‘The Most Persistent and Lethal Threat’

For years, security experts have warned that white nationalist and white supremacist extremism represent the most significant domestic terrorism threat to the United States. Now, in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, the country seems to be gaining clarity about the seriousness of the situation for the first time. How did we get here, and what can be done?

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  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Podcast Host and Producer
Episode Guests
  • Bruce Hoffman
    Shelby Cullom and Kathryn W. Davis Senior Fellow for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security
  • Cynthia Miller-Idriss
    Professor, School of Public Affairs and School of Education, American University

Show Notes

Experts agree that the danger of white nationalist and white supremacist extremism has significantly outpaced Islamist extremism as a threat to U.S. national security in recent years. Now, under a new presidential administration, the problem could finally receive resources and focus in line with its seriousness. But fighting back will be challenging, not least because the threat is diffuse, widespread, and hard to track. 


White nationalism and white supremacism aren’t new, but they have taken on new dimensions in the age of social media. In this episode, two expert guests examine the roots of these ideologies, their evolution, their transnational nature, and the outlook for combating these issues in the years to come. 


CFR Resources


The Changing Landscape of Domestic Terrorism, With Bruce Hoffman,” The President’s Inbox


Pro-Trump Mob Breaches U.S. Capitol, Georgia’s New Senators, and More,” The World Next Week


CFR Master Class Series With Bruce Hoffman,” Bruce Hoffman 


Domestic Terrorism Strikes U.S. Capitol, and Democracy,” Bruce Hoffman 


Right-Wing Extremists: A Looming Threat to the U.S. Election,” Bruce Hoffman 


From the Arab Spring to the American Winter: Cyberspace and Democracy After the Insurrection,” David P. Fidler


The Day the Internet Came for Them: Washington Wakes Up to the Dark Reality of Online Disinformation,” Nina Jankowicz, Foreign Affairs


From Cynthia Miller-Idriss


When the Far Right Penetrates Law Enforcement: America Can Learn From Germany’s Response,” Foreign Affairs


Capitol attack was an epiphany for the far right. It better be one for the rest of us, too,” Boston Globe


Women are joining the far right – we need to understand why,” Guardian 


Read More


Three key factors that drive far-right political violence — and two that don’t,” Washington Post


It Really Is Different This Time,” Politico


What happened in Washington DC is happening around the world,” Guardian


Fringe groups splinter online after Facebook and Twitter bans,” New York Times


Millions Flock to Telegram and Signal as Fears Grow Over Big Tech,” New York Times


Conspiracy theorists, far-right extremists around the world seize on the pandemic,” Politico


‘Nothing can stop what’s coming’: Far-right forums that fomented Capitol riots voice glee in aftermath,” Washington Post


A Domestic Terrorism Law Can’t Solve Right-Wing Violence,” New York Magazine 


Decoding the Far-Right Symbols at the Capitol Riot,” New York Times


A Trump Ban Is Easy. Fixing Facebook and Twitter Will Be Hard,” Wired


For Far-Right Movements, Ashli Babbitt Is Now a ‘Rallying Cry’,” New York Times


What Is QAnon? What We Know About the Conspiracy-Theory Group,” Wall Street Journal


Who Are the Proud Boys? The Group Trump Told to ‘Stand Back and Stand By’,” Wall Street Journal


4 First Steps for Congress To Address White Supremacist Terrorism,” Center for American Progress


How White Supremacy Returned to Mainstream Politics,” Center for American Progress


The Rise of Far-Right Extremism in the United States,” Center for Strategic and International Studies


Capitol Riot Puts Spotlight on ‘Apocalyptically Minded’ Global Far Right,” New York Times


Biden’s Vital but Fraught Battle Against Domestic Terrorism,” New Yorker


Nearly 1 In 5 Defendants In Capitol Riot Cases Served In The Military,” NPR


Republican Ties to Extremist Groups Are Under Scrutiny,” New York Times


Watch and Listen


If You Were on Parler, You Saw the Mob Coming,” Sway


The people behind the insurrection,” Today, Explained

Global Governance

In 2022, several colossal events dominated the headlines, most prominently the war in Ukraine and the worldwide inflation that it helped spark. But beyond Ukraine, events with global implications continued to unfold. In this episode, Why It Matters checks in with three CFR fellows and CFR President Richard Haass to understand the least-covered stories of 2022 and to take a peek at what could await the world in 2023.

Technology and Innovation

For years, the world thought of the internet as a borderless zone that brought people from around the world together. But as governments pursue very different regulatory paths, the monolithic internet is breaking apart. Now, where there had been one, there are at least three internets: one led by the United States, one by China, and one by the European Union.

International Organizations

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has kicked off in Qatar, and billions of fans worldwide are tuning in to the world’s most popular live event. And yet as in years past, the Qatar Cup is transpiring under the shadow of controversy.

Top Stories on CFR


China has so far been able to feed its 1.4 billion people, but climate change and a dependence on imports could pose challenges.


The main battle tanks that the United States and Germany have agreed to provide Ukraine will help its forces punch through Russian fortifications and retake lost territory.

Sub-Saharan Africa

PEPFAR’s twentieth anniversary should prompt reflection on some inconvenient truths for U.S.-Africa relations.