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

By John George; Laird Wilcox | Go to book overview

3 Extremists and the Constitution*
John GeorgeExtremism is a word with different meanings to many people. Obviously it can be temporocentric and geographically bound. No doubt early advocates of rights for women and blacks were considered extreme by most Americans. And it is also likely that persons wishing to advance the ideas of press freedom and competitive private enterprise have been viewed as extremists in the Soviet Union, but especially in Albania and North Korea. Thus we have the problem: What do we mean by extremism and just who may fairly be labeled a political extremist?Realizing long ago that there is probably no definition of extremism which would satisfy a majority of scholars, and believing that extremism is more a matter of style and tactics than of goals, I have delineated six common characteristics exhibited by the overwhelming majority of those inhabiting the far-left and far- right portions of the U.S. political spectrum:
1. Absolute certainty they have the truth. Which, among other items is that
2. America is controlled to a greater or lesser extent by a conspiratorial group. In fact, they believe this evil group is very powerful and controls most nations. It is not surprising then that extremists exhibit
3. Open hatred of opponents. Because these opponents (actually "enemies" in the extremists' eyes) are seen as a part of or sympathizers with "The Conspiracy," they deserve hatred and contempt. Due to the aforementioned factors it is not surprising that extremists have
4. Little faith in the democratic process. Mainly because most believe "The Conspiracy" has such influence in the U.S. government, and therefore extremists usually spurn compromise and show a
5. Willingness to deny basic civil liberties to certain fellow citizens, because enemies deserve no liberties. Therefore extremists have no qualms about resorting to
6. Consistent indulgence in irresponsible accusations and character assassination, such as calling fellow citizens Communists, Insiders, Amoral Secular Humanists, Fascists, Nazis, Racist Pigs, etc., and constantly imputing wicked motives to those who openly oppose them.
____________________
*
From Free Inquiry in Creative Society 16 ( November 1988). Reprinted by permission.

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