Date of Award

Summer 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Forensic Psychology



First Advisor or Mentor

Shuki Cohen

Second Reader

Joshua Freilich

Third Advisor

Chitra Raghavan


Recent research has attempted to better understand the complexity of modern terrorism, which seems evermore present in our worldview. However, the scope of the literature lacks representation of far-right ideology, and that of White supremacists within the campaign. Specifically, the potential fear of being labeled as a racist has been recognized as both an obstacle to communicating racial issues and as a potential driver behind the self-imposed social exclusion of White supremacists, which may further contribute to their radicalization rigidity around race-relevant political issues. The current study is an inquiry into the internal perceptions and conceptualizations of racism among members of the Ku Klux Klan. This study examined occurrences of fear-related sentiments used by KKK members surrounding their racist ideology within a large corpus (1.8 million words) of written exchanges in an online forum concerning current events. For detecting expressions of fear of being labeled as racists, the corpus was concordance for any occurrence of the word-stem racist. The results suggest that the concept of racism is both complex and diverse among seemingly like-minded KKK members who subscribe to White supremacy tenets. Furthermore, for a group that explicitly endorses racist beliefs, both the fear of being labeled as racists and the implicit negative connotations to racism were surprisingly high. These complex formulations of racism were embedded within the group’s denial and neutralization of any ‘true’ racism in their sentiments, attitudes, or behaviors. This study’s results are relevant to the construction of ecologically-valid counter-messaging campaigns that engage with the empirically-derived, internal attitudes of White supremacists.



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