The number of terrorist groups in the United States continues to flourish. In 2011, the Huffington Post reported that there were “1,018 hate groups, nationally” (para. 1). Although there are notable differences between hate groups, there are some similarities. In order to meet the classification to be defined as a hate group the group needs to be organized. The second criterion to be defined as a hate group “is the clear use of enmity towards a specific group as a primary organizational focus” (Woolf & Hulsizer, 2004, p. 1). An exploration of hate groups will be provided in order to determine what factors influence the formation of hate groups. A comparison between hate groups and domestic terrorists will further be provided in order to determine the similarities and differences between hate groups and domestic terrorists.
Hate groups and hate related movements have existed throughout history. In the United States, hate groups began to flourish during the reconstruction era (Perry, 2004). This period birthed the infamous hate group the Klu Klux Klan. Hate groups during this period generally focused their efforts on African Americans and upholding white supremacy. Similar to other hate groups, the popularity of the KKK went in spurts when inequalities or changes were flourishing. The main difference between the KKK and other hate groups is the age of the KKK. In contrast, many hate groups in the present are relatively new. Gerstenfield (2013) concurs with this assessment in noting that many hate groups that are not classified as white supremacists have formed since the conclusion of World War II.
Elements of Hate Groups
According to the Anti-Defamation League (2014) “At the root of extremism are radical ideologies, radical religious beliefs and pent-up anger and frustration, all of which can lead to violent acts ranging from hate crimes to terrorism” (para. 2). The frustration and ideologies of an individual or individual are used to inspire others to come together for a common goal. Usually, the hate group during its initial stages is small. For example, the Anti-Defamation League (2012) acknowledges that the KKK was formed by “six college students founded the Ku Klux Klan between December 1865 and the summer of 1866 in the town of Pulaski, Tennessee” (para. 1). Despite the initial size of the KKK, it grew to be one of the most notorious hate groups in the history of the United States. The unification and leadership of this hate group and other popular hate groups are elements that help hate groups to expand (Woolf & Hulsizer, 2004).
Hate groups tend to recruit members through inspiration. They focus on a common goal and help to demonstrate why their beliefs are correct. Mullholand (2012) found that hate group membership is directly influenced by governmental decisions and periods of economic disparities. Furthermore, members tend to believe that their group is doing something to help the people being discriminated against (usually themselves). Often, violence is used as a way of showing the hate group’s commitment to dedication to their cause. However, acts of violence also serve as a way of showing society as a whole that the group is a serious threat and is willing to go to extremes to draw attention to their cause and promote change. Despite the ideology of promoting change, hate groups rarely have the constructive elements necessitated to promote change (Perry, 2004).
Differences Amongst Hate Groups
Although hate groups is a broad term used to define a group of individuals that are against certain individuals, beliefs or behaviors, there are many differences amongst hate groups (Anti-Defamation League, 2014). Even though hate groups tend to have similar formations, there are evident differences in what the hate group supports. Generally, race and religion are two of the most common elements in hate groups, with members believing their beliefs or race is superior. Some hate groups focus on behaviors, such as hate groups targeting homosexuals or animal rights. Yet determining whether or not certain beliefs of advocacy for certain beliefs is a hate group is increasingly difficult. For example, Gerstenfield (2013) classifies the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group as readily express and take action against homosexuality. However, the promotion of hate and organization of the members would suggest the ideology that the Westboro Baptist Church could be considered a hate group.
Hate Groups & Domestic Terrorism
The relationship between hate groups and domestic terrorism is complicated. Some hate groups do engage in acts of domestic terrorist (Gerstenfield, 2013). Furthermore, some members of hate groups are inspired by the group to commit acts of terrorism. However, a member committing an act of violence does not necessarily make the hate group domestic terrorists. Instead, it could be argued that the hate group influenced the individual to commit an act of domestic terrorism.
In some cases, hate groups can be considered to be domestic terrorists. For example, homegrown terrorism in the United States has been a growing problem for years (Gerstenfield, 2013). Individuals can connect with members of international terrorist groups in order to receive guidance, leadership and other common elements present in hate groups. Even though the individual may connect with international terrorist groups, he would be considered a domestic terrorist, due to the fact he was born in the country. Despite the differences, hate groups inspire individuals to commit acts of violence, which in some cases can be called acts of domestic terrorism.
The history of hate groups can be traced back to the mid-1800’s with the formation of the KKK. Since this period, the number of hate groups in the United States has flourished. Hate groups generally form out of frustration and anger. Often, hate group’s form or membership increases in certain economic conditions or during governmental changes. As a whole, hate groups tend to focus on a specific element such as race or religion. Hate groups tend to inspire individuals to commit acts of violence, which in some cases can be called acts of domestic terrorism. Despite the differences between hate groups, the presence of hate groups in the United States continues to expand rapidly.
- Extremism in American (2014) Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved August 27, 2014 from: http://archive.adl.org/learn/ext_us/
- Gerstenfeld P.B. (2013) Hate Crimes: Causes, Controls and Controversies. New Jersey: Sage.
- Ku Klux Klan-History (2014) Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved August 27, 2014 from: http://archive.adl.org/learn/ext_us/kkk/history.html?LEARN_Cat=ExtremismLE ARN_SubCat=Extremism_in_Americaxpicked=4item=kkk
- Mullholland S.E. (2012) Hate Sources: White Supremacist Groups & Hate Crimes. Retrieved August 27, 2014 from: http://pirate.shu.edu/~rotthoku/Liberty/Hate%20Source.pdf
- Perry B. (2004) Hate Crimes. New Jersey: Greenwood Publishing
- U.S. Hate and Extremist Groups Hit Record Levels, New Report Says (2012) Huffington Post. Retrieved August 26, 2014 from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-levin-jd/hate-groups-splc_b_1331318.html
- Woolf L.M., Hulsizer M.R. (2004) Hate Groups For Dummies: How To Build a Successful Hate Group. Humanity and Society 28 (1) 41-53