Extremist Or Domestic Terrorist? There Is A Difference.
Here is what you need to know. (Analysis/Opinion)
The Department of Homeland Security released a bulletin stating that domestic terrorism is a top national security concern, especially during the months of February through June. In light of this, it is important to have a strong knowledge base about terrorism and extremism so that we can be aware of our surroundings and of the information we consume.
Defining In-Groups and Out-Groups
Extremism requires an in-group and an out-group.
In-groups are defined by beliefs, traits, and practices. In-groups will share the same creed and the same group values. They may have similar “descriptive qualities” such as physical appearances, mental (such as intelligence or creativity), social, or spiritual qualities. An in-group will also have similar requirements for their behavior. This can include past, current, and future behaviors.1
Out-groups are defined by in-groups who build a narrative and create a negative identity that is in opposition to the in-groups identity. The information that in-groups put out about out-groups will be a mix of truth, interpretation, and fiction. This can become even more fictional and toxic over time, purposely emphasizing only negative aspects while completely ignoring any positive points.2
It is common for people to divide themselves into similar groups, however the difference between this and extremist in-groups is that the in-group is exclusive and will propose solutions in the form of hostile or violent action against out-groups.3
Difference Between Extremism and Terrorism
There is difference between terrorism and extremism. Terrorism is considered a tactic, and extremism is categorized as a belief system.4 Therefore, one can be a terrorist without also being an extremist, and vice versa. The United States’ legal definition as described in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (FRAA) of Fiscal Years 1988 and 1989 as, “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.”
Extremism is defined as the belief that an in-group can only survive if hostile action is taken towards the out-group. These hostile actions can show themselves in the form of verbal attacks, discriminatory behavior, violence, and genocide. Extremism can come from both state and non-state actors.5
Violent extremism is when the in-group perceives that they will only survive by taking violent action against an out-group. The in-group may paint these violent actions as defensive, offensive, or preemptive.6 Violence is legally defined as, “an offense that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another.”
Domestic and International Terrorism
The government classifies certain organizations around the world as foreign terrorist organizations. These organizations primarily operate and radicalize overseas. This is called international terrorism.
Domestic terrorism refers to attacks occurring on domestic soil, by domestic actors, who were radicalized domestically. The government does not classify specific groups in the U.S. as domestic terror organizations, as they do with foreign organizations, over freedom of speech and association concerns. There are few criminal laws specifically targeting domestic terrorist acts, as these crimes would be covered by other laws that already exist. For example, if a domestic terror act killed people, the act of homicide is already illegal throughout the U.S. and would simply be prosecuted as murder. The Supreme Court also held that providing material support to international terrorist organizations was criminal, but that this may not necessarily be applicable to domestic organizations. The Court also argued that fourth amendment privacy protections were different based on domestic or international status. (ALSO READ: What Exactly Are Human Rights?)
It is important to have a clear understanding of what constitutes domestic terror as opposed to international terror, as well as understanding what basic concepts make up extremist ideologies. Equally important is finding the balance between freedom of speech protections and the safety and security of our country. We should ensure that groups simply exercising their first amendment rights are not wrongly classified as domestic terrorists or domestic terror organizations, but we also must recognize that there are domestic and international groups that do use violence in attempts to achieve political ends. The key differences between free speech and free association and terrorism lie in a groups’ exclusivity (in-group vs. out-group) and willingness to act violently.
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Extremism, J.M. Berger, Pg. 30, The MIT Press Essential Knowledge Series
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