Far-Right Extremism on the Rise in the United States

This photo shows part of a rife can be seen in dramatic lighting. Individual bullets are placed near the trigger. Though the United States has made significant progress in addressing Islamic extremism since 9/11, there has been a rise in right-wing extremism in recent years. Seth G. Jones explores this phenomena in a Center for Strategic and International Studies Brief titled The Rise of Far-Right Extremism in the United States. This timely publication focuses on the increase in right-wing terrorist incidents in the United States, and policy implications. This brief also considers the role of social media to disseminate propaganda and the similar increase in far-right extremism in Europe.

It is important to note that right-wing extremism does not correspond to any particular political party in the United States. They are instead motivated by “racial, ethnic, or religious supremacy; opposition to government authority; and the end of practices like abortion.” Perpetrators of this type of terrorism have mostly been white supremacists and self-declared “sovereign citizens.”

The brief identifies factors that contribute to the growth of far-right extremism:

  • First, right-wing extremists are increasingly using the internet and social media to issue propaganda statements, coordinate training (including combat training), organize travel to attend protests and other events, raise funds, recruit members, and communicate with others.
  • Second, right-wing extremists are increasingly traveling overseas to meet and exchange views with likeminded individuals.
  • Third, right-wing extremism has been energized over the past decade by several issues. Some were infuriated by the election of an African-American, Barack Obama […] Still others have been inspired by President Donald Trump, as noted in Department of Justice criminal complaints and indictments.

Right-wing extremist groups have existed through American history; the challenge today, writes Jones, is devoting sufficient attention and resources to prevent far-right extremism from continuing to rise. This requires a concerted effort from law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels. Partnerships with the private sector will also be critical, since social media and the internet have allowed right-wing extremists to form loose networks and facilitated the radicalization of lone actors.

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