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Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment

Concerned about the disenfranchising effects of the economic downturn, large numbers of returning combat veterans, election of first African American president, and a perception that gun control laws will soon be strengthened, Janet Napolitano’s Department of Homeland Security issued a report alerting law enforcement agencies of potential threats posed by “rightwing extremists”. The report, excerpted and included in full below, describes how the current economic and political climate is fueling the resurgence in radicalization and recruitment of individuals who might commit acts of domestic terrorism and/or commit other crimes. The nature of the report’s content will undoubtedly spark debate about whether the federal government is seeking to squelch what could be taken to be lawful political dissent. This is especially so when the report came to public light on the same day the Texas Governor made a high profile statement warning the federal government to “back off” and respect state’s rights under the 10th Amendment.

Key Findings

Rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues. The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment.

The current economic and political climate has some similarities to the 1990s when rightwing extremism experienced a resurgence fueled largely by an economic recession, criticism about the outsourcing of jobs, and the perceived threat to U.S. power and sovereignty by other foreign powers.

The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.

Current Economic and Political Climate

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS/I&A) assesses that a number of economic and political factors are driving a resurgence in rightwing extremist recruitment and radicalization activity. Despite similarities to the climate of the 1990s, the threat posed by lone wolves and small terrorist cells is more pronounced than in past years. In addition, the historical election of an African American president and the prospect of policy changes are proving to be a driving force for rightwing extremist recruitment and radicalization.

Exploiting Economic Downturn

Rightwing extremist chatter on the Internet continues to focus on the economy, the perceived loss of U.S. jobs in the manufacturing and construction sectors, and home foreclosures. Anti-Semitic extremists attribute these losses to a deliberate conspiracy conducted by a cabal of Jewish “financial elites.” These “accusatory” tactics are employed to draw new recruits into rightwing extremist groups and further radicalize those already subscribing to extremist beliefs. DHS/I&A assesses this trend is likely to accelerate if the economy is perceived to worsen.

Historical Presidential Election

Rightwing extremists are harnessing this historical election as a recruitment tool. Many rightwing extremists are antagonistic toward the new presidential administration and its perceived stance on a range of issues, including immigration and citizenship, the expansion of social programs to minorities, and restrictions on firearms ownership and use. Rightwing extremists are increasingly galvanized by these concerns and leverage them as drivers for recruitment. From the 2008 election timeframe to the present, rightwing extremists have capitalized on related racial and political prejudices in expanded propaganda campaigns, thereby reaching out to a wider audience of potential sympathizers.

Revisiting the 1990s

Paralleling the current national climate, rightwing extremists during the 1990s exploited a variety of social issues and political themes to increase group visibility and recruit new members. Prominent among these themes were the militia movement’s opposition to gun control efforts, criticism of free trade agreements (particularly those with Mexico), and highlighting perceived government infringement on civil liberties as well as white supremacists’ longstanding exploitation of social issues such as abortion, inter-racial crimes, and same-sex marriage. During the 1990s, these issues contributed to the growth in the number of domestic rightwing terrorist and extremist groups and an increase in violent acts targeting government facilities, law enforcement officers, banks, and infrastructure sectors.

Economic Hardship and Extremism

Historically, domestic rightwing extremists have feared, predicted, and anticipated a cataclysmic economic collapse in the United States. Prominent antigovernment conspiracy theorists have incorporated aspects of an impending economic collapse to intensify fear and paranoia among like-minded individuals and to attract recruits during times of economic uncertainty. Conspiracy theories involving declarations of martial law, impending civil strife or racial conflict, suspension of the U.S. Constitution, and the creation of citizen detention camps often incorporate aspects of a failed economy. Antigovernment conspiracy theories and “end times” prophecies could motivate extremist individuals and groups to stockpile food, ammunition, and weapons. These teachings also have been linked with the radicalization of domestic extremist individuals and groups in the past, such as violent Christian Identity organizations and extremist members of the militia movement.

Illegal Immigration

Rightwing extremists were concerned during the 1990s with the perception that illegal immigrants were taking away American jobs through their willingness to work at significantly lower wages. They also opposed free trade agreements, arguing that these arrangements resulted in Americans losing jobs to countries such as Mexico.

Over the past five years, various rightwing extremists, including militias and white supremacists, have adopted the immigration issue as a call to action, rallying point, and recruiting tool. Debates over appropriate immigration levels and enforcement policy generally fall within the realm of protected political speech under the First Amendment, but in some cases, anti-immigration or strident pro-enforcement fervor has been directed against specific groups and has the potential to turn violent.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS/I&A) assesses that rightwing extremist groups’ frustration over a perceived lack of government action on illegal immigration has the potential to incite individuals or small groups toward violence. If such violence were to occur, it likely would be isolated, small-scale, and directed at specific immigration-related targets.

Legislative and Judicial Drivers

Many rightwing extremist groups perceive recent gun control legislation as a threat to their right to bear arms and in response have increased weapons and ammunition stockpiling, as well as renewed participation in paramilitary training exercises. Such activity, combined with a heightened level of extremist paranoia, has the potential to facilitate criminal activity and violence.

Open source reporting of wartime ammunition shortages has likely spurred rightwing extremists—as well as law-abiding Americans—to make bulk purchases of ammunition. These shortages have increased the cost of ammunition, further exacerbating rightwing extremist paranoia and leading to further stockpiling activity. Both rightwing extremists and law-abiding citizens share a belief that rising crime rates attributed to a slumping economy make the purchase of legitimate firearms a wise move at this time.

Weapons rights and gun-control legislation are likely to be hotly contested subjects of political debate in light of the 2008 Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller in which the Court reaffirmed an individual’s right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but left open to debate the precise contours of that right. Because debates over constitutional rights are intense, and parties on all sides have deeply held, sincere, but vastly divergent beliefs, violent extremists may attempt to co-opt the debate and use the controversy as a radicalization tool.

Perceived Threat from Rise of Other Countries

Rightwing extremist paranoia of foreign regimes could escalate or be magnified in the event of an economic crisis or military confrontation, harkening back to the “New World Order” conspiracy theories of the 1990s. The dissolution of Communist countries in Eastern Europe and the end of the Soviet Union in the 1990s led some rightwing extremists to believe that a “New World Order” would bring about a world government that would usurp the sovereignty of the United States and its Constitution, thus infringing upon their liberty. The dynamics in 2009 are somewhat similar, as other countries, including China, India, and Russia, as well as some smaller, oil-producing states, are experiencing a rise in economic power and influence.

Disgruntled Military Veterans

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS/I&A) assesses that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat. These skills and knowledge have the potential to boost the capabilities of extremists—including lone wolves or small terrorist cells—to carry out violence. The willingness of a small percentage of military personnel to join extremist groups during the 1990s because they were disgruntled, disillusioned, or suffering from the psychological effects of war is being replicated today.

Please leave a comment below or, if you you feel your rights are impacted by issues described in this report, you may contact

Please leave a comment below or, if you you feel your rights are impacted by issues described in this report, you may contact

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13 Comments so far

  1. SavageSun4x4 on April 15, 2009 5:04 pm

    This should make anyone puke

  2. Logan on April 15, 2009 10:13 pm

    Are you serious? This isn’t even news, this is pure fear inspiring propaganda. Journalism is dead in America.

  3. Vince Johnson on April 16, 2009 2:01 am

    I can’t find a way to print the “Rightwing Extremism” report. Is it “fixed” to prevent this or is my computer savvy under equipped?

  4. jan on April 16, 2009 8:18 pm


  5. Duke Hamstring on April 20, 2009 3:37 pm

    I read the report. Its a sad day when a simple difference in political opinion puts you in the same group as those who stockpile ammunition.
    For the record, in case DHS reads this: Obama is an unqualified glad-hander and is the real american idol. How’s that for free speech, you anti-Christ assholes.

  6. Kevn Anderson on April 20, 2009 9:28 pm

    Wow. So common sense can be bad if it offends? Or are people going to deny that extremist groups can use the current situation in this country to increase recruitment.

    I think some people are forgetting that the ole Bushies made a report almost identical to this in 2004, regarding left wing groups.

    Also… for people who want to lay this on the Obama administration, this report was compiled during the Bush administration, it just wasn’t finalized until after he left office.

    Not that any republotards will believe that.

  7. Ralph Waldo Emerson on April 22, 2009 4:42 am

    Here is a printable link.

    “We the people… protecting our civil liberties, do hereby demand the firing of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano”

    Everyone is entitled to an opinion or at least I think that is what The United States of America was founded on? If someone really does break the law as real extremist then lock them up. Don’t punish those that decide to think for themselves and offer up an opinion that is different than the rest. If we start locking up people with opinions or the thinkers then RWE will turn in his grave.

    “Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of America’s Founding Thinkers”

  8. April Lamb on April 29, 2009 12:17 pm

    It’s not the journalists here that are “fear mongering”. It’s our own government. I’m concerned because they are comparing honorable decent men and women to Timothy Mc Veigh, a person who was so depraved that he parked his bomb outside of a daycare center. This alert puts any vetran on the watch list. Not worried about that then think of this… There are now Senators who will be on the terrorist watch list, as will both of the former presidents Bush. Now think about how many in your own lives that you know who served in the military… All of them are now classified as terrorist threats. This is a slap in the face to those who laid down their lives for us. It is wrong and no amount of appology can make it right. Oh yeah, Napolitano appologised for this but… It’s time to stop the politics of fear and division.

  9. Jamie on May 1, 2009 5:28 am

    I don’t get the furor. Did everyone actually read this directive? The only questionable statement I can see is pertaining to returning military personnel. I think that is too broad and should probably have been eliminated. But, it’s been said, apologized for and understood for it’s actual meaning.

    Unless you are involved in extremist activities, it does not apply.

    Thank you.

  10. curtis on May 27, 2009 7:21 pm

    To “rephrase” the report: while the DHS/I&A has no specific information that circus clowns and little old ladies are currently planning acts of violence, they may be gaining new recruits by playing on fears of ……
    The only ones looking for new recruits are the ones playing us off against each other. Kevn is correct in that this is evidence of politicized justice system, too. This kind of thing came out after OKC.
    So why not enforce border laws, why the concern if we fight them there so we don’t fight them here, why let banksters screw up our economy? Why doesn’t DHS address some real concerns instead of going after people who are only asking for justice? Or is it USG policy to protect the perpetrators and screw their victims?

  11. Howard Lauther on June 2, 2009 3:01 pm

    If you’re going to report, then get your facts straight. “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” was created by the Bush Administration on January 23, 2007, long before most people had even heard of Barrack Obama. Since then, it’s been constantly updated with data which is being continually developed by the use of warrantless wiretaps and other tools via in the Patriot Act, which is unconstitutional. The Bush administration also created a leftwing watch list entitled, “Leftwing Extremists Likely to Increase Use of Cyber Attacks over the Coming Decade.”

  12. Jessica Sanchez on August 24, 2009 2:43 am

    I came across a very disturbing piece on the internet web called “Battle of Jakes”. This is a really frightening scenario of a kind of civil war coming to America.

  13. Andy Curtiss on January 19, 2010 12:27 am

    For anyone who thinks that the government should be afraid of combat veterans, they are right. The government should fear them; because they are the only American citizens who have put their lives on the line or “their money where their mouths are” so to speak. They swore an oath to uphold the constitution against all enemies foreign and DOMESTIC. And for some of you jokers who believe that this attitude is just on the governments part, then you should fear them too!!! When things start getting worse and scumbag politicians like Obama continue down the road to a totalitarian government as oppressive as the one Hitler had in Nazi Germany or as we continue towards the police state surveillance society like Orwell’s 1984. We will make sure to line up all the liberal,Global Warming religion worshiping, baby killing, globalists elitist thinking, Obama supporting oppressive fascists; and show you why that fear of combat veterans is there. Remember this is still America. It’s not Obama’s Nazi Germany yet!!! Napolitano should be hung!! The sad thing is although Obama and his administration completely support this kind of crap, it was produced during the Bush administration!

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