Far-Right Violence in America

If you’re an American and you’ve got some time, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has released a report titled Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right, which is useful for defining many of the key terms used by watchers of the far-right and for giving some of the history of the movements.

The media coverage, from sources like The Washington Times, are filled with scare quotes and misleading quotations. Nothing to really give a sense of the actual findings of the paper. For example, one article claims, “The report says there were 350 “attacks initiated by far-right groups/individuals” in 2011. Details about what makes an attack a “far right” action are not clear in the report …”

Since the report spends its opening chapters talking about what defines the far-right, this seems deliberately obtuse. Consider this section:

If there is one ideological doctrine about which there is almost full consensus regarding its importance for understanding the far-right worldview, it is that of nationalism. [...] In the context of the far-right worldview, nationalism takes an extreme form of full convergence between one polity or territory and one ethnic or national collective.

In other words, the far-right believes that there is a quality that we could call “American-ness” (as opposed to “French-ness” or “Mexican-ness”). This quality is shared by all true members of the country. In most cases, there is a certain race, religion and/or set of ideals that are attached to the quality of “American-ness”.

By extension, all people who do not have the quality of “American-ness,” perhaps by having the misfortune of being the wrong color or creed, cannot be considered true Americans. At best, they can be a minority tolerated by the true Americans, and expected to remember their place.

If the authors of the reports had wanted to be more inflammatory, they could have used the word “fascist” or “proto-fascist” and gotten at the same meaning.

  • Bart Mitchell


    • blotonthelandscape

      The title of the graph makes plain what’s being measured, so an axis label would actually be redundant.

      • Bart Mitchell

        “Attacks initiated by far right groups/individuals per year”

        Seriously? What is an ‘attack’? Do they count the insane creationist that verbally attacked me on facebook? Do they count the physical attack on the FFRF’s holiday display? How about the heated argument where a far right trucker pushed a liberal trucker while waiting in line to pay their lunch bills? That’s not a graph, it’s a joke. We have no idea what they are measuring.

        • Yoav

          The post contain a link to the report where this information can be easily found. For example figure 6 will give you a breakdown of the type of attacks.

          As can be seen, the great majority of attacks are directed against property (43%) and specific human targets (42%). Just three percent of the attacks were intended to cause—or were successful in generating—mass casualty incidents,364 further emphasizing the difficulty of far right violence to make the leap from small-scale attacks against specific human targets to large-scale activities of indiscriminate violence that have the potential to generate a high number of casualties.p102

          The graph gives a good overview and the link for the fool report is right there in case you want to know more details.

        • blotonthelandscape

          A graph can only contain so much information. If you want context on what constitutes an “attack”, an axis label ain’t gonna cut it either; read the text.

  • http://lonewolfsden.net/ Lone Wolf

    Crime in has been going down since 91 yet far-right violence has been going up. When the world get people things up to be afraid of.

    • http://lonewolfsden.net/ Lone Wolf

      Clarification: It’s the people on the right making things up to fear and then acting violently on that fear.

      • Sun

        Or maybe that fear has substance and is not entirely delusion?

        Being told that I should celebrate becoming a minority and only white people can be racist has woken me up pretty quick to the reality of things (btw I’ve been left my entire life).

        All sides have fear and act on it, it is just some that think they have the moral high ground

        • Custador

          White privilege. Google it. Being the kind of person who thinks that being white in any Western nation puts him in a minority, is a pretty big clue that you’re racist.

        • kessy_athena

          What exactly are you afraid of? What does “becoming a minority” mean to you, and why is it frightening? I’m asking you seriously – these things can mean different things to different people.

          When people say that only whites can be racist, they are using the word “racist” in a rather different sense then you’re probably thinking. In that context, racist does *not* mean feelings of prejudice and bigotry toward a racial group, it is referring to the active use of social power to have a bad effect on someone’s life. For example, a landlord refusing to rent to someone because of their race. Historically in the US, only whites have had that sort of power. While this is starting to become less true then it was, in the vast majority of cases where a person from one race has that sort of power over someone from another, the person with power is usually white.

          This is a case of miscommunication – what you’re hearing people say is not at all what they meant, and as far as I can tell, relatively few people on either end of things realize that.

  • vasaroti

    The dip in attacks in 2002 is interesting. That must have been when they were busy building their anti-Islamic terrorist bunkers or something.

    • kessy_athena

      No, I think they were just happy about going to war against Islam. The violence is largely born from frustration at where the government and society in general is going, right? so if they’re happy about what the government is doing, then a decrease in violence is to be expected.