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Sometimes racist and anti-Semitic hoaxes involve parties we would never consider. Hoaxes have been a common device used by Iron Curtain intelligence services and Communist organizations to discredit their enemies and win support from racial, ethnic and even religious interest groups since before the Russian revolution. Cases During the Olympic games in Los Angeles in 1984 a number of Asian and African Olympic committee offices found themselves recipients of racist literature. The Zimbabwe committee, for example, received fliers containing some threatening language and illustrated with a drawing of a whitehooded Klansman on a rearing horse and a monkey with a rope around its neck. Other delegations received similar literature. An investigation followed and the culprit was determined in short order. U. S. Attorney General William French Smith confirmed that the racially defamatory materials were not the work of any Ku Klux Klan but rather the Soviet KGB! The effort was part of a disinformation campaign to mislead public opinion and create the impression of widespread racism. According to Smith: "Although I cannot detail all of what we know about these documents for fear of helping the authors to refine their techniques, a thorough analysis -- including linguistic and forensic techniques -- reveals that they are classic examples of a Soviet forgery or disinformation operation." Informed sources close to the F.B.I. report that other such incidents may also be KGB related. Another case involving the KGB surfaced recently with the defection of East German intelligence agents. The West German newspaper Big Welt reported in 1990 that West German security authorities had determined that the KGB or other Soviet state security services were responsible for numerous desecrations of synagogues in West Germany over the past forty years. The article also noted that the KGB worked in close cooperation with neo-Nazi groups. John Barron, in his book, K.G.B. - Secret work of Soviet Secret Agents discusses Communist complicity in anti-Semitic hoaxes. "Under KGB guidance the Czech S.T.B. started mailing virulent anti-Semitic traits to French, British and American officials in Europe." They bore the imprimatur of a non-existent Nazi group. Additional evidence for the role of the KGB and other Iron Curtain intelligence agencies in bogus neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic activities is Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky’s detailed 1990 account of the Soviet secret police, KGB: The Inside Story. The authors cite the case of KGB General Ivan Ivanovich Agayants, who in 1959 created a new disinformation section within the First Chief Directorate of the KGB. One of his first targets was West Germany, which the KGB wanted to portray as riddled with neo-Nazis and anti-Semites. To test one of his techniques, Agayants sent a group of KGB officers to a village near Moscow, where they daubed swastikas, anti-Jewish slogans and kicked over Jewish tombstones. EA small anti-Jewish minority in the village took the bait and performed copy-cat anti-Jewish acts of their own. According to the authors,. "During the winter of 1959-60 Agayants used the same technique with great success in West Germany. East German agents were dispatched to the West to deface Jewish memorials, synagogues, and shops, and to paint anti-Semitic slogans. 1Local hooligans and neo-Nazis then spontaneously continued the KGB campaign. Between Christmas Eve 1959 and mid-February 1960, 833 anti-Semitic acts were recorded by the West German authorities. The campaign then suddenly ceased, but not before the Federal Republic’s international reputation had been gravely damaged." There is serious suspicion in intelligence circles that much of the current neo-Nazi activity in the new, united Germany may have the mark of a rogue Communist intelligence operation: "See what happens when Communism falls - the Nazis return!". Landislav Bittman, an agent for Czechoslovak intelligence service, defected to the United States in 1974. Now a professor at Boston University and living under the name Lawrence Martin-Bittman, he teaches classes on propaganda and disinformation. According to F. Mark Wyatt, a retired CIA official who had dealt with defectors, "Bittman was really one of the great experts of the Communist bloc, the Soviet bloc, on disinformation." Bittman’s reputation was built largely on one of the most effective disinformation campaigns of post-war Europe, i.e., keeping the Nazi menace alive for propaganda purposes, not unlike some hoaxes in the United States. According to news reports "His greatest success...was Operation Neptune, a 1964 ruse intended to damage West Germany’s relationship with its European neighbors. Professor Martin-Bittman secretly placed what he said were four boxes of Nazi archives on the murky bottom of a lake in Czechoslovakia. Then he helped a television crew discover the boxes, which contained lists of purported Nazi spies and collaborators. A documentary about the apparent discovery of a cadre of previously undisclosed Nazi spies raised anew the issue of prosecutions for war crimes, and the West German government extended the statute of limitations for such crimes." 6 Fake documents published by Eastern bloc intelligence agencies surfaced in the scandal involving Austrian President and former U. N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim. He was accused of war crime complicity during World Mar II. In February, 1988, the Yugoslav press agency reported that a document linking Waldheim to Nazi war crimes was a fake. "The documented was purported to be a 1942 telegram advising that a Lieut. Kurt Waldheim requested the deportation of more than 4,000 Yugoslav civilians during World War II. The West German magazine Der Spiegel published the document Feb. 1 and said it had been provided by a Yugoslav historian." A typewriting expert concluded that the machine used to type the faked telegram was not available before I948. A year earlier, in April 1987, the Jerusalem Post admitted that it had published a forged letter purportedly from Austrian Prime Minister Alois Mock to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher suggesting that Austrian President Kurt Waldheim should resign in the wake of a scandal involving his alleged wartime activities in the German Army. Mr. Mock denied ever writing the letter. The Post said a lengthy inquiry had determined that the letter, which it had published in February, was a fabrication. The Anti-Nazi League is a major British anti-fascist group. It works closely with Jewish and other minority interests, as well as the British communist party and other radical groups. However, to the consternation of representatives of the Brighton and Hove Hebrew Congregation, in March 1993, the ANL organized a march in protest against an anti-Semitic cemetery desecration that never occurred! Some 300 people took part in the march. A security officer at the cemetery became suspicious when he was told that the graves in the congregation’s Florence Road cemetery had been daubed with swastikas and that they had been removed by the gardener. The cemetery, however, does not employ a gardener. The officer noted that "the cemetery has no record of daubings for at least 30 years." 9 The incident, in fact, had never occurred. Jules Croiset, the Dutch actor whose father was Jewish, reported being abducted by neo-Nazis in the city of Charleroi, Belgium, in December, 1987. According to Croiset, he was seized by two men and a woman, who forced him into a sewer, tied him up, took his Star of David chain from his neck and daubed a swastika on his chest, among other violent humiliations. A The news electrified the Netherlands. Croiset was known for his antiNazi views. He was prominent in a theater sit-in preventing staging of a play that critics had denounced as anti-Semitic. 0n December I2 a large demonstration was held in an Amsterdam church in support of Croiset. The speaker of the Dutch parliament said that neo-Nazi rats were "coming out of their holes." On 6 January 1988, however, Belgian police announced that Jules Croiset had admitting to having staged the kidnapping. He had also sent anti-Semitic letters to prominent Dutch Jews. In February 1993 in the Netherlands, citizens were fooled for five days into thinking that violent neo-Nazis were active in the community. A monument to victims of the Auschwitz concentration camp had been smashed - one of the worst recent acts of anti-Semitic violence in the small nation. However, according to news reports "...the nation seemed placated after hearing that a glasscutter identified as Ruud S. had confessed to shattering the monument. He claimed he was under orders to remove all evidence of a construction flaw that would have been a "terrific embarrassment" to the company." In Haifa, Israel, two Jewish men, David Goldner, 41, and Gershon Tennenbaum, 32, were arrested in May 1990 following the desecration of two Jewish graveyards, an event which received worldwide attention. Slogans in perfect Hebrew calling for the destruction of Judaism and for the founding of a Palestinian state were found on more than 250 headstones. One inscription read, "Arabs will kill the Jews." Israeli Religious Affairs Minister Zevolon Hammer, said that there may have been a connection with this incident and the desecration of 3 Jewish graves in France which were widely blamed on right-wing hate groups. Goldman and Tennenbaum reported that their motive was to unite the Jewish people against the Arab states. In Israel eight Jewish settlers were charged in the September 1989 firebombing of Israeli property and stoning of other Jewish settlers to stir up anti-Arab sentiment. In one instance, Israeli radio said, settlers hurled a firebomb at an Israeli-owned car near Ginot Shomron settlement in the West Bank. In response, settlers from the Jewish enclave of Ariel raided a nearby Arab village and vandalized property. Ariel had earlier required Arab workers to wear tags identifying themselves as "alien workers." There have been numerous instances of Israeli extremists staging hoaxes to implicate Arabs in terrorism. A black swastika was painted on the grave of former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in Jerusalem in November 1992. After the vandalism, Israeli newspapers and the state-run radio received phone calls from men who said the attack was in response to "the desecration of the graves of the righteous." Police said the vandalism seemed to be the work of fanatic religious Jews. The British daily, The guardian, reported in April 1992 that a Berlin woman who reported her infant son had been kidnapped by neo-Nazi skinheads later admitted she killed the baby, police reported. The body of the three-month-old boy was found in a pond. In Berlin, a group of "neo-Nazi raiders" set fire to the home of a Jewish restaurant owner in August, 1979 and scrawled swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans on the walls ("Juden Raus" - Jew Get Out). The attack in Berlin’s elegant Grunewald residential district fanned fears of a Nazi revival and was widely reported as evidence for such. Following an investigation, however, the police determined that the incident was an arson plot to collect insurance on the building. The businessman, Gunter Allon, whose house was burned, was in on the plot. One pg the hired arsonists was badly burned when gasoline blew up in his face. In Halle, Germany, 10,000 people demonstrated in January 1994 to protest a neo-Nazi attack on a teen-age girl confined to a wheelchair. The 17-year-old girl had told police that three neo-Nazis had carved a swastika on her left cheek after she refused to repeat slogans such as "Heil Hitler" and "Gas the Cripples." For five days the incident in this eastern German city captured headlines around the world. Police reported that they had no clues. Two days later it became apparent why there had been no clues -- the Saxony-Anhalt prosecutor’s office reported the girl had apparently inflicted the wound herself. Interrogation had produced discrepancies and inconsistencies in her story. The faked attack had unpleasant consequences for bona fide and "suspected" neo-Nazis, however, as is so often the case. According to news reports, "Word of the attack stunned Germans. Leading politicians demanded quick police action, and President Richard von Weizsaecker condemned the assault. Hundreds tried to track down the alleged attackers, and authorities searched the homes of dozens of suspected neo-Nazis." An item in the January 15, I994 International Herald-Tribune noted that doctors who examined the wound "also suspect that it was self-inflicted. The article also noted that "Several recent attacks by neo-Nazis have been exposed as fraud." Two weeks after the hoax in Halle, another German girl committed a copycat hoax in Munich. According to news reports "A I4-year-old Bavarian schoolgirl sliced herself with a razor and claimed she had been attacked by neo-Nazis in what appeared to be an imitation of a wheelchair-bound girl’s hoax that caused national outrage, Munich police said. "A spokesman said 20 schoolchildren had dared each other to fake attacks to see whether their parents would believe them after hearing about a case in the eastern city of Halle." Switzerland’s Jewish community was shocked when a 1983 rash of antiSemitic graffiti appeared on walls at local synagogues, the Jewish cemetery and other buildings. Death threats and anonymous telephone calls to Jewish parents stated that "your son has been killed." At the medical school in Basel, Jewish students reported receiving an anonymous letter saying, "Death to the Jews" and "No more Jewish doctors in Switzerland." Swiss police soon had their culprit, but he was not the neo-Nazi many had expected. According to news reports, "A 23-year-old Jewish medical student arrested in Basel was described by police as the perpetrator of a campaign of virulent anti-Semitic graffiti, harassment and death threats in that city last month." The disclosure by police that Philip Gotchel, son of a prominent Jewish family, was solely responsible for the acts called unprecedented in Switzerland, stunned Jews and nonJews alike. The anti-Semitic campaign aroused such concern that Swiss Army units were sent to help local police protect Jewish students. Apparently obsessed with persecution fantasies, Gotchel claimed that right-wing students had broken into his family’s home. Police said that it was Gotchel himself who broke the window. Gotchel was placed under psychiatric care. 1 "KGB Made Up Olympic Threats Linked to KKK, U. S. Asserts," Kansas City Times (7 August 1984). 2 "KGB Responsible For Desecration of Synagogues," Die Welt (13 August 1990). 3 John Barron, KGB - Secret Work of Soviet Agents (New York: Reader’s Digest Press, 1974). 4 Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, KGB: The Inside Story (New York: Harper, Collins, 1990). 5 "The Spy Who Came Into The Classroom Teaches At Boston U.," New York Times (27 April 1994). 6 Ibid. 7"Waldheim Telegram Called Fake," New York Times (11 February 1988). 8 Reuters, "Waldheim Letter Fake, Paper Admits," Globe and Mail (4 April 1987). I 9 Cecily Woolf, "ANL Daubing Protest," London Jewish Chronicle (13 March 1992). 10 James M. Markham, "Dutch Actor’s ’Abduction’ Recalls Painful Past," International Herald Tribune (1 February 1988). 1l "Man Confesses to Shattering Monument to Camp Survivors," The Oregonian (7 February 1993). 12 Daniel Williams, "250 Jewish Graves Desecrated Near Haifa," Los Angeles Times (15 May 1990). l3 David Rudge, "Jew Arrested In Cemetery Vandalism," The Jewish Week (18 May 1990) 14 Reuters, "Two Jews Are Said To Admit Desecrating Graves In Israel," New York Times (17 May 1990). 15 Associated Press, "Jewish Settlers Questioned In Firebombing of Israeli Car," Asbury Park Press (26 September 1989). l6 "Vandals Paint a Swastika on Begin’s Tomb in Israel," New York Times (19 November 1992). 17 "Mother Confesses," The Guardian (28 April 1992). l8 "Nazis Cleared In Berlin Fire," Kansas City Times (August 18, 1979). 19 "Thousands March to Protest Attack on Handicapped Girl," The Oregonian (14 January 1994). 20 "Girl Apparently Faked Attack by Neo-Nazis, Official Says," Seattle Times (15 January 1994). 21 "Fraud Seen In Claim of Neo-Nazi Attack," International Herald-Tribune (15 January 1994). 22 "German Schoolgirl Slashes Self in Copycat ’Nazi’ Incident," Seattle Times (January 28, 1994). 23 "Graffiti In Basel Traced To Jewish Student," Jewish Week. (17 March 1983). 24 Tamar Levy, "Jew Behind Swiss Anti-Semitic Acts," Jewish 1 Sentinel (18 March 1983). TRAITS THAT SUGGEST THE COMMISSION OF A HOAX What, if anything, distinguishes hoaxes and fabrications from real racist and anti-Semitic incidents? Police, federal, state and local agencies, and college officials have observed certain "patterns" that tend to suggest a hoax might be afoot. 1. An incident that can’t be corroborated with reasonable evidence or disinterested witnesses, or is accompanied by an account which contains inconsistencies, or when the alleged victim suddenly refuses to talk to police. Often, alleged hate crimes are insufficiently supported by evidence or reliable witnesses. Upon examination, the statements of the victim may contain inconsistent or contradictory elements. When confronted with a lack of evidence to support their claims, or with problems with their story, the victim may become angry or frightened and cease cooperating with authorities. 2. An incident that occurs just when it’s "needed" to promote awareness or sensitivity to racism or anti-Semitism, to disarm critics and make them reluctant to "talk back." Be particularly alert for hoaxes during appropriate holidays, birthdays, or on anniversaries of important events. Hoaxes may also occur following speeches by minority spokespersons, or at times when the the issue of prejudice and discrimination is in the news. Also, hoaxes are more likely when claims by minorities are being questioned, as in controversies concerning black slavery or holocaust revisionism. The conveniently occurring incident should be carefully investigated. 3. Repeat incidents, especially with "difficult," resentful and easily offended individuals who frequently complain of disrespect, slights, insults or harassment. Incidents directed at specific individuals are unusual. In some cases hoaxers have been "followed" from one place or residence to another by hate crime perpetrators. Disturbed individuals or attention seekers are frequently found among hoaxers. Bear in mind, however, that these individuals often create a "self-fulfilling prophecy" with their behavior and actually antagonize others to the point where they will retaliate in some manner. 4. An incident that is particularly skillfully exploited by the alleged victim to attain victim status, manipulate institutions, obtain concessions, special privileges, or money. When the victims response to a hate crime is particularly skillful and articulate, or when supporters seem very well-organized and appear on the scene very quickly, it suggests some planning was afoot. Bona fide hate crimes are sometimes not reported for days after they occur. Hoaxes are almost always reported immediately. Because of the possibility of civil damages in hate crime cases, it is likely that hoaxes of this nature will be increasing. Be alert in the event 5. Incidents which occur in improbable circumstances, such as racist graffiti in a mostly black dormitory or neighborhood, assaults that occurred in normally crowded areas with no witnesses, graffiti or vandalism in a room occupied only by the victim, and so on. Some hoaxes are surprisingly poorly planned. In several cases hoaxers had failed to dispose of incriminating evidence. The highly improbable case, where an actual hate crime would have been very difficult to pull off, is usually a hoax. 6. In the case of graffiti, carefully drawn symbols or slurs suggest that the author really wants to get a point across -- precisely what is meant and the repulsive character of the persons behind it and this suggests a hoax. Most bona fide incidents represent impulsive striking out, not careful planning. Generally speaking, the more elaborate the circumstances, the greater likelihood of a hoax. Cases where the damage is deliberate, meticulous and extensive should be cause for suspicion. 7. Another trait that suggests a hoax surfaced in several of the cases mentioned here. Here authorities suspect a hoax and this fact becomes known, the likelihood is enhanced somewhat when local antiracist and radical special interest groups defame and vilify doubters. In fact, they may suspect it themselves. Often the perpetrator will confide in others or even brag about the hoax. Persistent rumors of a hoax are often initially ignored because of "sensitivity" concerns, or because the principle players downplay the issue with threats and pleading. 8. Finally, several hoaxers have reported marking or symbols painted on their bodies by their alleged assailants. This rarely occurs in bona fide cases. For reasons that are not clear, body markings on the victim by the alleged perpetrators are apparently a cause for suspicion. One theory is that the markings are intended to represent wounds. Another is that hoaxers are often self-absorbed individuals and the markings are narcissistic attention-getting devices. 9. Copycat hoaxes are likely to occur after an earlier, perhaps bona fide, incident has taken place that has aroused great publicity. A large number of similar incidents in a relatively short time very likely include some hoaxes. Often, some of the same people will be involved and the same symbols used for cases where the issue of lawsuits and damage amounts emerge early. CONCLUSION The information I have pulled together in this report is, in my opinion, merely the tip of the iceberg. .The hoaxes I have recounted are, with a few exceptions, publicly discovered and publicly reported hoaxes. Countless more hoaxes, undiscovered and unreported, have undoubtedly also occurred. I see no hard evidence of an organized conspiracy to commit racial and anti-Semitic hoaxes. Everything points to individuals, or small groups of individuals, as the perpetrators of hoaxes. The usefulness of hoaxes is so obvious to potential hoaxers that a conspiracy is not required to explain the large number of hoaxes or their similarities. On the other hand, there appears to be an effort to discourage media attention to hoaxes, although this is often not successful. It appears that some hoaxes are "spiked" at the outset and others are soft-peddled once their nature is established. Why do people commit hoaxes? There are three main reasons. The first has to do with the personal payoff for victimization, i.e., attention, sympathy, a sense of importance, feeding persecution fantasies, and material payoffs. The second has to do with advancing a political or social agenda, as in the case of hoaxes intending to create support for regulations or legislation, or to help create a, climate sympathetic to specific interest groups. The third has to do with insurance fraud, with the racial or anti-Semitic element almost an afterthought. Most hoaxes are combinations of the first two types. Carefully done, the risk of discovery of a hoax is minimal. Most hoaxes simply remain "unsolved" hate crimes.i Those that are discovered may not result in criminal action against the hoaxers. When criminal charges are filed they can have wide ranging consequences, from long prison terms in some cases to a slap on the wrist on others, with most cases tending toward the latter. What can be done about hoaxes? Probably very little as long as victimization claims are so uncritically accepted, and the payoff for alleged victimization is sufficiently tempting and rewarding. "Hate crime" legislation, although well-intentioned, has created a powerful market for the side benefits of alleged hate crimes. When these crimes are not naturally occurring, or are not occurring in sufficient numbers, a motive to commit hoaxes is created. Provisions in hate crime legislation for civil damages also creates a powerful motive to commit hoaxes. Vigilance in discovering hoaxes and appropriate publicity may discourage some potential hoaxers. Punishment for hoaxes equal to bona fide hate crimes, including sentence enhancement, would probably have a greater deterrent effect, but would also perpetuate the injustices inherent in the hate crime concept itself. Probably the most effective thing would be for universities, police agencies and the media to entertain a healthy skepticism about hate crime claims, and to establish a category of "not proven" in cases where no perpetrator is identified and charged. Any unsolved case may be a hoax, including those intuitively thought to be bonas fide. Finally, on a personal note, I think it’s important to bear in mind that human beings are fallible creatures who make mistakes, often not realizing the consequences of their actions. The older I get the more forgiving I become, and the more aware I am of the harm done by "righteous indignation," fanaticism and vengefulness in the pursuit of "justice." A little slack and a little forgiveness all the way around wouldn’t hurt, either. It’s going to take that if we’re all going to get along in this world together. Laird Wilcox July 1994 THE UNITED STATES COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS WASHINGTON D.C. 20425 Date: March 8, 1982 Reply to attn of: OGC Subject: The ADL Report To: John Hope, III Acting Staff Director Attached is Ms. Gerebenics’ memorandum concerning the most recent step in the review process of the ADL report. I concur in her views. I would also like to raise several policy considerations. The ADL report does not in any way resemble a standard USCCR report. It is not a dispassionate attempt to present a K balanced accounting of facts. This Commission previously has had no difficulty in publishing reports containing defamatory information when it was verifiable and necessary to the report. Our Voting Rights Report is the most recent example. In that report, however, we did not find it necessary to mix-epithets and emotionally-laden labels with the facts. .The ADL report is rank with epithets and labels that only serve to distort the factual accountings of the activities of the KKK and similar organizations. The liberal use of hyperbolic epithets throughout the ADL draft sets a tone that probably precludes correction through simple, adjectival laundering. The alleged inaccuracies and misrepresentations noted by the respondents present very serious problems. Of fifty-one potential defamees, we received responses from only ten, all of whom disputed the versions of events reported in the ADL draft. Most likely, references to the remaining forty-one would require additional verification. Although +hose who chose not to respond have been afforded the required opportunity, there are still more than a dozen people and organizations that have not been reached. If the ten respondents are at all representative, the report probably contains many inaccuracies. It is doubtful that the report could survive the normal process of a source-check as there does not appear to be sufficient data to support the allegations. For the most part, the sources are secondary, relying heavily on newspaper accounts that the ten respondents either refute outright or raise serious questions about. The remaining support for the report is mostly drawn from "ADL files," which could include hearsay, unverified interview notes, analyses of incidents based on newspapers, information provided by confidential sources, and so on. The basic journalistic approach of the ADL report, which borders on jingoism, requires the USCCR either to publish an unverified report that could seriously undermine the agency’s reputation for fairness and objectivity or to refrain from publishing a report whose underlying thrust we believe to be true. This belief, by the way, is buttressed by the respondents’ own letters, which are described in the attached memorandum. Finally, because the Commission was established as a fact-finding body, through the years the tone of our reports has been one of objective restraint. This report varies considerably from other Commission reports in its tone, its sources or lack thereof, and its unrestrained language. A factual, objective chronology of the Klan and similar organizations and their activities over the past century would meet intended goals of this project without jeopardizing the reputation of this agency. PAUL ALEXANDER Acting General Counsel What Is "Political Extremism"? Laird Wilcox If it’s a despot you would dethrone, see rst that his throne of dogmatic thinking, prejudgment, and authoritarianism, has erected within you is destroyed. - Kahlil Gibran, 1923 Roger Scruton, in the Dictionary of Political Thought defines "extremism" as: l. Taking a political idea "to its limits, regardless of unfortunate repercussions, impracticalities, arguments, and feelings to the contrary, and with the intention not only to confront, but to eliminate opposition." 2. Intolerance toward all views other than one’s own. 3. Adoption of means to political ends which show disregard for.the life, liberty, and human rights of others.This definition basically reï¬ ects my own experience, that extremism is more an issue of style than of content. In the twenty-five years that I have been investigating political groups of the left and right, I have found that most people can hold radical or unorthodox views and still entertain them"in a more or less reasonable, rational, and non-dogmatic manner. On the other hand, I have met people whose-views were fairly close to the political mainstream but were presented. in a shrill, uncompromising, bullying, and distinctly authoritarian manner. The latter demonstrated a starkly extremist mentality while the former demonstrated only ideological unorthodoxy, which is hardly to be feared in a relatively free society such as ours. This view of extremism, which may seem novel to many people since in today’s climate the term is usually used as an epithet, is held by many writers and authorities, especially those who approach the issue from a relatively even-handed and non-ideological point of view. Milton Rokeach, whose book The Open and Closed Mind is a classic in the eld. To study the organization of belief systems, we find it necessary to concern ourselves with the structure rather than content of beliefs. The relative openness or closedness of a mind cuts - across specific content; that is, it is not uniquely restricted to any particular ideology, or religion, or philosophy, or scientific viewpoint. A person may adhere to communism, existentialism, Freudianism, or the "new conservatism" in a relatively open or relatively closed manner. Thus, a basic requirement is that the concepts to be employed in the description of belief systems must not be tied to a particular belief system; they must be constructed to apply equally to all belief systems. Rokeach goes on to say "authoritarianism and intolerance in belief and interpersonal relations are surely not a monopoly of Fascists, Anti-Semites, Ku Klux Klanners, or conservatives." I agree, and would add that the same behaviors merely take different forms and utilize different vocabulary on the "left" side of the political spectrum. The essential characteristics remain quite similar. The choice of adjectives used to describe the behavior in question often derives far more from the biases and interests of the observer than from the objective facts of the situation. Daniel Bell, the eminent sociologist and author of The Radical Right, tends to support this view. He says, "The way you hold beliefs is more important than what you hold. If somebody’s been a rigid Communist, he becomes a rigid anti-Communist--the rigidity being constant." In my opinion, most strident opponents of right-wing or left-wing "extremism" exhibit significant ideological bias, and many are actually representatives of the opposing extreme. The fact that an extremist hates and agitates against other extremists doesn’t mitigate his or her own character in this regard. In fact, opposing extremists often form a vague bond or symbolic relationship with one another, each justifying the others’ existence. In focusing on the style rather than the content of a belief system, I don’t mean to imply that content is entirely irrelevant. People who tend to adopt the extremist style most often champion causes and adopt ideologies that are essentially "fringe" positions. But. mere advocacy of "fringe" positions gives our society the variety and vitality it needs to function as an open democracy, to discuss and debate all aspects of an issue, and to deal with problems that otherwise have been ignored. The extremist style is another issue altogether, however, in that it hampers our understanding of important issues, it muddies the waters of discourse with invective, defamation, self-righteousness, fanaticism, and hatred, and it impairs our ability to make intelligent, well-informed choices. Another point is that the extremist style is not only found at the fringes of the political or religious spectrum, but sometimes in the "middle" as well. An individual who is uncompromisingly and intolerantly "centrist" may be far more dogmatic and prejudiced than someone who adopts more radical views but does so in a open and tolerant manner. Consequently, a guarded middle-of-the-road position doesn’t necessarily provide a solution to extremism, and in some cases can only serve as a mask to conceal it. In fact, it could be argued that those beliefs that are accorded legitimacy by consensus, which is to say that everyone unthinkingly accepts them, may even be more prone to appear on the extremist agenda and more difficult to challenge or effectively debate. When the word "extremist" is used as an epithet it usually represents points of view with which we disagree, advocated by someone we dislike (but usually don’t know) and whose interests are contrary to our -own. Political ideologues and special interests often attempt definitions of "extremism" that specifically condemn the views of their critics and opponents while leaving their own equally strident and intolerant behavior untouched. In the debate over abortion, for example, one side or the other will condemn opponents as "extremists" while describing themselves as valiant defenders of human life or champions of freedom. In fact, bona de extremist elements exist on both sides of this controversy, as do relatively calm, fairminded, honest, even-handed, and rational advocates. It is not the position they take, but how they take it that matters. It has been said that "whoever defines the terms wins the argument." The use of loaded terms and selective vocabulary that are biased toward certain forms of authoritarianism, bigotry, and prejudice but not others, is another example of the pervasive double standards one encounters in this area. The traits of "extremists" Robert F. Kennedy wrote: What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents. In analyzing the rhetoric and propaganda of several hundred militant "fringe" political and social groups across the political spectrum, I have identified a number of specific traits or behaviors that tend to represent the extremist "style." Other writers have delineated various extremist traits and where their criteria have been objective I have included them. I am especially indebted to professors John George and Gordon" Hall for their suggestions. Please let me caution you with the admonition, that we are all fallible human beings and anyone, without bad intentions, may resort to some of these behaviors from time to time. With bona fide extremists, however, these lapses are not occasional. Rather, they are a habitual and strongly established part of their repertoire, so much so that in some cases their entire belief system is expressed in these terms, including a polemical style that is fairly easy to identify. l. Character assassination. Extremists often attack the character of an opponent rather than deal with the facts or issues raised. They will question motives, qualifications, past associations, alleged values, personality, looks, mental health, and so on as a diversion from the issues under consideration. Some of these matters are not entirely irrelevant, but they should not serve to avoid the real issues. Extremists object strenuously when this is done to them, of course! 2. Name calling and labeling. Extremists are quick to resort to epithets (racist, subversive, pervert, hatemonger, nut, crackpot, degenerate, un-American, anti-semite, red, commie, nazi, kook, crank, liar, bigot, and so on) to label and condemn opponents in order to divert attention from their arguments and to discourage others from hearing them out. These epithets don’t have to be proved to be effective; the mere fact that they have been said is often enough. 3. Irresponsible sweeping generalizations. Extremists tend to make sweeping claims or judgments on little or no evidence, and they have a tendency to confuse similarity with sameness. That is, they assume that because two (or more) things, events, or persons are alike in some respects, they must be alike in most respects. The sloppy use of analogy is a treacherous form of logic and has a high potential for false conclusions. 4. Inadequate proof for assertions. Extremists tend to be very fuzzy about what constitutes proof, and they also tend to get caught up in logical fallacies, such as post hoc ergo propter hoc (assuming that a prior event explains a subsequent occurrence simply because of their before-and-after relationship). They tend to project wished-for conclusions and to exaggerate the significance of information that confirms their beliefs while derogating or ignoring information that contradicts them. They tend to be motivated by feelings more than facts, by what they want to exist rather than what actually does exist. "Extremists do a lot of wishful and fearful thinking. 5. Advocacy of double standards. Extremists generally tend to judge themselves or their interest group in terms of their intentions, which they tend to view generously, and others by their acts, which they tend to view very critically. They would like you to accept their assertions on faith, but they demand proof for yours. They tend to engage in special pleading on behalf of themselves or their interests, usually because of some alleged special status, past circumstances, or present disadvantage. 6. Tendency to view their opponents and critics as essentially evil. To the extremist, opponents hold opposing positions because they are bad people, immoral, dishonest, unscrupulous, mean-spirited, hateful, cruel, or whatever, not merely because they simply disagree, see the matter differently, have competing interests, or are perhaps even mistaken. 7. Manichean worldview. Extremists have a tendency to see the world in terms of absolutes of good and evil, for them or against them, with no middle ground or intermediate positions. All issues are ultimately moral issues of right and wrong, with the "right" position coinciding with their interests. Their slogan is often "those who are not with me are against me " 8. Advocacy of some degree of censorship or repression of their opponents and] or critics. This may include a very active campaign to keep opponents from media access and a public hearing, as in the case of blacklisting, banning, or "quarantining" dissident spokespersons. They may actually lobby for legislation against speaking, writing, teaching, or instructing "subversive" or forbidden information or opinions. They may even attempt to keep offending books out of stores or off of library shelves, discourage advertising with threats of reprisals, and keep spokespersons for "offensive" views off the airwaves or certain columnists out of newspapers. In each example the goal is some kind of information control. Extremists would prefer that you listen only to them. They feel threatened when someone talks back or challenges their views. 9. Tend to identify themselves in terms of who their enemies are: whom they hate and who hates them. Accordingly, extremists may become emotionally bound to their opponents, who are often competing extremists themselves. Because they tend to view their enemies as evil and powerful, they tend, perhaps subconsciously, to emulate them, adopting the same tactics to a certain degree. For example, anti-Communist ,and anti-Nazi groups often behave surprisingly like their opponents. Anti-Klan rallies often take on much of the character of the stereotype of Klan rallies themselves,’including the orgy of emotion, bullying, screaming epithets, and even acts of violence. To behave the opposite of someone is to actually surrender your will to them, and "opposites" are often more like mirror images that, although they have "left" and "right" reversed, look and behave amazingly alike. 10. Tendency toward argument by intimidation. Extremists tend to frame their arguments in such a way as to intimidate others into accepting. their premises and conclusions. To disagree with them is to "ally oneself with the devil," or to give aid and comfort to the enemy. They use a lot of moralizing and pontifcating, and tend to be very judgmental. This shrill, harsh rhetorical style allows them to keep their opponents and critics on the defensive, cuts off troublesome lines of argument, and allows them to define the perimeters of debate. ll. Use of slogans, buzzwords, and thought-stopping cliches. For many extremists shortcuts in thinking and in reasoning matters out seem to be necessary in order to avoid or evade awareness of troublesome facts and compelling counter-arguments. Extremists generally behave in ways that reinforce their prejudices and alter their own consciousness in a manner that bolsters their false confidence and sense of self-righteousness. 12. Assumption of moral or other superiority over others. Most obvious would be claims of general racial or ethnic superiority â ˆ a master race, for example. Less obvious are claims of ennoblement because of alleged victimhood, a special relationship with God, membership in a special "elite" or "class," and a kind of aloof "highminded" snobbishness that accrues because of the weightiness of their preoccupations, their altruism, and their willingness to sacrifice themselves (and others) to their cause. After all, who can bear to deal with common people when one is trying to save the world! Extremists can show great indignation when one is "insensitive" enough to challenge these claims. 13. Doomsday thinking. Extremists often predict dire or catastrophic consequences from a situation or from failure to follow a speci c course, and they tend to exhibit a kind of "crisis-mindedness." It can be a Communist takeover, a Nazi revival, nuclear war, earthquakes, floods, or the wrath of God. Whatever it is, it’s just around the corner unless we follow their program and listen to the special insight and wisdom, to which only the truly enlightened have access. For extremists, any setback or defeat is the "beginning of the end!" 14. Belief that its okay to do bad things in the service of a "good" cause. Extremists may deliberately lie, distort, misquote, slander, defame; or libel their opponents and/or critics, engage in censorship or repression, or undertake violence in "special cases." This is done with little or no remorse as long as it’s in the service of defeating the Communists or Fascists or whomever. Defeating an "enemy" becomes an all-encompassing goal to which other values are subordinate. With extremists, the end justifies the means. 15. Emphasis on emotional responses and, correspondingly, less importance attached to reasoning and logical analysis. Extremists have an unspoken reverence for propaganda, which they may call "education" or "consciousness-raising." Symbolism plays an exaggerated role in their thinking, and they tend to think imprecisely and metaphorically. Harold D. Lasswell, in book Psychopathology and Politics, says, "The essential mark of the agitator is the high value he places on the emotional response of the public." Effective extremists tend to be effective propagandists. Propaganda differs from education in that the former teaches one what to think, and the latter teaches one how to think. 16. Hypersensitivity and vigilance. Extremists perceive hostile innuendo in even casual comments; imagine rejection and antagonism concealed in honest disagreement and dissent; see "latent" subversion, anti-semitism, perversion, racism, disloyalty, and so on in innocent gestures and ambiguous behaviors. Although few extremists are clinically paranoid, many of them adopt a paranoid style with its attendant hostility and distrust. l7. Use of supernatural rationale for belief and actions. Some extremists, particularly those involved in "cults" or extreme religious movements, such as fundamentalist Christians, militant Zionist extremists, and members of mystical and metaphysical organizations, claim some kind of supernatural rationale for their beliefs and actions, and that their movement or cause is ordained by God. In this ease, stark extremism may become reframed in a "religious" context, which can have a legitimizing effect for some people. It’s surprising how many people are reluctant to challenge religiously motivated extremism because it represents "religious belief" or because of the sacred-cow status of some religions in our culture. 18. Problems tolerating ambiguity and uncertainty, Indeed, the ideologies and belief systems to which extremists tend to attach themselves often represent grasping for certainty in an uncertain world, or an attempt to achieve absolute security in an environment that is naturally unpredictable or perhaps populated by people with interests opposed to their own. Extremists exhibit a kind of risk-aversiveness that compels them to engage in controlling and manipulative behavior, both on a personal level and in a political context, to protect themselves from the unforeseen and unknown. The more laws or "rules" there are that regulate the behavior of others - particular their "enemies" - the more secure extremists feel. 19. Inclination toward "groupthink." Extremists, their organizations, and their subcultures are prone to a kind of inward-looking group cohesiveness that leads to what Irving Janis discussed in his excellent book Victims of Groupthink. "Groupthink" involves a tendency to conform to group norms and to preserve solidarity and concurrence at the expense of distorting members’ observations of facts, conflicting evidence, and disquieting observations that would call into question the shared assumptions and beliefs of the group. Right-wingers (or left-wingers), for example, talk only with one another, read material that reflects their own views, and can be almost phobic about the "propaganda" of the "other side." The result is a deterioration of reality-testing, rationality, and moral judgment. With groupthink, shared illusions of righteousness, superior morality, persecution, and so on remain intact, and those who challenge them are viewed with skepticism and hostility. 20. Tendency to personalize hostility. Extremists often wish for the personal bad fortune of their "enemies," and celebrate when it occurs. When a critic or an adversary dies or has a serious illness, a bad accident, or personal legal problems, extremists often rejoice and chortle about how they "deserved" it. I recall seeing right-wing extremists celebrate the assassination of Martin Luther King and leftists agonizing because George Wallace survived an assassination attempt. In each instance their hatred was not only directed against ideas, but also against individual human beings. 21. Extremists often feel that the system is no good unless they win. For example, if they lose an election, then it was "rigged." If public opinion turns against them, it was because of "brainwashing." If their followers become disillusioned, it’s because of "sabotage." The test of the rightness or wrongness of the system is how it upon them; Thus, extremists tend to have these things in common: 1. They represent some attempt to distort reality for themselves and others. Extremism tends to be "feelings-based" rather than "evidence-based," although the selective use of evidence may obscure that fact. 2. They try to discourage critical examination of their beliefs by a variety of means, usually by false logic, rhetorical trickery, or some kind of censorship, repression, or intimidation. 3. Extremism usually represents some attempt to act out private personal grudges or to rationalize the pursuit of special interests in the name of public welfare, morality, duty, or social consciousness. Extremists often have motives they themselves do not recognize. I Human beings are imperfect and fallible. Even an honest, rational, and well-intentioned person may resort to some of these traits from time to time. Everyone has strong feelings about some issues and anyone can become excited and "blow up" once in awhile. Most of us still retain our basic common sense, good will, and sense of humor. My purpose is not to-establish some impossible standard that almost no one can meet, but simply to suggest a better direction. The difference between bona p de extremists and others is that this general kind of behavior is the extremists’ normal and usual way of relating their values and feelings, and they usually feel no guilt or sense that anything is wrong when they behave this way. The extremist subculture rewards and reinforces these behaviors, while the society of thoughtful and fair-minded people discourages it. One final note The truth of a proposition cannot be inferred merely from the manner in which arguments in its behalf are presented, from the fact that its adherents may censor or harass their opponents, or because they practice any other behavior or combination of behaviors suggested in this article. Ultimately, the truth of any proposition or claim must rest upon the evidence for it. Moreover, the intensity of a conviction has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not it is true. To dismiss a proposition out of hand merely because it is advocated by obvious extremists is to dismiss it ad hominem, that is, because of who advocates it. In point of fact, extremists are sometimes correct. They often deal with the "hot" issues, the controversial issues many people choose to avoid. Before you write people off as extremists, take a look at their evidence. It might be that they’re actually on to something important. Laird Wilcox is founder of the Wilcox Collection on Contemporary Political Movements in the Spencer Library at the University of Kansas. He publishes a series of research guides on the American Left, the American Right, and the American Occult.