Homegrown Violent Extremism – A Term Misleading in Denotation?

Domestic, or homegrown, violent extremism has in recent times been associated with the ‘accelerationist’ movement, accelerationism harking back to the idea that the state is somehow weak and could be toppled in a right-wing endeavor to change the system towards autocracy. But is this link between nationalism and the said term, homegrown, justified?

In fact, there are many forms of homegrown terrorism. Besides right-wing tendencies, there are left-wing, religious, and new forms of extremism such as excessive environmentalism. We should take care not to think of the boogaloo and lost boys movement, as well as other potentially dangerous groups, only, when it comes to domestic, or homegrown, extremism, including the different extremisms’ violent manifestations. The inverse – fostering an exclusive fight against dangerous developments on the left of society – is also the wrong track.

In any case, on a given scale, consensus among politics, security practitioners, and scholars, is that right-wing extremism represents the most imminent danger for society at this moment in time, followed by religious extremism, in the USA as well as in many countries elsewhere. While this somewhat conceals the risk by other sorts of dangerous views and activism – of non-state groups and mainstream ideas in society -, and while there must certainly be a prioritization, neglecting left-wing tendencies and novel forms of extremism does pose the risk of underestimation, due to the need of politics and officials to simplify within political discourse, and when it comes to information provided to the public.

A whole-of-society approach ought to incorporate the need to criticize and tackle all kinds of dangerous and virulent ideas, with a special focus on the mutually reinforcing nature of right-wing and religious extremism, of which the competition, but also similar nature and dynamics, poses a tangible risk to stability and freedom. At the same time, politics, security experts, and academia ought to keep their eyes open towards movements yet minor in numbers but with a potential to grow, in the medium run. With regard to homegrown extremism, as it it is used now, we ought to take care to add ‘right-wing.’

Thorsten Koch, MA, PgDip
15 February 2022

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