Hoods and Shirts: The Extreme Right in Pennsylvania, 1925-1950

Hoods and Shirts: The Extreme Right in Pennsylvania, 1925-1950

Hoods and Shirts: The Extreme Right in Pennsylvania, 1925-1950

Hoods and Shirts: The Extreme Right in Pennsylvania, 1925-1950

Synopsis

Extreme right-wing groups have always been a part of the American religious and political landscape. The era between the world wars, especially the 1930s, was a particularly volatile period, and by 1940, racist, nativist, and fascist groups had become so visible as to arouse public fears of insurrection or pro-Nazi sabotage.

Excerpt

Extremism is a relative concept. Extreme political ideas can only be defined as such with reference to other opinions that are regarded as moderate or mainstream, and the relationship between the respective bodies of thought may and must change over time. Ideas that appear mainstream or moderate for one political generation may appear unacceptably daring or extreme in another, and vice versa. The time taken for such a transformation will vary depending on circumstances, but in eras of political or social revolution, extreme ideas might enter the mainstream in a period of a few years or even months. In order to understand the appeal of the extremist groups of the depression era, it is necessary to locate their ideas and rhetoric on the broader political spectrum, and in so doing we find that many of these beliefs were not that far removed from those of quite respectable sections of the political community.

By the late 1930s one did not have to travel far across the spectrum to find political rhetoric of quite startling violence, ideas of all-out warfare between "Americanism and Communism," of American national survival hinging on "exterminating" the "crackpots and political gangsters" who had inflicted the New Deal on an . . .

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