Antisemitic Conspiracy Theories and Violent Extremism on the Far Right: a Public Health Approach to Counter-Radicalization
Conspiracy theories, and especially antisemitic conspiracy theories, form a core ideological component of right-wing violent extremism in the United States. This article argues that conspiracy narratives and their psychological antecedents are key to understanding the ideological appeal of right-wing extremist formations such as white supremacist and Christian Identity movements, providing insight into the motivations and behaviors of those individual participants who become sufficiently radicalized to carry out terrorist actions. It is further proposed that standard radicalization models can be enhanced for applications specific to right-wing extremism through an understanding of conspiracy thinking (both antisemitic and otherwise), and that this understanding can assist in addressing the motivated roots of the ideologies that sustain this particular type of violent extremism through a public health approach to counter-radicalization that aims to “inoculate” the public against the cognitive tendencies exemplified in antisemitic con- spiracy theories and in conspiracist culture more generally. The proposed approach would complement existing efforts in a unique way, as it would have the potential not only to improve public security, but also to provide further societal benefits by countering other negative tendencies associated with conspiracy belief (for example, decreased intention to vaccinate). This would provide an exceptional cost versus benefit ratio while supporting existing counter-radicalization programs and leaving them intact.
Keywords: Antisemitism, anti-Semitism, conspiracy theories, violent radicalization, right-wing extremism
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