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Radical Right vs. Radical Left: Terrorist Theory and Threat

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 57 Issue: 8 Dated: (August 1990) Pages: 70-75
T Strentz
Date Published
6 pages
This comparison of leftwing and rightwing terrorist group activities and personalities in the United States concludes that predictive generalizations can be made regarding the overall structure and functioning of domestic terrorist organizations.
Radical leftwing groups generally consist of persons who are single, separated, or divorced. Many are involved in a subconscious conflict with their parents, and terrorist group membership provides them with an expression for this rebellion. On the other hand, radical rightwing groups frequently include entire families and are somewhat like cults. Leftist groups engage in protracted sessions of self-criticism, while rightist groups spend their time reinforcing their self-image as genuine and dedicated. The three personality types seen with some degree of regularity in both left and right domestic terrorist groups are the leader, the activist-operator, and the idealist. Members of leftwing groups tend to be better educated than members of rightwing groups. Those on the right tend to be more compulsive, while those on the left are more meticulous planners. Rightwing groups tend to be more violent, although leftwing groups more frequently target law enforcement as the willing tool of the oppressive regime. Both left and right groups try to achieve some level of solidarity with similarly oriented political organizations. Leftist groups are concentrated in the eastern part of the United States and in urban areas, while rightist groups are more commonly found in rural areas. Leftwing groups tend to be atheistic or agnostic, and rightwing terrorists are usually radical fundamentalists who seek to justify their actions with quotes from the scriptures. 16 references.