New Book Details How the United States Faces a Threat From Far-Right Terrorism and What to Do About It

New Book Details How the United States Faces a Threat From Far-Right Terrorism and What to Do About It

January 2, 2024 9:35 am (EST)

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The United States is “confronted by a serious domestic terrorist threat in addition to the foreign ones that have commanded our attention for the past two decades,” warn Council on Foreign Relations’ (CFR) fellows and leading terrorism experts Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware.  

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Their new book, God, Guns, and Sedition: Far-Right Terrorism in America, provides a definitive account of how “violent extremism has woven itself into the fabric of national, state, and local politics,” from the tragedy that unfolded at a historic African American church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015 through the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.  

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Hoffman and Ware combine authoritative, nuanced analysis with gripping storytelling and portraits of the leaders behind right-wing violence and their followers—along with recommendations for how to counter this extremism.   

The authors define far-right terrorism in the United States as “a threat featuring an overlapping and evolving multitude of actors, movements, and ideological strains, ultimately united by a desire to return the United States to some long-lost halcyon days defined by hierarchies dividing people by race, gender, religion, and even regional identity—with white masculinity reigning supreme.”  

“[B]ecause of their preparedness to use lethal violence in pursuit of that mission,” Hoffman and Ware contend that these actors are terrorists. 

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Hoffman is the Shelby Cullom and Kathryn W. Davis senior fellow for counterterrorism and homeland security at CFR and the author of the acclaimed book, Inside Terrorism. Ware is a research fellow at CFR. Both also teach at Georgetown University.  

Observing “the continued proliferation and pervasiveness of conspiracy theories and growing racism, antisemitism, and xenophobia that have entered the mainstream of political and social discourse in the United States,” Hoffman and Ware warn of “the potential for new acts of politically motivated violence—including mass shootings, attacks on critical infrastructure, bombings, and other attacks.” 

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Terrorism and Counterterrorism

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Radicalization and Extremism

They also underscore the role that social media has played in contributing to the rise of American domestic terrorism. It has allowed individuals to “curate their own community,” provided extremists “with a means to speak directly to the psychologically vulnerable and lonely,” and enabled “the creation of a digital universe where only one’s own worldview is legitimate, with any debate or discourse suppressed, excluded, and thus silenced.” 

Furthermore, “[t]he lowered barriers to terrorism also have tactical implications,” as “the bombings that characterized an earlier wave of far-right terrorism have been superseded by another tactic: the mass shooting.” The authors note that mass shootings have become a regular occurrence in the United States, “where firearms are widely and readily available and armed attackers can create havoc and bloodshed on a scale completely divorced from their training or expertise, in turn making terrorism more accessible to violently inclined people with a political axe to grind.”  

An unparalleled examination of one of today’s great perils, God, Guns, and Sedition ends with practical recommendations to halt the growth of violent far-right extremism and address this global terrorist threat. 

“Restoring national unity and the common sense of purpose that once existed in American politics will likely prove the most effective means to counter domestic terrorism and blunt foreign efforts to undermine the power and stature of the United States,” the authors counsel. 

As it stands, “the current trajectory of domestic unrest and potential upheaval presents as grave a threat to our country and its democratic values and institutions as any since the civil war that consumed the nation 180 years ago,” they conclude.  

Read more about God, Guns, and Sedition: Far-Right Terrorism in America and order your copy at cfr.org/god-guns-sedition.   

To interview the authors, please contact CFR Communications at 212.434.9888 or [email protected]

Praise for God, Guns, and Sedition: Far-Right Terrorism in America:

“Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware rightly situate contemporary far-right growth within its long historical context while deftly analyzing today’s unique challenges. A vital addition to the global understanding of supremacist terror and what we might do to turn the tide, and indispensable reading for anyone seeking to understand what is demonstrably the most pressing threat to democracy and social cohesion.”—Cynthia Miller-Idriss, author of Hate in the Homeland: The New Global Far Right

“Hoffman and Ware have produced a revealing history of America’s almost uninterrupted experience with domestic terrorism, from the Ku Klux Klan to the January 6 assault on the Capitol. This is an essential volume for understanding the dark side of the American dream and comes with an urgent call to reverse the drift toward violence and disunity.” —Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

“At a pivotal moment in American history, Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware have given Americans of all stripes a vital guide to the dangers pervading our politics and especially the risk of internecine violence. Few if any other scholars could approach this freighted topic with the historical perspective, disciplinary breadth, and methodological rigor as do Hoffman and Ware. Their writing, moreover, is brisk and stylish, all the better to reach the wide audience this urgently needed book deserves.” —Steven Simon, author of Grand Delusion: The Rise and Fall of American Ambition in the Middle East

Gods, Guns, and Sedition offers a timely and comprehensive assessment of the evolution of far-right extremism in the United States. Hoffman and Ware identify and analyze the most important trends affecting the far right, uncovering a phenomenon with deep roots, poised to remain a major threat to the security of the country.”—Ali H. Soufan, author of Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State

“Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware have delivered a crisply written and deeply researched account of the history of far-right terrorism in the United States that will be of great interest both to specialists and general readers.” —Peter Bergen, author of The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden

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