Countering neo-Nazi Ideology in the United States: Waging a War of Information

The world has long suffered from what seems like one extremist ideology after another. One is hard-pressed to deny that the Nazi regime in Germany, and the ideology that it spread, was one of the very worst tragedies in human history. The deep ideological driving factors behind such tragedies as those observed during the holocaust should never survive in the free world.

On 7 May, 1945, Nazi Germany officially surrendered to the allies and victory over Europe was declared. However, almost 75 years after the Nazi surrender in Berlin, the threat of Nazi ideology has yet to fade. Over several decades, ‘neo-Nazism’ as it is often called, has evolved and morphed to a modern ideological movement that runs adjacent to the very same Nazi beliefs that dictated the direction of the Third Reich. This research will provide a potential solution to countering the surging Nazi ideology in the United States.

Understanding that Nazism has faded and returned in the United States for decades, this solution seeks to curb Nazi ideology long-term. As with all ideologically driven violent movements, understanding the motivation and justification for the movement is critical to developing a strategic campaign to reduce the movement’s strength. A brief historical section will highlight the history of neo-Nazism in the United States. Further examination of Nazi ideology will develop an understanding of the movement’s motives, driving factors, objectives, and overall belief system.

A comprehensive assessment of the current neo-Nazi movement in the United States is provided in this report to better provide context in which a counter-narrative strategy can be produced as well as to identify a target population in which to address the counter-narrative messaging. Upon the foundation built through these sections, a strategy can be made to create an information campaign that will discredit the neo-Nazi ideological framework, provide information that will create an identity crisis amongst followers of neo-Nazi groups, and reduce neo-Nazi radicalization and recruitment strengths.

In conjunction with the University of Virginia Center for Politics, Reuters/Ipsos conducted a poll of 5,360 American adults to research support for various extremist ideologies. While support for all of the ideologies are relatively low, translated to the broader population figures of the United States, the results are concerning. Neo-Nazi ideology was found to have support from 4 percent of the polled population (Rosenberg, 2017). If the survey was accurately representative of the American population, that is over 10 million neo-Nazi supporters. That is almost double the entirety of the Jewish community living in the United States.

Utilizing a strategic campaign of information, vulnerable individuals can be targeted prior to their radicalization as well as individuals already radicalized who have the potential of becoming deradicalized. Strong emphasis must be placed on individuals vulnerable to recruitment and radicalization. Post (2005) stated, “once an individual is in a body, especially underground, group dynamics will enforce his psychological commitment to its goals” (p. 106). The focus of the counter-narrative strategy will seek to exploit inherent vulnerabilities found in the neo-Nazi radicalization process and ideology. This project will seek to first build a comprehensive understanding of neo-Nazi history, ideology, and the current operating picture of the actors involved. Interviews with neo-Nazis and former neo-Nazis are included to enhance the project’s understanding of the driving factors that bring one to the belief in Nazism.

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