Nazis, Communists, Klansmen, and Others on the Fringe: Political Extremism in America

By John George; Laird Wilcox | Go to book overview

In a book concerned with politics, it is fair for the reader to ask where on the political spectrum the authors fit. Our positions are a bit difficult to pin down. Temperamentally, we're more or less "liberals," and this is evident in the way we approach our subject. The necessity of pragmatism is apparent to both of us, although we each have a touch of the idealist as well. Both of us have been attached to the civil rights movement and both of us are considered strong civil libertarians and champions of the underdog. At one time these traits would have put us on the moderate left, but this is less clear today. Because we have a very wide range of friends and associations, it would be possible to find bits of evidence to "link" us with any position on the political spectrum, only to have these canceled out by other "links" in the opposing direction. Right-wingers tend to view us as leftists, and many left-wingers think we're rightists. We often differ with one another on various issues, but our mutual respect and tolerance make this collaboration possible. Perhaps we might be most accurately described as pragmatists with libertarian tendencies.

We hope that, similarly, the tone of our book could be called "pragmatic with a touch of idealism." In this work we will attempt to delineate the characteristics of extremism and extremists as we have experienced them and give many examples. We will also try to summarize the pre-1960 historical background of American extremist movements, discuss conspiracy theories and their validity, offer our insight on what motivates extremists, and discuss a number of contemporary groups on the "far left" and "far right" based principally on our personal contacts and their own writings.

So, we invite you to accompany us on our summary of what we have learned about political extremism. If you're open to it, it can be an enlightening experience and may well alter the way you've thought about this issue. If your position is fixed, you'll find much in this book to get your juices flowing, and we welcome that, too.

John George

Laird Wilcox


Notes
1.
Richard Crossman, ed. The God That Failed ( New York: Harper & Row, 1949), 101.
2.
Eric Hoffer, The True Believer ( New York: Harper & Row, 1951).
3.
John Howard Griffin, Black Like Me ( New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 1961).
4.
Leon Festinger, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance ( Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1957).
5.
Leon Festinger, "Cognitive Dissonance," in Readings About the Social Animal, Elliot Aronson, ed. ( San Francisco: Freeman, 1973), 100-101.

-12-

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