Understanding Terrorism in America: From the Klan to Al Qaeda

By Christopher Hewitt | Go to book overview

4

The organizational dynamics of terrorism

The previous chapter showed two things: first that terrorism usually occurred when the political system was unresponsive or hostile to the concerns of certain groups, and second that each and every wave of terrorism was associated with the existence of a body of sympathizers and supporters. The closest association appeared to be between organizational mobilization (i.e. the number who participate in some extremist movement) and terrorist violence. In the first section of this chapter, the relationship between terrorist violence and the organizational growth and decline of extremist movements will be examined in more detail.


Social movements and the emergence of terrorism

In several instances, the emergence of terrorist groups and terrorist violence is linked historically with the decline of social movements, this decline often coinciding with the splitting of the movement into competing ideological factions. In the south, the membership of the non-violent and respectable White Citizens’ Councils reached a peak in 1957, and then tumbled to 23,000 in 1963 (McMillen 1971:153-4), before Klan violence and membership surged. Nelson (1993:39) suggests a link between the two phenomena, at least for Mississippi, pointing out that “the councils were so effective that…the Klan did not become a major factor in Mississippi until Sam Bowers organized the White Knights in 1964.”

In the case of the anti-war movement, a similar pattern is observable. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) grew rapidly from 1964 until 1968, then split into hostile ideological factions at its 1969 convention, and its membership plummeted. Revolutionary terrorism was both cause and consequence of this split, since one of the three factions

-53-

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Understanding Terrorism in America: From the Klan to Al Qaeda
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Tables viii
  • Illustrations x
  • Series Editors’ Preface xi
  • Preface xvi
  • 1 - The Latest Atrocity 1
  • 2 - Before September 11 12
  • 3 - The Political Context of American Terrorism 23
  • Notes 51
  • 4 - The Organizational Dynamics of Terrorism 53
  • 5 - The Terrorists 69
  • 6 - Dealing with Terrorists 82
  • 7 - Impacts and Consequences 106
  • 8 - The Future of American Terrorism 119
  • Appendix 134
  • Bibliography 138
  • Index 149
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