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Article by: Dr. Eitan Azani, Dr. Liram Koblenz-Stenzler, Lorena Atiyas-Lvovsky, Dan Ganor, Arie Ben-Am, Delilah Meshulam
In the 20th century, the influence of the far-right phenomenon upon public agenda and political systems became glaringly apparent, and its potency has been consistently growing in recent decades. The evolution of the far-right since its previous, twentieth-century iteration has become evident through both structural changes to its organizational composition as well as definitive shifts to the movement’s operational stratagem. The far-right political coalition has mutated from a hierarchical organization with a centralized operational command to a highly decentralized movement typified by “lone wolf” and “copycat” attacks driven by ideological rather than organizational influences. This shift in the movement’s approach to command and control occurred in conjunction with a marked escalation in the force of their terrorist ventures, from a ‘limited’ (soft) violence to ‘comprehensive’ (hard) violence demonstrated through mass casualty attacks mostly perpetrated by Lone Wolf actors.
1995 served as the watershed moment precipitating the above structural and operational changes, catalyzed by Timothy James McVeigh’s terrorist attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19th of that year. This act of domestic terror constituted the most fatal act of homegrown terrorism in United States’ history, and the first maximum-casualty terror attack perpetrated by a lone wolf. McVeigh’s attack altered the course of the far-right militia movement from which he derived his ideology. Prior to the Oklahoma City Bombing, white supremacist terrorists targeted specific individuals or groups considered enemies. McVeigh diverted from this established framework, intending to commit mass murder for the sake of inflicting a massive body count that would grab the attention of the wider population and inspire ‘brothers in arms’ to mobilize in the name of the white supremacist ideology. The attack’s success thereby triggered a fundamental shift in the trajectory of white power activism, spawning a new generation of radical extremists motivated to emulate and replicate McVeigh’s Lone Wolf modus operandi. The prolific legacy of the Oklahoma City bombing, coupled with the rapid technological advancements of the digital age, have formed a fertile ground for the internationalization of the white supremacist movement. No longer constrained by physical boundaries, far-right influencers have embraced the internet and social media as a means to disseminate their message, connect with like-minded individuals and expand their spheres of influence far beyond their specific geographic area. Within this modern, digitized far-right community, traditional organizational hierarchies are rendered obsolete, replaced by a decentralized and diffused online ecosystem in which the internet is weaponized as the agent of the “leaderless resistance”.
Furthermore, concurrently to the proliferation of violent, extremist rhetoric across the internet, other factions within the far-right ideological constellation have pursued a separate endeavor, attempting to legitimize racist, white supremacist discourse within mainstream politics. This normalization of racial identity politics is facilitated through rapid increase in far-right political parties which, by carefully manipulating latent xenophobic tendencies emanating from mainstream political issues such as immigration and Islamic terror, have galvanized massive public support and been elected into European parliaments.
The extremist far-right narrative considers the existing state apparatus inherently corrupt, seeking to topple the current political regime and the established social order in favor of a white ethnostate. In this sense, they are no different than the global jihadist organizations that seek to replace the current global political order with a worldwide caliphate, in which all mankind would live under the principles of Islamic jurisprudence. In order to actualize this idealized Islamic society, ardent Islamists enlist Da’wa and Jihad, the established methodology to accelerate the imposition of Islamic Law upon the world. However, despite these general similarities, unlike the global jihadi movement, the far-right is entirely devoid of a coherent governing ideology that delineates the parameters of accepted behavior Despite the overarching thematic commonalities, the new radical right of the twenty-first century is by no means a cohesive movement with a single defined philosophy or strategy. Instead, it encompasses a broad spectrum of ideological groups and subgroups, some in agreement and others in adamant disavowal of each other’s positions. Each ideological group has different demographics, subcultures and core beliefs that influence their modi operandi and potential to pose a legitimate domestic terror threat.
The far-right phenomenon has, in recent years, emerged as a virulent threat to national security, with white supremacist terrorism significantly outpacing terrorism from other perpetrators. Contending with the terrorist threat posed by the far-right is challenging, and therefore requires a deep understanding of contemporary white supremacist groups and ideologies: their guiding doctrines, strategies and organizational structures; the movement’s spoken and projected linguistic discourse; influencers and role models; cultural milieus; as well as leverageable opportunities to promote deradicalization.
This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the far-right phenomenon, in order to facilitate the formation of a general typological framework through which to assess threats posed by any current or future far-right affiliated groups.
 The authors would like to thank Max Hoffer, an intern at ICT for his assistance with this research