In partnership with The WNET Group
Extremism in America: A Surge in Violence
During the 2010s, while the U.S. was largely focused on terror threats from abroad, violent attacks involving white supremacists and anti-Semitic individuals began to rise, including a shooting at a church in Charleston, S.C., and at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Dylann Roof, who killed nine people in Charleston, indicated that he was trying to start a race war. Why was the government slow to shift its focus from foreign threats to homegrown extremists?
A deadly mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Aug. 5, 2012, by a white supremacist was a catalyst in changing the focus. After the attack, “I was asked if I would testify before Congress about the domestic extremist threat,” Daryl Johnson, a former Homeland Security official and leading expert on extremism, told Retro Report. “My message was this threat is real and it is growing.”
But his testimony attracted little attention – at least at first. “The disheartening thing was Dick Durbin, for the first 20 to 30 minutes, was the lone senator attending,” Johnson said. “No Republicans attended.”
Detection and enforcement efforts at that time were focused on international terrorism, in part because of the scale and scope of the threats. “I don’t think people took it as seriously as they should have,” Senator Durbin told us. “It’s spreading. And that’s something we didn’t want to hear.”
Defining violent attacks by extremists as domestic terrorism would have had benefits, said Javed Ali, a former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council. “Potentially we could have gotten ahead of some of these threats, or at least called them something else. That would have given a different context to the threat and perhaps led to different decisions about what to do,” he said. “But we didn’t, and we’re left with the situation we’re in now.”
This is the fourth episode of a five-part series produced in collaboration with The WNET Group’s reporting initiative Exploring Hate, on the roots and rise of hate in America and across the globe. Leadership support for Exploring Hate is provided by the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Antisemitism. To learn more about Exploring Hate and for a full list of funders, visit pbs.org/exploringhate.
Extremism in America: Emergence of The Order
The killing of radio host Alan Berg exposed a new kind of right-wing extremism. This is the first episode of a five-part series released in collaboration with The WNET Group’s reporting initiative Exploring Hate. This series was recognized with a 2022 Online Journalism Award for Best Digital Storytelling.
Extremism in America: The Oklahoma City Bombing
Anti-government propaganda, military deployment and the F.B.I. raid in Waco, Texas, radicalized Timothy McVeigh and led to the Oklahoma City attack. This is the second episode of a five-part series produced in collaboration with The WNET Group’s reporting initiative Exploring Hate.
Extremism in America: Missed Warnings
In the years before Barack Obama was elected, many groups on the extreme right kept a relatively low profile. With the election of a Black president, that changed. This is the third episode of a five-part series produced in collaboration with The WNET Group’s reporting initiative Exploring Hate.
Extremism in America: Out of the Shadows
According to experts who monitor the radical right, the white supremacist ideology that police say drove the Buffalo gunman has begun moving from the extremes into the mainstream. This is the fifth episode of a five-part series produced in collaboration with The WNET Group’s reporting initiative Exploring Hate.