Analysis of Extremism in the United States

Extremism has existed in the United States for a long time, and the country has historically housed adherents of various extremist ideologies. In the United States, there are two main types of extremism. Islamic and far-right extremism have existed for a long time and have been linked to various violent activities over the years (Kupchan&Trubowitz, 2007). They are both important in the planning of hazardous terrorist attacks on US soil and should thus be thoroughly researched because both constitute a threat.
Various attacks have happened over the years, the most destructive of which was the 9/11 incident. The latter occurred in September 2001 on a Tuesday morning leading to deaths of two thousand, nine hundred and ninety six people. These deaths occurred in New York, Virginia as well as Pennsylvania. The felony was carried out by Islamic extremists as pointed out by Chermak & Gruenewald (2015). The second most devastating attack perpetrated by Islamic extremists was the Oklahoma City bombing which also led to deaths of many civilians in the country. These events, in addition to others, have made the United States to be more aware and alert of extremism activities although different violent activities continue to occur.

The risk of far-right extremism is frequently ignored or misjudged and the country has mostly focused on Islamic extremism probably due to the devastating effects of 9/11. However, Bergen (2017) points out that far-right extremism is also significant in the country. This is because, of all the domestic terrorist attacks that have occurred since 1995, more than 56 percent have been perpetrated by far-right extremists and only 12 percent are as a result of Islamic extremism. In addition, right-wing extremism has been responsible for the greatest number of attacks since Oklahoma City bombing as pointed out by Chermak & Gruenewald (2015).

Bergen (2017) points out that between 2007 and 2016, domestic extremists have killed more than 375 people in the United States. The approximated deaths associated to right-wing extremists is 74 percent while another 24 percent is linked to Islamic extremists. The rest of the deaths have been associated with left-wing extremists. To counter these extremism violent attacks, the government through its agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has collected data associated to extremists’ attacks. Over the last ten years, empirical data has been collected and analyzed in order to inform policy decisions as observed by Chermak & Gruenewald (2015). For instance, Terrorism and Extremist Violence in the U.S.(TSVUS) database integrates data collected to initiate a more robust as well as sophisticated analysis of activities, behaviors as well as operations of extremists in the country (Bergen, 2017).

With domestic extremists groups, future trends indicate that they are going to increase as pointed out by Bergen (2017). This is because, the government has mainly focused on Islamic extremists who might cause massive killing like the 9/11 attacks. For instance, between 2002 and 2005, it is reported that more than 90 percent of terrorist attacks have been associated with domestic extremists and the number continues to increase as asserted by Bush (2009). Domestic groups are becoming a big threat to the government especially with the current proposed imposition of firearms.

This imposition would attract more members into domestic extremist groups in the future which is a serious threat to the government. Individuals such as returning veterans who possess combat skills continue to increase in the country and many people are purchasing weapons at a higher rate than previously noted as pointed out by Bergen (2017). Domestic extremism is therefore a threat and a primary concern to the government as well as members of the public.

Political Extremist Groups in the United States

In the United States, political extremist groups continue to rise time after time and there are different views concerning the issue. Public accusations of political extremism has also taken a huge step further in the current years as pointed out by Bergen (2017). The different political positions in the United States has led to the increase of political extremists. Politicians as well as the community have different views concerning the economy as well as social life. For instance, the current stand on the ownership of firearms has sparked a diverse array of ideologies, some of which have been radicalized. In order for certain groups to air their opposition grievances, they fall into different political extremism assemblages where they feel supported.

Political patterns that may lead to depressed economic conditions also increase the probability of political extremism as pointed out by Bergen (2017). There are those in the public who view different actions such as passing of laws as a threat to the economy of the country and they therefore take matters on their own hands by forming extremist groups or campaigning for the existing ones. Moreover, political polarization would systematically elevate financial crisis in the United States and this makes the citizens to be more polarized. This leads to the weakening of government coalitions and therefore, the opposing groups becomes larger leading to the success of extremist groups in the country.

Political extremist groups also increase in the United States when a certain group feel that they are not recognized in the country or if their views are not prioritized by the government. For instance, over the last decades, there have been political parties who have extreme platforms which challenge a more moderate incumbents in various democracies in the country (Bergen, 2017). As a result, these entrants introduced into the political market lead to differences in the distribution of resources which opposes a uniform distribution. A redistribution of resources therefore occurs and ethnic minorities and certain specific groups may feel offended and result to formation of extremist groups or even join those that are already formed, increasing their strength.

Political climate such as presidential elections may shift the perception of individuals in terms of how they view the government (Bergen, 2017). For instance, during 2016 presidential campaigns, Democrat Candidate Hillary Clinton promised to enforce strict rules to ensure that background checks are conducted for those who would wish to purchase guns. On the other hand, Republicans oppose any laws that would enforce strict background checks for gun ownership since they advocate for the rights of individuals to own guns. Such different opinions on presidential candidates would make some people feel that they are being misled by government agencies. This would result to formation of radicalized groups to oppose the stand of government agencies in an attempt to remedy the situation.

From 1970 to presently, presidential candidates have played different parts in the decline of economic growth which deprives the share of votes as pointed out by Bergen (2017). For instance, decline in growth rates would reduce the incentives of the poor people to shy away from risky policy platforms. Therefore, when different policies are introduced by politicians and presidential candidates, certain groups feel that they are deprived of their right to be included in the populous through their voice of votes. This would also enhance party fragmentation in the country, as such causing opposition parties and individuals to gradually increase. Against this backdrop, they would want the public as well as the government to notice them and in most cases they would use violence.

 Radicalization Process of Individuals into Extremist Groups

Radicalization of individuals into extremist groups has for a long time been a challenge to the government since it is difficult to know who are in certain extremist groups. For instance, Chermak & Gruenewald (2015) point out that for every extremist individual who gets the courage to show up in public, there are more than five individuals who do not come out. These public rallies also motivate some people who would be exhibiting the same idea expressed by extremists. The process of radicalization takes many forms starting from the social structures to the presence of the internet which keeps and houses different ideologies associated with extremists.

However, the process has different diverse starting points as pointed out by Bergen (2017). There is not enough information from research to indicate the exact process but it has been modelled into three stages. Radicalization of individuals into extremists groups is usually a quest for personal significance as pointed out by Kupchan & Trubowitz (2007). Different grievances that may not be accomplished may serve as a motivational force and it has been studied by psychologists. It has been proven that individuals have the urge to be competent, to achieve certain goals as well as search for meaning. For instance, an individual may suffer self-humiliation or experience one from a connected group, therefore destroying one’s social identity.

There is also the second step radical in which ideologies that are easily accepted by an individual are introduced to the believers as pointed out by Kupchan & Trubowitz (2007). These ideologies and narratives makes individuals discontented and having a feeling to do more for themselves. This provides the believers with a true purpose for their course. Lastly, mobilization is the final step of radicalization through which intensifies social interactions occurs with people who have parallel views as pointed out by Smith(2014). This process will lead to a unified push towards violence in order to achieve particular goals. Nonetheless, not all those who initiate the process get to finish it.

When sacred values of a certain group are violated or threatened, individuals may gain a sense of significance by confronting the enemy group. Religious justification therefore plays a significant role in motivating an individual to commit acts of violence (Smith, 2014). This process makes individuals to opt for a different path other than the one dictated by the social norms. Since the groups have given each true believer a purpose, individuals tend to use any kind of violence in order to achieve their goal even in cases of life and death. Many religious leaders dictate to their radicalized groups that their belief has not been respected and that acts of violence serve as justice. Therefore, acts of violence to extremists are viewed as a justification as well as self-actualization.

Violence is also used as a justification for the defense of sacred values which they consider violated or threatened. Extremists will therefore use terrorism as an act of restoration since they consider it effective and at the same time morally accepted. Although not all individuals who believe in the idea of justification by violence engage in the act itself, there are those who are desperate and religiously inclined and therefore have to satisfy and accomplish their roles. Some go to the extreme of committing suicide on behalf of their broad course since they have been promised a better life after serving their purpose. Since these individuals may lack a choice and a better way is proposed to them, they end up being radicalized to the highest pointed out by Smith (2014).

Impact of Technological tools on Extremism

The 21st century technological tools have played a big role in the recruitment, maintenance of membership and sustained impact. For instance, evidence from diverse terrorist groups indicate that radicalization process is carried through social dynamics as pointed out by Chris (2012). Entry into extremist groups is achieved by socialization of friends and family members which may occur face to face at times. However, social platforms serve as the best and easiest ways to meet, recruit and sustain members due to its efficiency and discretion. Virtual meetings on websites as well as different social media platforms occur since physical presence would be suspicious.

Mere contact in social media may start and eventually evolve into deeper involvement directed by the spell of compelling network leaders as well as propagandists. Different structures in social networking, whether vertical or horizontal, have a significant degree of interconnectedness as pointed out by Chris (2012). In this case, the normative looseness or tightness serves as a highway to increase the rate at which notions that are ideologically inspired get diffused in technological tools such as social media. This makes the process of recruitment into extremist groups very easy and at the same time fast since there is no control by the social structures. Social networking is also very successful because most of the people are young, a situation which makes it easy for them to accept different ideologies.

There is also a primary concern when it comes to online radicalization because of the different tools used. For instance, there have been incidences of jihadist Web sites that are password-protected as well as video-hosting services which the extremists use to advance their groups. Forums, social networking resources as well as blogs have been used to achieve their goals. Firstly, the grievance stage is well achieved and accomplished since the internet allows for rapid as well as widespread dissemination of information about the different events which in most cases fuels objections as pointed out by Chris (2012). In most cases, propagandas are usually made intense by the use of emotional images which are followed with devastating comments or a sound tract to promote their grievances and show how much it affects their beliefs. It therefore becomes easy because anyone has the ability to post contents online. Consequently, extremists develop forums in which they present materials that support their own point of view even if it is in an extreme manner (Bergen, 2017)

Secondly, the spread of narratives as well as their ideologies is well enabled by the internet (Chris, 2012). In order to inspire extremists, there is no longer the need to meet physically in mosques or other gathering places since the internet has simplifies the situation. Some have platforms which can only be accessed using a password in order to view the content. Lastly, online interaction greatly impacts the socialization phase of radicalization. Extremists will therefore interact with like-minded individuals online despite the geographical difference that may exist. This ensures the membership of individuals as pointed out by Chris (2012).

Internet tools therefore serve as a way to ensure effective recruitment, maintenance of membership as well as sustainability purposes. For instance, in March 2011, a 21-year old German extremist who was accused of shooting as well as wounding United Sates soldiers said that he was radicalized via the internet (Chris, 2012). He claimed that he was motivated after seeing propaganda videos in the internet and therefore took action. Technological tools continue to serve as a means to advance extremist groups.


Bergen, P. L. (2017). United States of Jihad: Investigating America's Homegrown Terrorists. Broadway Books.

Bush, G. W. (2009). The national security strategy of the United States of America. Wordclay.

Chermak, S., & Gruenewald, J. A. (2015). Laying a foundation for the criminological examination of right-wing, left-wing, and Al Qaeda-inspired extremism in the United States. Terrorism and Political Violence, 27(1), 133-159.

Chris Hale, W. (2012). Extremism on the World Wide Web: a research review. Criminal Justice Studies, 25(4), 343-356.

Kupchan, C. A., &Trubowitz, P. L. (2007). Dead center: The demise of liberal internationalism in the United States. International Security, 32(2), 7-44.

Smith, C. (2014). Disruptive religion: The force of faith in social movement activism. Routledge.

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