20191013173701recruitmentradicalizationamongusfarrightterrorists_nov2016.pdf

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Unformatted text preview: Recruitment and Radicalization among US Far-Right Terrorists Report to the Office of University Programs, Science and Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Published November 2016 National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism A Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence Led by the University of Maryland 8400 Baltimore Ave., Suite 250 •College Park, MD 20742 • 301.405.6600 National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism A Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence About This Report The authors of this report are Pete Simi, Associate Professor, Steven Windisch, graduate assistant, Karyn Sporer, graduate assistant. Questions about this report should be directed to Pete Simi at [email protected] This report is part of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) project, “Recruitment and Radicalization among U.S. Far-Right Terrorists,” led by Pete Simi, University of Nebraska Omaha. This research was supported by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s Office of University Programs through Award Number 2012-ST-061-CS0001, Center for the Study of Terrorism and Behavior (CSTAB) 2.1 made to START to investigate the understanding and countering of terrorism within the United States. This project examines the application of life-course criminological theory to the study of violent extremism; the role of childhood trauma and adolescent misconduct has on extremist participation; risk factors to violent extremist entry; and barriers that constrain the likelihood of mass casualty violence. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies, either expressed or implied, of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or START. About START The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) is supported in part by the Science and Technology Directorate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through a Center of Excellence program led by the University of Maryland. START uses state‐of‐the‐art theories, methods and data from the social and behavioral sciences to improve understanding of the origins, dynamics and social and psychological impacts of terrorism. For more information, contact START at [email protected] or visit . Citations To cite this report, please use this format: Simi, Pete, and Steven Windisch, Karyn Sporer. “Recruitment and Radicalization among US Far Right Terrorists.” College Park, MD: START, 2016. Recruitment and Radicalization among US Far-Right Terrorists National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism A Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence Contents Executive Summary .............................................................................................................................1 Introduction ............................................................................................................................................5 Types of Right-Wing Extremists ........................................................................................ 6 Conceptual Definitions and Scope of the Study .............................................................7 Significance and Relevance ..................................................................................................7 Theoretical Framework ....................................................................................................................8 Violent Extremism as Normal Crime .............................................................................. 10 Overview of Life Course Criminology ............................................................................ 12 Developmental Life Course Theories ............................................................... 14 Age-grade Theory of Informal Social Control ............................................... 17 Cognitive Transformation Process ................................................................... 20 Advantages of Applying Life Course Criminology to Violent Extremism ......... 22 Future Directions in Life Course Criminology ............................................................ 24 Conclusions .............................................................................................................................. 25 Data and Methods .............................................................................................................................. 26 Sampling Procedures ............................................................................................................ 26 Snowball Sampling .................................................................................................. 27 Data Collection ........................................................................................................................ 28 Life History Interviews .......................................................................................... 28 Open-source coding ................................................................................................ 29 Specific Methodological Approaches .............................................................................. 30 Thematic Assessment............................................................................................ 30 Sample Characteristics ............................................................................ 30 Analysis and Coding Process ................................................................. 30 Childhood Trauma and Adolescent Misconduct as Precursors to Violent Extremism ........................................ 31 Sample Characteristics ........................................................................... 32 Analysis and Coding Process ................................................................ 33 Circumplex Model of Affect .................................................................................. 34 Recruitment and Radicalization among US Far-Right Terrorists National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism A Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence Sample Characteristics ............................................................................ 34 Analysis and Coding Process................................................................. 35 Overall Methodological Strengths and Limitations .................................................. 37 Results ....................................................................................................................................... 38 Report 1: Thematic Assessment ................................................................................. 38 Family Socialization Prior to Entering Violent Extremism...................... 38 Ideological Socialization Strategies ................................................... 39 Linguistic Devices ....................................................................... 40 Blatant Racism.............................................................................. 42 Subtle Racism............................................................................... 43 Entry into Violent Extremism ............................................................................. 44 Pushes and Pulls into Violent Extremism ........................................ 45 Searching for Belonging and Acceptance ........................... 46 The Thrill of the Forbidden ..................................................... 49 Protection ....................................................................................... 51 Quest for Significance ................................................................ 52 Violent Extremists Recruitment......................................................................... 56 Extremist Taxonomy ................................................................................ 56 Recruitment into Violent Extremism ................................................. 58 Target Population ...................................................................... 59 Marketing Strategies .................................................................. 61 Fliers, Stickers and Leafleting .................................. 62 Face-to-Face Recruitment ......................................... 64 WPM Music Scene ....................................................................... 67 Subculture of Violence ........................................................................................... 70 Street Codes ................................................................................................. 71 Violence as a Rite of Passage ................................................................. 74 Commitment and Status ........................................................... 75 Disciplinary and Policing Strategies .................................... 76 Recruitment and Radicalization among US Far-Right Terrorists National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism A Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence Emotional Experiences during a fight ............................................... 78 Situations When Violence Goes Too Far ........................................... 81 Report 2: Circumplex Model of Affect ...................................................................... 84 Risk Factors for Organized Violence ................................................................ 85 Findings: Pre-Entry Risk Factors ....................................................................... 86 Pre-Entry Ideological Variables and Pathways to Engagement ................................................ 90 Cognitive Variables ..................................................................... 96 Findings: Turning Point Events ........................................................ 100 Categories of Turning Point Events ................................. .100 Industrial Organizational Variables .................................. 103 Cognitive Variables .................................................................. 105 Moral Based Variables ............................................................ 107 Circumplex Affect Variables ................................................. 108 Report 3: Childhood Trauma and Adolescent Misconduct as Precursors to VE ...................................................... 111 Violent Extremism, Crime, and Pathways to Entry ................................. 113 Trauma, Conduct Problems, and Violence .................................................. 114 Trauma and Life-Course Criminology .......................................................... 115 Sequential Model of Violent Extremism....................................................... 116 Early Experiences with Trauma as Environmental Adversity119 Conduct Problems during Adolescence ......................................... 121 Non-Ideological Functions of Extremist Participation............. 122 Summary Case Description ............................................................................... 124 Discussion and Conclusions.............................................................................. 125 Report 4: Why Radicalization Fails – Barriers to Mass Casualty Violence ........................................................................ 127 Black Swans and Rarity of Terror Incidents .............................................. 129 The Current Status of Radicalization Studies ............................................ 130 Types of Barriers to Mass Casualty Violence ............................................. 133 Barrier One: Sorting Mechanisms Away from MCV .................. 133 Mass Casualty Violence as Counterproductive ............. 133 Preference for Interpersonal Violence............................ 135 Recruitment and Radicalization among US Far-Right Terrorists National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism A Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence Barrier Two: Changes in Focus and Availability ........................ 138 Drugs and Alcohol .................................................................... 138 Personal Obligations ............................................................... 140 Barrier Three: Disillusionment ......................................................... 142 Hypocrisy and Disappointment .......................................... 142 In-Fighting................................................................................... 144 Barrier Four: Moral Apprehension .................................................. 145 Failure to Employ Moral Disengagement ....................... 145 Discussion and Conclusions.............................................................................. 147 References ............................................................................................................................ 150 Appendices .......................................................................................................................... 185 Appendix A: Thematic Assessment Codebook......................................................... 185 Appendix B: Circumplex Model of Affect Codebook .............................................. 192 Appendix C: Trauma Model of Extremist Participation ....................................... 199 Appendix D: Risk Factor and Recruitment Codebooks ....................................... 200 Recruitment and Radicalization among US Far-Right Terrorists National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism A Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence Executive Summary This report presents findings from a two-year study, “Recruitment and Radicalization among US Far-Right Terrorists.” This investigation examines multiple aspects of recruitment and radicalization, such as the quality and quantity of exposure to right-wing ideologies prior to extremist involvement; types of recruitment; pre-entry risk factors for extremist participation; and the extremists’ perception about why he/she was unable to progress beyond the planning stages of a terror plot. The empirical analysis is divided into four distinct but overlapping reports. Report one consists of a comprehensive thematic assessment, which focuses on family socialization prior to extremist involvement; entry processes into extremism; recruitment strategies and the extremist subculture of violence. In terms of socialization, although only a small segment of our sample (n=3, 9.7%) were raised by parents who were members of extremist groups, a vast majority (n=28, 90.3%) were exposed to racist/anti-Semitic beliefs during childhood. Regarding motivation for entry into violent extremism (VE), our findings indicate a variety of non-ideological factors increased the appeal of these groups such as acceptance from peers, attraction to the group’s forbidden social image and the ability to increase ones’ level of personal significance. In addition, participants also felt the group offered protection from bullies at school and rival gangs in their neighborhoods. In terms of recruitment, extremist groups relied on a variety of marketing strategies (e.g., leafleting and house parties) in order to promote their political agenda. Our data suggest these groups targeted marginalized youth who were angry and looking for solutions to their problems. However, the most effective recruitment tool was extremist music. Music provided recruiters with opportunities to introduce potential recruits to the extremist subculture in venues and through mediums with decreased monitoring from agents of formal social control. Recruitment and Radicalization among U.S. Far-Right Terrorists 1 National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism A Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence In addition, report one also examines the violent subculture of right-wing extremist groups. As part of this discussion, we highlight the role of various cultural practices such as violent rituals which were used to increase commitment to the group and to distinguish strong members from weaker ones. As our data indicates, however, there does seem to be a threshold for violence. That is, some extremists condemned violence when it was directed towards “defenseless” targets. Overall, these findings underscore the similarities individuals experience throughout their extremist careers. Report two contains a detailed description of pre-entry risk factors for VE participation. Specifically, we apply a circumplex model of affect to examine sample of extremists. The circumplex model of affect proposes that rather than viewing emotion from independent neural systems, affective states should be understood as arising from common, overlapping neurophysiological systems (Posner, Russel, and Petersen, 2005; Russel 1980). More specifically, this model proposes that affective states arise from two fundamental neurophysiological systems: valence (please-displeasure continuum) and arousal (or alertness) with all emotions reflecting some combination of these two dimensions. Report two relies on this model to help examine how individuals reflect on their entry into VE and the affective states that can be discerned from their narrative descriptions of those events. Our findings are drawn from a subsample of the study (n=20) and emphasize the role that nonideological push factors have in extremist participation and the onset of violent offending. For instance, the majority of our participants reported dysfunctional family environments such as divorced parents (n=16, 80%), child abuse (n=7, 35%), emotional abuse (n=2, 10%), sexual abuse (n=4, 20%) and neglect (n=4, 20%). In terms of the motivation for entry, the two most common turning point events related to entertainment and peer relationships. In total, 14 (70%) subjects expressed both entertainment and friends in their turning point event description. Seven subjects expressed disillusionment with society and 8 participants expressed negative exposure to diversity during their recollection of the turning point Recruitment and Radicalization among U.S. Far-Right Terrorists 2 National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism A Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence event that led to involvement in violent extremism. These findings highlight the influence of pre-entry risk factors on VE participation. Report three presents an empirically informed trauma model of extremist participation. This study relies on an expanded sample of right-wing extremists as compared to report two (n=44) and examines childhood trauma and adolescent misconduct as precursors to the onset of VE. This model consists of three primary dimensions: 1) different types of childhood trauma experienced, 2) subsequent onset of conduct problems during adolescence, and 3) non-ideological motivations and circumstances leading to extremist participation. Based on the analysis, we find the model fits slightly more than one-half of the subjects in the sample (n=27, 55%) with some variation of additional fit for the remaining subjects. For instance, a large portion of the sample reported experiencing some type of childhood maltreatment such as physical abuse (n=20, 45%), sexual abuse (n=10, 23%) or neglect (n=21, 48%). In addition to maltreatment, participants also reported a variety of chaotic living conditions such as parental incarceration (n=13, 30%), p...
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