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Continuum for Responding to the Extreme Right: A Comparison Between the United States and Germany

NCJ Number
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism Volume: 30 Issue: 12 Dated: December 2007 Pages: 1109-1123
George Michael; Michael Minkenberg
Date Published
December 2007
15 pages
This article compares and contrasts the responses to right-wing extremism in the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany.
In theory, the United States advocates allowing extremist groups freedom to espouse unpopular ideas, so long as no criminal laws are violated. Because of first-amendment protections, the U.S. Constitution prevents the government from acting to disband or outlaw groups only because they espouse unpopular ideas. The Federal Republic of Germany, on the other hand, has the legal authority to disband extremist groups and parties that it deems to be a threat to the country's constitutional democracy. Although the U.S. Government has no legal authority to make it illegal to advocate unpopular views, there is evidence that government agencies maintain surveillance of groups that hold political and ideological views that have the potential for civil disorder and criminal behavior. Further, there is evidence that the government assists nongovernmental groups in efforts to undermine the activities of groups that espouse unpopular ideas. Civil rights advocates have criticized these relatively secretive alliances between governmental and nongovernmental groups in thwarting the activities of groups whose right-wing ideologies threaten traditional American values. After 9/11, however, Federal authorities have adopted a more aggressive position toward domestic extremist group. Bryan Sierra, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice has stated, "The Department of Justice is also making every effort to shut down hate groups and homegrown terrorists before they too can act violently on their hatred." It is evident that nominally democratic countries struggle to maintain the right to dissent while attempting to prevent the growth of right-wing groups who aspire to an imposition of their fascist ideologies on free societies. 55 notes