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Critical Events in the Life Trajectories of Domestic Extremist White Supremacist Groups


Critical Events in the Life Trajectories of Domestic Extremist White Supremacist Groups

Abstract: 
This study examines the evolution of four domestic far-right racist organizations: Aryan Nations, National Alliance, Public Enemy Number 1 (PEN1), and Oklahoma Constitutional Militia (OCM). Information about the groups was compiled through open-source documents, including scholarly, government, watch-group, and media accounts.  We compared the changes that occurred in these organizations and found that they were influenced by contextual and organizational variables. We focused primarily on the rise of the groups. Three organizations experienced growth and longevity because they (1) had able leadership that set forth a clear ideological message and goals, (2) undertook concrete actions to advance their ideology and goals as well as had the finances necessary for this, (3) took advantage of political opportunities, and (4) were internally cohesive.  Conversely, he OCM’s leader displayed poor judgment, and the group did not set forth a coherent message, conduct successful actions, or take advantage of opportunities. The OCM neither grew nor amounted to an important extremist organization. We also examined the fall of the organizations. Three groups declined because of organizational instability and/or responses by law enforcement and non-state actors, such as watch groups. PEN1—despite periodic internal debates about its mission—has avoided organizational instability and continues to grow.

Publication Information

Full Citation: 

Freilich, Joshua, and Steven Chermak, David Caspi. 2009. "Critical Events in the Life Trajectories of Domestic Extremist White Supremacist Groups." Criminology & Public Policy (August): 497-530.

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