Terrorism and other forms of political and social violence have long been associated with the far right. During the mid-nineteenth century, members of the reactionary Know-Nothing movement were occasionally involved in violent confrontations with Catholics and immigrants, most notably in the riot in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1858. 1 Right-wing violence in America reached its highwater mark during the Reconstruction Era Ku Klux Klan’s reign of terror in the aftermath of the Civil War. The total amount of carnage that the hooded order perpetrated during that period is difficult to quantify, but it is estimated that in the state of Louisiana alone it was responsible for at least 2,000 killed, wounded or injured in the few weeks preceding the presidential election of 1868. In addition other estimates of violence for that period include seventy-five killings reported in Georgia, 109 in Alabama, and more than 150 for one single county in Georgia. 2 The primary victims were Black freedmen, “scalawags, ” “carpetbaggers” and Radical Republicans. The Klan’s membership is estimated to have reached 555,000 during the Reconstruction period. 3 The Second Era Ku Klux Klan, which reached its zenith in the 1920s, had more than its share of violent episodes as it targeted primarily Blacks, Catholics and “morally lapsed” White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. According to one estimate there have been 245 incidents of right-wing terrorism since 1978. 4 Although other forms of organized violence have punctuated American history, such as episodes from the political left and organized labor, right-wing violence appears to have a longer history and a more enduring quality.
This chapter looks at right-wing terrorism and violence in America. The first section examines the recent patterns of right-wing terrorism. The second section examines some of the more noteworthy episodes of right-wing terrorism. The third section explains the theorizing that has gone on within the far-right movement on the subject of terrorism, including various strategies and their feasibility. Lastly, the conclusion presents some final comments on this topic.