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Extremism in America

George Michael

Publication Year: 2013

The American Republic was born in revolt against the British crown, and ever since, political extremism has had a long tradition in the United States. To some observers, the continued presence of extremist groups--and the escalation of their activities--portends the fragmentation of the country, while others believe such is the way American pluralism works. The word extremism often carries negative connotations, yet in 1964 Barry Goldwater famously said, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice."

Extremism in America is a sweeping overview and assessment of the various brands of bigotry, prejudice, zealotry, dogmatism, and partisanship found in the United States, including the extreme right, the antiglobalization movement, Black Nationalism, Chicano separatism, militant Islam, Jewish extremism, eco-extremism, the radical antiabortion movement, and extremist terrorism. Many of these forms of single-minded intolerance are repressed by both the state and society at large, but others receive significant support from their constituencies and enjoy a level of respectability in some quarters of the mainstream. The essays in this volume, written by area specialists, examine the relationship between these movements and the larger society, dissect the arguments of contemporary American anarchist activists, look at recent trends in political extremism, and suggest how and why such arguments resonate with a considerable number of people.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. 6-7

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pp. vii-viii

...Several persons assisted me in this study. First and foremost, I would like to thank all of the contributors, Christopher Hewitt, Donald R. Liddick, Brenda J. Lutz, James M. Lutz, D. J. Mulloy, Jeffrey Ian Ross, Donald W. Trivett, Aaron Winter, and José Pedro Zúquete. Mark Potok and an anonymous reviewer offered suggestions on the manuscript, which were very helpful and for which I am grateful. I would also like to thank...

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pp. 1-14

...Beneath the surface of American politics lies a growing extremist subculture. Although most of the groups that compose this subculture are small and seem to have little influence, collectively their presence suggests interesting trends in American politics and society. To some observers, their presence portends the fragmentation of the country while to others they are just another example of American pluralism at work, albeit...

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1. The Tea Party and the Far Right: Fellow Travelers?

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pp. 15-44

...Populism has a long tradition in American politics. Its most recent incarnation— the Tea Party movement—arose in early 2009 not long after President Barack Obama assumed office. A severe financial crisis, runaway federal spending, and a seemingly ineffective federal government response to these intractable problems provoked a widespread right-wing populist backlash. Attendees at Tea Party gatherings appear to be predominately...

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2. “Hell Yes, We’re Fighting!” Revolutionary Anarchism’s Call for Destruction and Creation

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pp. 45-69

...The air is filled with anticipation. The police have cordoned off entire areas of the city and stand their ground protecting the buildings where the world’s “powerful” meet. From the distance a cacophony of sounds, voices, screams, and drumming can be heard. Slowly this mass protest gets closer and closer to the protected perimeters. Some dance while others, dressed as clowns, distribute flowers to passersby. Within this marching...

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3. The New Black Panther Party, Black Nationalism, and the Tangled Legacy of COINTELPRO

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pp. 70-113

...On Election Day 2008, two members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (NBPP), Minister King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson, stood outside a polling station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, attired in their usual paramilitary-style uniforms of black jackets, combat boots, and black berets. According to a civil suit filed by the U.S. Justice Department on January 7, 2009, the two men were...

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4. The Chicano Separatist Movement

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pp. 114-146

...Among marginalized and nonmainstream political movements in the United States, Chicano separatism has traditionally received relatively little public attention outside of its primary historical area of influence, the southwestern states of the United States: Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California. Chicano separatism’s national visibility has increased markedly since the 1990s primarily due to undocumented immigration...

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5. Islamic Extremism in the United States

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pp. 147-167

...The threat from Islamic extremism has long distressed the United States but has attained much greater salience after 9/11. In the aftermath of 9/11, a number of sporadic attacks by Islamist lone wolves and jihadist cells with little or no formal affiliation to al-Qaeda have raised fears of a homegrown Islamist fifth column in America. In March 2011 this angst was expressed in a congressional hearing called “The Extent of Radicalization in...

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6. Terrorism by Jewish Extremists in the United States

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pp. 168-187

...Nevertheless, Jews in America have not been entirely free of discrimination and sporadic violence directed against their communities. While Jewish citizens and residents have often been the victims of terrorist attacks, there have been organizations that have been involved in violent attacks in defense of Israel and the Jewish community in the United States. These groups grew out of concern over anti-Semitic acts and have resorted to violence as a means to protect the...

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7. The Christian Identity Movement

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pp. 188-217

...Christianity has been an enduring theme in the history of the American far right. From the Anti-Masonic Party and the Know-Nothing Party of the nineteenth century to contemporary Christian evangelist demagogues and assorted Aryan revolutionaries, the Christian religion has often served as a foundation for far-right protest movements...

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8. Antiabortion Extremism and Violence in the United States

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pp. 218-248

...staff of the Bartlett administration set up a meeting with three Christian Right leaders in the White House in an attempt to placate their movement and followers after Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Lyman insults one of them, Mary Marsh, on a TV roundtable discussion. The meeting becomes a heated stand-off when Marsh rejects the apology and demands that the administration appease the movement and Christian America with...

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9. The Radical Environmental and Animal Liberation Movements

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pp. 249-273

...Crimes perpetrated in the name of environmental protection and animal rights/liberation are largely a modern phenomenon, with the majority of activity occurring from the 1970s to the present. Drawn from the larger pool of “mainstream” groups such as Greenpeace, the Wilderness Society, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), some disaffected environmentalists and animal rights advocates have turned from...

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10. Misidentified and Misunderstood: Extremists and Extremist Groups Incarcerated in U.S. Correctional Facilities

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pp. 274-293

...One of President Barack Obama’s campaign promises was to close the prison in Guantanamo and shift the remaining detainees to one or more correctional facilities in the United States. Shortly after being elected the Obama administration found this pledge more difficult than imagined. Few states and jurisdictions were willing to accommodate these individuals...

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11. Terrorism and Extremism in the United States: A Historical Overview

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pp. 294-310

...In this chapter the relationship between extremist movements and terrorism in the United States is considered. Terrorism is best seen as a macro phenomenon explained by the social and political conditions of the society in which it occurs. This may seem a strange claim since one of the main characteristics of American terrorism is its fragmented and divided...

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Conclusion: The Outlook for Extremism in the Twenty-First Century

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pp. 311-328

...Despite the multitude of radical groups extant today, historically, the United States has not provided fertile ground for political extremism. Although many extremist movements have punctuated American history, their influence is usually evanescent and relatively inconsequential. Though it may sound somewhat tautological, radical movements take hold when...

List of Contributors

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pp. 329-330


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pp. 331-348

E-ISBN-13: 9780813048543
E-ISBN-10: 0813048540
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813044972

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Radicalism -- United States
  • Social movements -- United States.
  • Ideology -- United States.
  • Right and left (Political science) -- United States.
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