Date of Degree

10-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Criminal Justice

Advisor(s)

Joshua D. Freilich

Subject Categories

Criminology | Criminology and Criminal Justice

Keywords

Crime, Domestic terrorism, Extremist ideology, Far-right

Abstract

This study used factor analysis, logistic and multinomial logistic regression analysis to evaluate the effects of an individual's level of commitment to far-right extremism on his / her criminal offending behavior. Agnew's General Strain Theory (2001, 2005), Cloward and Ohlin's Differential Opportunity Theory (1960) and Simi and Futrell's (2010) concept of free / movement spaces were used to address the three research questions: (1) What effect did individual level stressors, significant others, and negative interactions with government officials have on membership in a far-right group, (2) What effect did individual level stressors, significant others, membership in an extremist group, and negative interactions with government officials have on an individual's commitment to rightwing extremism, (3) What effect did an individual's commitment to far-right extremism, and membership in extremist groups have on his / her criminal behavior?

This study investigated whether strain factors alone influenced radicalization, or if there was a combination of strain factors - including negative interactions with law enforcement - and interactions with other extremists that influenced levels of commitment to rightwing extremism. This study defined radicalization as "the process by which individuals become violent extremists...[that is] individuals who support or commit ideologically motivated violence to further political, social, or religious goals" (NIJ 2012 Research on Domestic Radicalization Solicitation, p. 4).

Commitment to rightwing extremism was conceptualized as commitment to far-rightist norms, similar to Cloward and Ohlin's (1960) definition of commitment to delinquent norms or the extent of indoctrination into a deviant subculture. This variable drew on themes found in previous research on extremism (Aho, 1990; Blazak, 2001; Blee, 2002; Ezekiel, 1995; Hamm, 2004, 1993; McCauley & Moskalenko, 2011, 2008). A factor analysis was used to check the validity of the commitment to far-right extremism scale.

Another unique characteristic of this study was that its dependent variable of criminal behavior included both violent (i.e., fatal) incidents and financial schemes. Data were obtained from the US Extremist Crime Database (ECDB), a Department of Homeland Security/START-funded project led by Dr. Joshua D. Freilich and Dr. Steven Chermak. Illegal violent incidents and financial schemes committed by domestic extremist that resulted in criminal charged were included in the ECDB. Violent incidents were defined as homicides, and financial schemes were defined as "illicit financial operation[s] involving a set of activities [i.e. techniques] carried out by one or more perpetrators to obtain unlawful gain or other economic advantage through the use of deliberate deception" (Belli, 2011, p. 64).

The study found that GST did not predict membership in extremist groups, but was associated with a higher risk of committing a homicide. Group membership was predicted by access to extremist groups and a possible predisposition or sympathy towards extremist beliefs. However, none of the theories explained levels of commitment to extremism. Instead, differences were found between two types of DFRs: Conspiracy Theorists and Proud Supremacists. Conspiracy Theorists were more likely to have been non-white and employed, while Proud Supremacists were more likely to have been white males who experienced strain and had extremist referent others. Finally, the presence of strain and a prior prison record were associated with violent criminal behavior of DFRs. High levels of commitment to extremism, female gender, and the absence of strain (i.e., held a good job and did not have prior negative interactions with government officials) were associated with an increased risk of financial offending behavior.

 
 

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