatist extremism, religious extremism, and single-issue extremism. In recent years, the threat of right-wing terrorism in the United States appears to be rising at an alarming rate. More specifically, we have seen an increase in white supremacy anti-government extremists, such as militia groups and so-called sovereign citizens interested in plotting attacks against government, racial, religious, and political targets in the United States.
The terms “right-wing extremists” and “left-wing extremists” do not correspond to political parties in the United States, such as Republicans or Democrats. However, the election of Donald Trump as the President has been cited as a factor in inciting the reemergence of activists in America. These groups both reject left-wing ideology and mainstream conservatism.
Another huge factor inciting this reemergence is the role of social media in promoting these ideologies. White supremacy has made its return to mainstream media, as deadly acts of violence are occuring in states all around the country. A prominent US civil rights group, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that it is currently tracking more than 1,600 extremist groups within the United States.
This has inevitably led to an increase in domestic terrorist attacks by right-wing extremists in the United States. Between 2007 and 2011, the number of such attacks was five or fewer per year. The number of attacks then rose to 14 in 2012. This remained consistent between 2012 and 2016, with a mean of 11 attacks and a median of 13 attacks. This then jumped to 31 in 2017 and has continued to rise every year since then. Most recently, in the summer of 2020, there was a specific increase in the number of attacks on protesters and street violence. This included car attacks, street fights, small explosives, and many non-fatal shootings.
U.S. federal and local agencies need to shift some of their focus and intelligence resources to penetrating far-right networks and preventing future attacks. There needs to be a challenge of exposing white nationalist ideologies and the opportunistic politicians who are appropriating their language. This will demonstrate to the American people that these ideas are fundamentally un-American and are all too often a cover for corruption, graft, and racism.
In an analysis of the January 6th Capitol Hill riots, it became clear that an alarmingly significant number of members of both police and military had joined in on attacking the nation’s institutions. Consequently, many have been exposed to disinformation that led them to conclude that violent action was needed to save democracy. This kind of information will be crucial for prevention efforts. Furthermore, to stop the radicalization and recruitment of white supremacism in many countries. However, it will also be imperative in understanding how to address and remove the motivations for joining.
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