3 minute read
October 19, 2017

Are many hate crimes really examples of domestic terrorism?

Are many hate crimes really examples of domestic terrorism?

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Professor Arie Perliger, director of the graduate program in Security Studies at the School of Criminology and Justice Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell answers the question "Are many hate crimes really examples of domestic terrorism?" in the affirmative and argues that "dealing effectively with far-right violence requires something more: treating its manifestations as domestic terrorism."

Ideologically inspired targeted violence covers a range of violence including some violent hate crimes, domestic terrorism, and international terrorism. Before Omar Mateen’s horrific mass murder of 49 innocent people in Orlando, Florida in 2016 with attribution to the so-called Islamic State, the number of deaths caused by individuals espousing an extreme right ideology after 9/11 were far more numerous than those committed by individuals proclaiming allegiance to foreign terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Professor Perliger points out in an essay at that far-right violence is a growing menace that requires more attention than it is getting. In fact, he argues that while it may make sense to use hate crimes and other criminal statutes to prosecute far-right violence it is necessary to treat “its manifestations as domestic terrorism.”

Using an iceberg analogy (what we see is only a tiny portion of a much larger mass), he argues that murders and other violent attacks are just the visible tip. Professor Perliger goes on to say:

The rest of this iceberg is under water and out of sight. It includes hundreds of attacks every year that damage property and intimidate communities, such as the attempted burning of an African-American family’s garage in Schodack, New York. The garage was also defaced with racist graffiti.

And then he notes:

Data my team collected at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point show that the significant growth in far-right violence in recent years is happening at the base of the iceberg. While the main reasons for that are still not clear, it is important to remember that changes in societal norms are usually reflected in behavioral changes.

Professor Perliger argues that U.S. counterterrorism polices should

target the dissemination of white supremacist ideology, rather than just identifying planned attacks and monitoring established white supremacy groups.

In addition to promoting government efforts (within the the constraints of the First Amendment) it makes sense to see what can be done to inoculate against these violent ideologies.

The severity of the problem of extremist violence inspired by a range of extreme-right ideologies reinforces the need for community-led efforts that can work to inoculate against the false tropes that are used to buttress them. Such efforts can be used to promote inoculation against violent ideologies across the political spectrum of course, and such efforts are best suited to private citizens working through a wide variety of organizations at the local level.

Check out Professor Perliger’s essay here and learn more about him here.

Reach out to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority’s Targeted Violence Prevention Program if you are interested in adding targeted violence prevention to existing violence prevention efforts in your community or to build new prevention efforts if none currently exist. We believe in a whole-of-society approach that brings together people from community and faith-based groups; schools; community colleges; universities; local law enforcement; mental health, medical, and social service providers; and civil rights organizations. Only when local communities work together in a sustained and intentional manner over time, can we be effective in promoting greater community well-being.