Introduction to Political Psychology

By Martha Cottam; Beth Dietz-Uhler et al. | Go to book overview

The Political Psychology
of Political Extremists

Immediately after the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing, Americans asked themselves, Who could commit such a violent act? Were Arab terrorists to blame? Or had some other group committed this act? When Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were apprehended, many Americans had their first glimpse of men who would go to extremes because of their political ideas. Words like militias and patriots became part of our vocabularies. And more and more we wanted to understand these men. Were McVeigh and Nichols monsters or sociopaths, were they simply insane, or were they normal? How could a normal person commit such a horrific act?

Extremist groups have many different views and perspectives, as well as agendas. There are many extremist groups, in the United States alone. They are as diverse as White supremacist organizations such as the Aryan Nations, Ku Klux Klan, the National Alliance, and Spokane Skins; sovereign citizens who do not believe in the legitimacy of the federal government; and militias such as the Michigan Militia, whose members train so that they can defend the United States from the new world order. There are also tax protestors, antienvironmental and antiabortion extremists, terrorists, and gangs. Some extremist groups are associated with political parties, and some are just political parties.

Extremist groups are not only found in the United States, but also in other parts of the world. Other countries have their share of terrorist organizations (such as the Provisional Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland), government sanctioned and unsanctioned paramilitaries/death squads (such as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia), and many racist groups, such as the National Front political party in France. As in the case of the United States, some of these groups are associated with political parties, others are not, and some are political parties. In addition, many have transnational contacts with one another (Kaplan & Weinberg, 1998). Often, extremists are also portrayed as members of the radical right, but it is important to note that although many extremist groups are found on the right of the ideological spectrum, plenty of groups are also found on the left of that spectrum. The actions of political extremists can range from bombing a building known to be empty to targeting an entire group of people for mass extermination, that is, genocide.

In this chapter, we present case studies of extremist groups. We examine racist groups in the United States, terrorist groups, terror committed by governments against their own people, paramilitaries/death squads, and the perpetrators of genocide. One of the central themes of this chapter is that political psychological studies of such people demonstrate that, under the right circumstances, the most ordinary people can be the perpetrators of extremist actions, or they can be passive bystanders who watch while such acts are carried out and do nothing to stop them. What is an extremist and what makes a person an extremist? An extremist is a person who is

exces sive and inappropriately enthusiastic and/or inappropriately concerned with significant life purposes, implying a focused and highly personalized interpretation of the


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Introduction to Political Psychology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Dedication *
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xiii
  • Chapter 1 - An Introduction to Political Psychology 1
  • Chapter 2 - Personality and Politics 13
  • Endnotes *
  • Chapter 3 - Cognition, Social Identity, Emotions, and Attitudes in Political Psychology 37
  • Chapter 4 - The Political Psychology of Groups 63
  • Chapter 5 - The Study of Political Leaders 97
  • Endnotes 123
  • Chapter 6 - Voting, Role of the Media, and Tolerance 125
  • Endnote *
  • Chapter 7 - The Political Psychology of Race and Ethnicity 153
  • Endnotes *
  • Chapter 8 - The Political Psychology of Nationalism 191
  • Endnote *
  • Chapter 9 - The Political Psychology of Political Extremists 223
  • Endnote *
  • Chapter 10 - The Political Psychology of International Security and Conflits 257
  • Endnote 276
  • Glossary 277
  • References 287
  • Auther Index 333
  • Subject Index 337


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 343

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.