Dr. Erroll G. Southers
TAL Global Corporation
Counter-Terrorism & Infrastructure Protection
We know that there are three core components in radicalization to violence: a sense of alienation, a legitimizing ideology, and an enabling community.
Homegrown Violent Extremism (HVE)
We are in the midst of a sharp increase in homegrown violent extremism (HVE), owing specifically to those embracing right-wing extremist ideologies. The data are clear: the right-wing terrorist threat that has been festering and growing for years—since the terms of former President Barack Obama and even before—is now at a critical level of participation and extremist action. The result is terrorist attacks, and in recent months, those attacks have been directed at faith communities and houses of worship.
- On 10/27/18, the shooting at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue was the deadliest attack against Jews in American history. Eleven people were murdered. (link)
- On 4/27/19, exactly six months later, a shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in California left one dead and three injured. (link)
- Also in April, a Louisiana man was arrested and charged with hate crimes after setting fire to three churches with predominantly African American congregations. (link)
- These U.S. extremist attacks come alongside the horrific mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which left 51 people dead. (link)
A Reason For Concern
There are troves of data showing the right-wing, white supremacist terrorist threat is dramatically outpacing the threat from Muslim Identity extremism, such as that espoused by al Qaeda and ISIS. Like ISIS et al., however, right-wing extremists are using online capabilities to form hateful communities, spread extremist messages, and glorify and champion acts of murder and terrorism. Indeed, the attackers on Tree of Life and Chabad of Poway, as well as the Christchurch attacker, all used online channels to spread their messages and promote their actions.
We know that there are three core components in radicalization to violence: a sense of alienation, a legitimizing ideology, and an enabling community. In the 21st century, communities are not only found in real-world locations, and looking to the activity in online communities frequently used by right-wing extremists, there is reason for grave concern.
Digital Echo Chambers
A 2018 study from the Network Contagion Research Institute found a significant increase in anti-Semitic and racist posts on social media sites between July 2016 and January 2018. Specifically, in the “Politically Incorrect” group on 4chan, the use of the words “Jew” and a derogatory term for people of Jewish faith doubled; a racial slur directed at African Americans grew more than 30 percent. The report also found the frequency of anti-Semitic content significantly increased after major political events, such as the 2016 presidential election and the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. This shows how events in the real world can fuel hate in virtual communities that in turn spills back out in the form of terrorism.
Facing Threats, Taking Action
TAL Global’s team of experts developed the “Assertive Resilience” model, a new approach specifically designed to eliminate the soft target image. This approach combines a House of Worship’s security needs with openness and individual and communal resilience by providing comprehensive services from assessment to solution design and implementation, to funding and grant development assistance and ongoing long-term management.
Assertive Resilience employs innovative security management and intelligence approaches, in conjunction with deploying resilience-building tools to deliver true security, thus maximizing a community’s ability to mitigate risk while maintaining its open and welcoming environment, and allowing would-be victims to take back control of their own destinies.
TAL Global’s comprehensive Assertive Resilience solution includes:
- A complete risk assessment, identification of vulnerabilities and a community resilience study, including a comprehensive profile and analysis of the relevant threats (e.g., white supremacists, religious extremists, etc.)
- Compilation of a prioritized list of measures designed to mitigate risks.
- The creation and implementation of a crisis response plan and resilience strategy with comprehensive policies and procedures.
- Working with law enforcement agencies, municipal stakeholders and the community to ensure complete coordination and cooperation at both personal and technological levels.
- Development of current, area specific crime demographics profile.
- Preparation of security awareness educational materials (printed, on line, apps, video).
- Security and resilience training.
- Program implementation, quality control and management and support.
Dr. Erroll Southers
TAL Global Corporation
Managing Director, Counter-Terrorism & Infrastructure Protection
About the author:
Dr. Erroll G. Southers is an internationally recognized expert on counter-terrorism, homeland security, aviation terrorism, school safety and infrastructure protection, and Professor of the Practice in National and Homeland Security and Counter-Terrorism subject matter expert at the University of Southern California (USC).
Dr. Southers was President Barack Obama’s first nominee for Assistant Secretary of the TSA and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Deputy Director for Critical Infrastructure in the Office of Homeland Security. He holds roles around the world and throughout the international counterterrorism and national security arena.
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