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News, documents and analysis on violent extremism


Monday, October 15, 2018
 

THE ALT-RIGHT TWITTER CENSUS

VOX-Pol has released its latest report in the VOX-Pol publication series, titled The Alt-Right Twitter Census: Defining and Describing the Audience for Alt-Right Content on Twitter, authored by J.M. Berger, on 15 October 2018.

About the Report

This report defines and describes the alt-right audience on twitter, and identifies the top ten most influential twitter accounts for the alt-right online. Since 2016, the alt-right have held a significant spot in global politics due to their continually expanding online presence. The report examines this online presence ‘with robust metrics and an analysis of content shared by adherents’, primarily on Twitter.

Key Findings

There were four overlapping themes apparent that dominated the alt-right network in this study:
  • Support for US President Donald Trump, support for white nationalism, opposition to immigration (often framed in anti-Muslim terms), and accounts primarily devoted to transgressive trolling and harassment.
  • @realdonaldtrump was the most influential Twitter account among all users analysed in this study; @richardbspencer was the most influential account within the specific network of users who followed accounts that contained the phrase ‘alt-right’ in their Twitter profiles.
  • Support for Trump outstripped all other themes by a wide margin, including references to his name and various campaign slogans in hashtags and user self-descriptions. The most common word in user profiles was ‘MAGA’ (short for Make America Great Again, Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan), and the most common word pair in user profiles was ‘Trump supporter’.
  • The alt-right network was most consistently ‘for’ Trump, but users frequently defined themselves by what they were ‘against’. Top word pairs in user self-descriptions included ‘anti-EU’, ‘anti-Islam’, ‘anti-globalist’, ‘anti-feminist’ and ‘anti-Zionist’.
  • While the alt-right’s presence on Twitter was substantial, probably encompassing more than 100,000 users as a conservative estimate, the sample analysed here showed extensive evidence of manipulation, including manipulated follower counts, follower tracking, and automated tweeting. Neither the source nor the exact scope of these efforts could be conclusively determined.
About the Author

J.M. Berger’s prior publications include, with Jonathon Morgan, The ISIS Twitter Census (2015), with Jessica Stern, ISIS: The State of Terror (2015), and Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam (2011), along with numerous other reports and papers.

Previous to joining VOX-Pol, J.M. Berger was a Fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, a Non-resident Fellow with Brookings’ Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, an Associate Fellow at VOX-Pol partner the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London (KCL), and an Associate Fellow at the International Centre for Counter-terrorism (ICCT) — The Hague.

Berger works as a consultant, researcher and trainer on issues related to extremism and social media for clients that include Western governments and technology and security companies.

Accessing VOX-Pol Reports

All VOX-Pol reports are open-access. This report is available for download HERE. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the report, please email info@voxpol.eu with your request.

Source: https://www.voxpol.eu/new-research-report-the-alt-right-twitter-census-by-j-m-berger/

Buy the new book, Extremism, by J.M. Berger. Previous works include:

-- ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger
-- Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam

For more information, visit www.jmberger.com


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Wednesday, August 8, 2018
 

OUT NOW: 'EXTREMISM' by J.M. BERGER

A rising tide of extremist movements threaten to destabilize civil societies around the globe. It has never been more important to understand extremism, yet scholars and policy makers can't even define who is an extremist and why. In this volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, J. M. Berger offers a nuanced introduction to extremist movements, explaining what extremism is, how extremist ideologies are constructed, and why extremism can escalate into violence. Berger shows that although the ideological content of extremist movements varies widely, there are common structural elements. Using diverse case studies, he describes the evolution of identity movements, individual and group radicalization, and more. If we understand the causes of extremism, and the common elements of extremist movements, Berger says, we will be more effective in countering it.

Buy now! 'Extremism,' Kindle edition, by J.M. Berger

Buy now! 'Extremism,' Google Books edition, by J.M. Berger

Pre-order! 'Extremism,' print edition, by J.M. Berger

Buy ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam


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Tuesday, August 15, 2017
 

Calling Them Nazis

There’s an increasingly common argument online against referring to the alt-right by its chosen name. “Call them Nazis” is the refrain. If you haven’t said it yourself, you’ve probably seen other people saying it.

While this approach may be understandable and may suit certain rhetorical purposes, it’s a grave mistake for journalists and experts who substantively study and cover the movement to embrace this approach.

The alt-right category is extremely important to understanding what’s happening in this movement. Nazis are only part of this movement, or more correctly neo-Nazis, since most of them aren't German nationalists. If neo-Nazis were America’s only problem, it would be a much smaller problem.

The alt-right encompasses a variety of right-wing and white supremacist movements, from conspiracists to the KKK. No single movement under the alt-right umbrella is especially large or effectively mobilized. No single movement under the alt-right umbrella can turn out the hundreds of adherents necessary to command headlines with an action short of terrorism.

Rejecting the alt-right label might make you feel better, but it unproductively obscures the primary element that makes it work as a movement—its ability to unite disparate radical groups with differing beliefs and tactics into a single amorphous community that is capable of coordinated action. Understand this: If the alt-right movement consisted only of neo-Nazis, we would not be talking about it.

In the fight against the Islamic State, the semantics of “what to call them” dominated a lot of policy discussion in stupid ways. The Obama administration generally argued that using the group’s self-appointed name somehow legitimized its aspiration. Opponents of the group spent years referring to it as ISIL or Daesh, with no quantifiable impact on the group’s success or failure.

You can call the alt-right whatever names you like. Express your disdain, it's fine. But those of us who are doing serious work on this issue need to use a label with more analytical utility. The alt-right is meaningfully different from the right-wing movements that preceded it. To understand its appeal and counter its influence, we need to understand it as a distinct category and acknowledge those differences. 

Books by J.M. Berger:

ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam


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Friday, April 21, 2017
 

Extremist Construction of Identity


This International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague, Counter-Terrorism Strategic Communications Project Research Paper examines how the white supremacist movement Christian Identity emerged from a non-extremist forerunner known as British Israelism. By examining ideological shifts over the course of nearly a century, the paper seeks to identify key pivot points in the movement’s shift toward extremism and explain the process through which extremist ideologues construct and define in-group and out-group identities. Based on these findings, the paper proposes a new framework for analyzing and understanding the behavior and emergence of extremist groups. The proposed framework can be leveraged to design strategic counter-terrorism communications programs using a linkage-based approach that deconstructs the process of extremist in-group and out-group definition. Future publications will continue this study, seeking to refine the framework and operationalize messaging recommendations.

Read the full research paper

Related: The Dangerous New Americanism

Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam


Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.


     



     

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Monday, November 28, 2016
 

INTELWIRE Resources on Right-Wing and Racist Extremism

In the current U.S. and European political climate, there are significant concerns about the resurgence of right-wing extremism. Here's a list of resources on the subject available on this site and derived from my recent (and not so recent) body of work.

ACADEMIC RESEARCH 

The Turner Legacy: The Storied Origins and Enduring Impact of White Nationalism’s Deadly Bible
The Turner Diaries, the infamous racist dystopian novel by neo-Nazi William Luther Pierce, has inspired more than 200 murders since its publication in 1978. This paper documents the books that directly and indirectly inspired Turner and examines the extensive violence that the novel has inspired.

Nazis vs. ISIS on Twitter
White nationalists are thriving on Twitter and outperforming the Islamic State, which has been notorious for its success using social media, in both recruitment and messaging. A comparitive study of metrics and messaging. 

What Sovereign Citizens Believe
Members of the sovereign citizen movement are increasingly in the news for their violent confrontations with law enforcement, but their confusing ideology can be difficult to understand. This paper explains in simple language what sovereigns believe, and where those beliefs originated.

A 2012 study of white nationalist use of Twitter, and the introduction of new methods for measuing influence and in-groupness. 

A look at government infiltration of antigovernment movements during the 1990s, and some of the troubling dimensions of these operations. 

ARTICLES 

How Donald Trump Won the White Nationalist Vote
Donald Trump wasn't an obvious choice to champion white nationalism in national politics. How he convinced skeptical racists that he was their candidate for president.

The Turner Diaries and the Alt Right
Before there was an alt-right, there was The Turner Diaries. First published nearly 40 years ago, the infamous dystopian novel depicts a fictional white nationalist revolution culminating in global genocide. The book has inspired both violence and ideological change among white supremacists in its decades of history.

Blog Posts on Racist Dystopian Fiction:


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Monday, November 21, 2016
 

What's in a Name, Redux

Longtime readers may recall my take on calling the Islamic State by the name it chose for itself, with many otherwise serious people insisting that calling it ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh was a key part of our war of ideas.

As I wrote in 2014:
Extremist groups always adopt a name that reflects their greater ambitions, and as a rule, we refer to them by the names they choose. Do we legitimize the concept of a white-only state when we refer to the Aryan Nations? Do we legitimize Marxist-Leninist philosophy as shiny when we use the name Shining Path? Are we implying that fascism will bring a Golden Dawn when we talk about the Greek political party?
No, no and no.
So here we go again, this time with the term "alt right," a rebranding of white nationalism to make it more palatable to normies. My thinking has not changed. Many argue that calling the alt right by its chosen name is legitimizing, including some who think nothing of using the name Islamic State.

As I noted previously, that's not really the way this works. The solution is not to make people stop using the name, it's to make sure people know what the name and the movement behind it represents.

Or more succinctly: Worry a lot less about what you call it, and worry more about what you can do about it.

Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam


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Wednesday, November 2, 2016
 

Interactive Map: KKK Flyer Drops, 2015-2016



Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam


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Saturday, October 15, 2016
 

The International Banks Conspiracy, Explained

If you're not a white supremacist, you may have missed why some people are saying Donald Trump's stump speeches echo anti-Semitic tropes, with references to a conspiracy of secret meetings "with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial power." I discussed the origins of this language in a paper earlier this year on the sovereign citizen movement, excerpted below. It's worth noting in this context that Trump has specifically called out the Federal Reserve in recent weeks for being part of a conspiracy to defeat his campaign.

Financial Conspiracy Theories


Figure 1: Excerpt from The Federal Reserve Conspiracy by Eustace Mullins

Posse Comitatus [a sovereign citizen precursor group] drew some of its ideology from a boutique industry of financial conspiracy theories that sprang up during the early 20th century, in response to the growing complexity of the American economy and banking system. In particular, the creation and function of the Federal Reserve has fueled an immense reservoir of conspiracy theories regarding public debts, the value of currency, and the "international bankers" who profit from America's supposed economic misfortunes. The U.S. abandonment of the gold standard has also contributed significantly to these conspiracy theories, as many people within the sovereign movement believe U.S. currency is without real value if it is not backed by gold. 

"Only falsehoods and false principles need be discussed in mysterious terms," wrote Gertrude Coogan, author of the 1935 tract Money Creators, cited by Posse as a guide to American economic history. "Any citizen of ordinary mentality can readily understand the money system of this country."[i] This concept—that something must be simple in order to be true—paradoxically serves to undermine the reality of history and modern economics, even as its proponents generate conspiracy theories that are often themselves breathtakingly complex.

Among other things, Coogan claimed the Civil War was not about slavery but instead was the result of a conspiracy by "certain bankers" and "internationalists" to weaken America for future economic exploitation. Coogan's book was coy about the identity of the "international money masters and their domestic pawns" who were responsible for subverting the Constitution and destroying capitalism, but other authors cited by Posse did not bother to mask their anti-Semitism. Eustace Mullins, author of the Posse-recommended The Federal Reserve Conspiracy, dutifully enumerated the biographies of the "enemy aliens" who had seized control of the American banking system with information cited to the "Who's Who in American Jewry."[ii]

Coogan, Mullins, Wickliffe Vennard, and other favored authors cited by Posse Comitatus were all published or republished by a company known as Omni Publications, which today continues to distribute their works under the name Omni Christian Book Club. Omni represents one of the most significant propagators of these conspiracy theories. Over the course of decades, Omni has propagated a vast array of material related to "international banking conspiracy," some of it carefully generic, others overtly anti-Semitic. (The company also distributed the infamous anti-Semitic hoax, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.)

The short version of these various theories is that "international bankers," usually meaning Jews, rendered U.S. currency worthless in 1913 with the creation of the Federal Reserve. These theories generally hold that the international banking conspiracy was intended to subject Americans to "economic slavery." A 1968 Omni Publications pamphlet, The Green Magicians, blamed World War II on an "internationalist" effort to crush Hitler's superior financial system and includes an anti-Semitic quote falsely attributed to Ben Franklin. The "bankers" were in turn tied to the spread of Communism, a common theme in such publications from the 1950s onward.

Many of these concepts have filtered down into the sovereign citizen movement, but usually in a much-diluted form. While white supremacy and anti-Semitism can certainly be found among sovereign citizens, sovereign texts tend to strip out many details, including direct references to Jewish conspiracies, presenting a greatly simplified version of events with vague references to "bankers" as the source of the conspiracy. Key elements that have been carried into the modern movement, at something of a distance from their original context, include the sinister nature of the Federal Reserve, a host of incorrect inferences related to the effect of America's public debt, and the illusory nature of credit and the U.S. currency, with the accompanying implications for money-making procedures and schemes.






[i] Coogan, Gertrude. Money Creators. Unknown (1935).
[ii] Mullins, Eustace. The Federal Reserve Conspiracy. Christian Educational Association (1954). 

Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam


Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.


     



     

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Sunday, September 11, 2016
 

Nazis vs. ISIS on Twitter

My new paper for GWU's Program on Extremism has been released:

Nazis vs. ISIS on Twitter
The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has distinguished itself as a pioneer in the use of social media for recruitment. But, while ISIS continues to be one of the most influential terrorist groups in the material world, other extremists are closing the gap in the virtual realm. On Twitter, ISIS’s preferred social platform, American white nationalist movements have seen their followers grow by more than 600% since 2012. Today, they outperform ISIS in nearly every social metric, from follower counts to tweets per day. This study examines and compares the use of Twitter by white nationalists, Nazi sympathizers, and ISIS supporters respectively, providing some preliminary comparisons of how each movement uses the platform. 



Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam


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15 Years of Terror -- PBS Nova

I appeared on PBS Nova to discuss terrorism on social media, and my relationship with Omar Hammami.

Nova: 15 Years of Terror

Related story: Omar and Me

Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam


Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.


     



     

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BOOKS

"...smart, granular analysis..."

ISIS: The State of Terror
"Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger's new book, "ISIS," should be required reading for every politician and policymaker... Their smart, granular analysis is a bracing antidote to both facile dismissals and wild exaggerations... a nuanced and readable account of the ideological and organizational origins of the group." -- Washington Post

More on ISIS: The State of Terror

"...a timely warning..."

Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam:
"At a time when some politicians and pundits blur the line between Islam and terrorism, Berger, who knows this subject far better than the demagogues, sharply cautions against vilifying Muslim Americans. ... It is a timely warning from an expert who has not lost his perspective." -- New York Times

More on Jihad Joe

ABOUT

INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.

RECENT

Newest posts!

THE ALT-RIGHT TWITTER CENSUS

OUT NOW: 'EXTREMISM' by J.M. BERGER

Calling Them Nazis

Extremist Construction of Identity

INTELWIRE Resources on Right-Wing and Racist Extre...

What's in a Name, Redux

Interactive Map: KKK Flyer Drops, 2015-2016

The International Banks Conspiracy, Explained

Nazis vs. ISIS on Twitter

15 Years of Terror -- PBS Nova

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