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The tipping point to terrorism: Involvement in right-wing terrorist groups in the United States

NCJ Number
Reeser, Ann M. Stacey
Date Published

This dissertation presents case history data from 10 different right-wing terrorist organizations in the US from 1980 to 2002 with the aim of providing theoretical and practical insights into the factors that drive individuals to become involved in terrorist groups.


This dissertation focuses on the joining processes of individuals participating in right-wing terrorism (RWT) in the US, specifically, adherents to the White Supremacist Movement (WSM). The author analyzed the influences structural components, family dynamics, and non-familial relationships. Structural components of the involvement involved 20 variables and included several measures to analyze the biographical availability of indictees. Biographical availability is defined as the absence of personal constraints. Family dynamics research involved six variables and included measures to analyze both biographical availability and social networks. The research on non-familial relationships involved seven variables and included measures to analyze social networks. The author also analyzed an additional six biographical availability variables which did not fit into any of the three research questions. The study used a mixed methodological approach to analyze 66 right-wing extremists indicted for terrorist-related charges, from 10 different terrorist organizations in the US from 1980 to 2002. The author primarily relied on qualitative case analysis using narrative data to uncover what influences an individual to become involved in a terrorist group. Conclusions suggested that individuals join RWT groups due to either biographical availability or social networks, and possibly due to a combination of both, while social ties to people outside of dissident groups may delay or stop a person from joining a RWT organization.