Domestic terrorism has existed since the inception of the United States and has continued to impact the social and political decisions in the country to varying degrees. In the United States of America, domestic terrorism is defined under the USA Patriot Act. Domestic terrorism includes any form of violation of the criminal laws that cause harm to humanity in the US or any state, or any acts that are intended to coerce or intimidate civilians in the United States, or any actions aimed at influencing government policies through coercion or intimidation. Domestic terrorism also includes any acts that impact government conduct through mass assassination, mass destruction or kidnap (Chermak, Freilich, & Suttmoeller, 2013). Therefore, domestic terrorism is mainly motivated by specific ideologies and philosophies and terrorists are motivated to commit various acts of terrorism including mass murder, homicides, shootings, hate crimes, and assassinations.
Since 1973, the United States has suffered greatly due to extreme acts of domestic terrorism including the 1973 shootings perpetrated by the Symbiones Liberation Army, the 2009 US Holocause Memorial Museum shooting, the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing perpetrated by Islam extremists, and the 2018 Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting. Currently, the United States accounts for the most significant number of terrorist websites given that 80% of the known websites are on US-based servers. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), there are over 150,000 websites that support the use of extremism and terrorism in the United States and more than 10,000 of the sites are actively maintained. This paper uses two extremist groups; the White Supremacy Extremists and the Black Nationalist Extremists, to discuss the ideologies, violent actions, political actions, goals and objectives and propaganda techniques used by extremist groups to influence the social and political structure of the government. It will also discuss the counter violent extremism techniques and programs that help in addressing the threats posed.
Research shows that with the current acts of domestic violence across the United States, literature reviews have been increasing since the 9/11 terrorist attack. Freilich, McGarrell, and Chermak (2007) give interesting facts of how American society has been victimized through domestic violence. According to them, victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks do not only include them that were injured or lost their lives during the attack but includes people who lost their families members and friends, individuals who lost their property, those who lost their faith in the United States government and those that lost their employment. Freilich, McGarrell, and Chermak (2007) also assert that other acts of domestic terrorism that have victimized the American society include the recent mass shootings at the Aurora, Colorado cinema, the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting, and the Newtown, Connecticut elementary school shooting. Such horrific acts of inhumanity have shaken most people in the United States, caused terror and distrust and led to the questioning of the gun laws. Miller (2006) asserts that various extremists target terrorist victims for different reasons. For instance, some terrorists select their victims based on the amount of media attraction and coverage they will receive.
According to McGarrell et al., (2007), the numbers of these domestic extremist groups outnumber international terrorist groups in a ratio of 7:1 and pose a far more significant threat to the social, economic and political structure of the United States. According to Deloughery et al., (2012) domestic terrorists differ in terms of the organizational principles, motivational ideologies, targeted groups, and the form of offenses committed. For instance, in terms of organization, lone wolves extremists are likely to commit small crimes such as hate crimes, shootings, and tax evasion while organized extremists commit acts of terror such as government facilities bombings, mass shootings and use of biological weapons.
The US Department of Justice (2005) has found out that terrorists plan hate crimes on specific days. Since 2000-2007, most hate crimes have been done starting 6 p.m. in the noon and escalate into bloody crimes in the midnight. Between 2000 and 2003, 80 percent of the hate crimes that occurred in the United States were violent, 38 percent involved raping, robbing, injuries, or threats with a weapon while 46 percent of them were perpetrated by an offender who was unarmed and did not cause injuries. The US Department of Justice (2011) also added that between 2003 and 2009, the same trend of violence continued with 87 percent involving acts of violence, 16 percent committed aggravated assault, 64 percent were simple assault, while 6 percent robbery, 8 percent was theft, and 5 percent burglary. Sixty-five percent of the lone wolves did not use weapons during the assaults.
According to Tracy (2012), the worst terrorist attack was the 9/11 terrorist incident where terrorists hijacked of four passenger airlines while some of the minor terrorist attacks include the Oklahoma City bombing perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh, bar bombings committed by Eric Rudolph, the Centennial Olympic Park shooting and the abortion clinics. Various homicides have also been identified as acts of terror especially when they are motivated by ideological beliefs such as the murder of government officials, attack of abortion clinics, various races and people from different sexual orientation. Different extremists pursue their agendas in different ways which may include lobbying and political activism while others use aggression. Others such as radical environmental groups whose aim is to prevent environmental damage use sabotage from bringing down organization that they believe are causing damage to the ecosystem.
Between 1996 and 2015, the highest number of crimes and the highest number of death caused by extremists were perpetrated by White Supremacy Extremists (Daniels, 2018). This trend was only broken by the 2016 Orlando shootings that were perpetrated by a Muslim extremist. Despite this irregularity, it is evident that white supremacy remains one of the major causes of domestic terrorism in the United States. The concept of white superiority dates back in the inception of the United States which started with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865 by a vocal white supremacist known as John Booth. White supremacists became more vocal and carried more acts of terrorism especially during the 1960s civil rights movements especially by the Ku Klux adherents (Daniels, 2018). Some of the crimes included that assassination of the African-American Legend Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Sixteenth street bombing which left four African-American girls dead. Presently, the beliefs held by white supremacists have evolved into the radical right. Throughout the 1990s, white supremacists staged various bombings on abortion clinics and murders to abortionists because they believed that aborting white fetuses threatened the existence and survival of the whites.
The White Supremacy Extremists believe that they are fighting for the survival of whites in America and are committed to seeing demographic changes and an end to multiculturalism by destroying the non-whites. As such, white supremacists are monolithic groups although different motivations drive different sects, have various forms of operations and have different goals and agendas. Some of the fundamental tenants that unite the right-wing supremacists include the beliefs that the white Europeans across the world are innately and genetically superior to all other race (Smedley, 2018). They also believe that they are at the risk of extinction due to multiculturalism and that members of their race face victimization in a universe that is about to collapse. Non-white races including Jews must be segregated, subordinated or eliminated. Lastly, they believe that the American society should be structured according to a racist, patriarchal and heterosexual paradigm.
Far-right white supremacists are mostly white males between their late 20s and early 30s. Due to their perceptions towards minority groups, 55% of them attack their targets in groups as compared to other terrorist groups. 48.4 % target complete strangers, while 52.4% use weapons to attack their targets. Although they use firearms in homicide attacks, 8.2 % of these crimes are carried out with blunt objects to cause as much pain to their victim as possible while 5.7% involve the use of a knife. In most cases, four major groups of white supremacists carry out hate crimes, and they include the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), Christian identity sects, neo-Nazis, and white power skinheads (Smedley, 2018). Their main agenda is to bring the white race into power, and they passionately fight against interracial marriage, homosexuality and are anti-semitic. These four groups openly show their support for the traditional family structure where the man is the head of the family. In some occasions, neo-Nazis join forces with Islamic Jihad groups to push the Jews out as they view them as their common enemy. To them, the Jews conspire to take over the United States government and the media.
Unlike the White Supremacy Extremists, the Black Nationalist Extremists emerged because of the brutality of the white supremacist and their endemic presence in the American governance systems since the country’s inception to the mid-1960s when the civil rights and voting rights were enacted. As such Black Nationalism categorically varies from white supremacy given that the black extremists arose as a reaction towards real life and brutal oppression perpetrated by the white supremacists (Moore, Robinson, Adedoyin, Brooks, Harmon, & Boamah, 2016). Regardless, the Black Nationalist Extremists also promote explicit racism, terrorism, as well as bigoted ideas. Generally, the primary targets for Black Nationalist include the LGBT community, the whites, and the Jews.
Similar to the White supremacists, the Black Nationalists also fight for a segregated territory for Black Americans within the United States of America. While the white supremacists argue that their homeland should be in the Pacific Northwest the Black Nationalists fight for the Southeast Pacific region. The Black Nationalists are primarily known and feared for their antipolice and antigovernment perceptions because of their long history with police brutality and government corruption (Moore, Robinson, Adedoyin, Brooks, Harmon, & Boamah, 2016). The African Americans have suffered mainly in the hand of the government starting with the historical lynching or premeditated extrajudicial killing to modern day mass incarceration. Such brutality against the blacks makes the black nationalists concerns founded unlike those of the white supremacists who are motivated by egoism.
On 7th July 2016, a black nationalist known as Micah Xavier Johnson attacked police officers in Dallas during what had been said to be a peaceful protest against brutality perpetrated by the Dallas police. Xavier killing five police officers and badly wounded nine others. In ten days after the Dallas incident, Gavin Eugene shot at six officers here he killed three of them at the Baton Rouge in Louisiana (Cleaver, & Katsiaficas, 2014). According to reports Xavier and Eugene were motivated by their passionate hate for police officers, biased law enforcement, and existing white dominance grievances. These two offenders were also driven by the fact that police officers had also brutally shot and killed unarmed African American civilians under circumstances that were highly unquestionable at Philando Castile and the Baton Rouge in Falcon Heights, Minnesota (Moore, Robinson, Adedoyin, Brooks, Harmon, & Boamah, 2016). Although Americans across the nation were understandably terrified and angry over these acts, killing police officers in retaliation was terrorism especially because Xavier and Eugene had ties with the New Black Panther Nation (NBPN) and the Washitaw Nation Black Nationalist hate groups.
Just like the white supremacist’s worldview is shaped by the Darwinism self-selection theory, theories such as the whites lead the Black Nationalist worldview were created in test tubes. Mistakenly, they also believe that the Jews were the masters of the slave trade which explains their hatred towards the Jews (Cleaver, & Katsiaficas, 2014). The Black Nationalist extremists conduct prison outreach programs just like most domestic terrorist groups, and their aim is recruiting inmates into their extremist ideologies. Some of these black extremists groups also recruit street gang members which help them execute attacks. Similarly, white supremacists are recruiting military officers into their extremist ideas and tactics. For instance, James Alex who allegedly drove his car through a group of protesters and killed Heather Heyer in 2018, is said to be a recruit of a Marine Recruiter Dillon Hopper. More so, a member of the neo-Nazi group and the U.S Marine Corp cracked three skulls open without harming himself meaning that he was well trained. Lastly, Nathan Damigo organized the Unite the Right rally yet he was a marine veteran.
Unlike white supremacists that use blunt weapons and knives to attack their victims, black nationalists use mostly guns as their fights are against police officers who also have firearms. However, Black Nationalists also interest in bombing government buildings and the manufacture of explosives. In November 2014 for instance, two members of the black extremist’s groups were charged for the crime of planning to detonate explosives during peaceful protests in Ferguson, Missouri as retribution for the murder of Michael Brown which had happened earlier that year. Black Nationalist extremists, like the New Black Liberation Militia and the Black Panther, have been mobilizing rallies and protests of black activists in response to perceived acts of police brutality (Cleaver, & Katsiaficas, 2014). Black Nationalists often carry semi-automatic shotguns, modified AR-15 assault rifles and bolt-action sniper rifles, under the disguise of self-defense at these protests. This has been known as one of the major tactics used by black nationalists.
One of the post-effective ways to prevent domestic terrorism is enacted community policing policies. When law enforcement officers establish positive relationships with members of their community, it will be easier for them to gather more information regarding terrorist groups that are within the community. In essence, community policing will complement the efforts if the homeland security in maintaining law and order. Secondly, the US government should implement new strategies for police officer training (Portland State University, 2013). Officers will be taught how to gather enough evidence against a suspect, identify unbiased witnesses and avoid biasness and wrongful accusations. For instance, the police departments in Los Angeles use field identification cards to prevent officers from implying biased theories into crime scenes and investigations.
Thirdly, given that hate crimes mostly escalate after a terrorist attacks police departments can use these trends to plan for prevention strategies for the days following terrorist attacks. This will help law enforcement officers to prevent mass shootings, hate crimes and also quickly identify the perpetrators of various crimes (Portland State University, 2013). Fourth, members from the minority groups including religious and non-mainstream lifestyles such as the LGBTQ communities commit acts of terrorism because or constant frustration and the perception that their voice goes unheard. As such, establishing open dialogue platforms between minority groups and the majority may significantly decrease their grievances and establish a fairer political system.
Firth, the police departments and the FBI should keep track of the trends of terrorist attack and tactics used by extremist groups as specific information is key to prevention. The police department should keep terrorist organization profiles and identify their subsets, motivation, ideologies, tactics, headquarters, leaders, organization structure and their target groups (Portland State University, 2013). Keeping such information in a central location will offer a quick reference. Lastly, the judicial system should be fair and vigilant is the fight against domestic violence. The US judicial system is enabled by the PATRIOT Act to effective gather about violent groups and lone wolves and judges them accordingly.
Unlike white supremacists whose ideologies are based on white power, white racial purity, white genocide, and white racial superiority, the emergence of ideologies held by Black Nationalism are attributed to the economic, social, and political injustices they have been experiencing in the past. In the past two decades, the number of extremist groups in the US has shot dramatically from about 48 groups in 2000 to over 193 in 2016. The black nationalists particularly rose in 2007 because of the growing White Nationalism while in 2014 the worst kind of retaliation groups emerged because of the brutal killings from police officers.
Targets of extremist groups such as the White Supremacy Extremists and the Black Nationalist Extremists are no exception to the logic of media attention. These extremists have no specific victims but will attack places with most people who have different racial beliefs, sexualities, religious beliefs, or nationalities. Most of the homicide offenders identified as far-right extremists were predominantly white males which contrasts the United States’ average offender characteristics which include black males. Terrorists who perpetrate hate crimes are typically majority group members and often violate the rights of against minority groups in terms of religion, color, and other defining attributes.
Summarily, since the 2014 incidents of alleged police brutality, tragic events of domestic terrorism including mass murders and large scale use of bomb have become very frequent. Although religious, ethnic and racial differences motivate the white supremacists and the black nationalists, they always choose their victims depending on the media coverage they will attain. For instance, Children are mostly targeted because they tend to guarantee more media coverage because of their innocence as compared to adults. Terrorists aim at achieving as much media coverage as possible. They are also opportunistic as they will attack crowded places to increase the death count thus inflicting much panic and pain in the society. To counter these acts of terrorism, law enforcement officers have the duty for intelligence gathering and share information across the nation to identify strategies used by different groups and prevent them.
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