Terrorism and Subcultural Theory of Crime

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The horror of domestic terrorism is a problem all Americans should be concerned with, especially since there is a violent subculture in this nation which seeks out and indoctrinates people into their way of life. The crime that I will be focusing on during the course of this paper will be domestic terrorism, specifically hate groups such as the KKK, and various other white supremacy groups. The theory that I will be using to try and explain these crimes will be subcultural theory, but more especially the Subculture of Violence theory provided to us by Marvin Wolfgang and Franco Ferracutti. The reason I will be using his specific subcultural theory is because I feel that it bests describes how the people in these situations are desensitized to the evils they do and then begin to believe that the acts and beliefs are normal, or superior to all other views.
     The issue of domestic terrorism has been a fairly recent phenomenon. With little attention given until such acts as the Oklahoma City Bombing and the Unabomber made national headlines. It is because of this that there has been little research done on the area and most of the research there is focuses on the hate groups associated with the acts of violence. A strong force in the domestic terrorist movement is the fervent anti-government stance that these groups internalize. As Mark Hamm wrote in 1997, “I used the term apocalyptic violence to depict not only the astounding carnage witnessed on that day, but also to describe the anti-government counter-culture to which Timothy McVeigh and his accomplices belonged. In this statement he is referring to the assault on the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, TX. It is believed by many that this is the act which pushed McVeigh to bomb the federal building in Oklahoma City. Hamm went on further to argue, “The federal government had created an apocalyptic subculture in the hinterlands of the USA. And that it had done so through its ruthless use-of-force at Waco.”
     It is the belief of these groups, most specifically the white supremacy groups that the government is corrupt and run by inferior people, anyone not Anglo-Saxon white, and the country needs to be cleansed. The issue of hate groups has been plaguing this country for many decades but only in recent years have they begun to organize to the tune of committing massive acts of violence and terror.

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It could be argued that we face a greater risk from these domestic terrorist than that of the foreign terrorists because we can not identify who among us is libel to be a member of these groups. Timothy McVeigh was a prime example of the difficulty in identifying potential wackos; he was a decorated Gulf War I veteran and seemed to be the all-American boy.
These hate groups, like the KKK, Aryan Republican Army, and the Phineas Priesthood, have become very sophisticated in how they recruit and indoctrinate young impressionable people. There is also the push from these groups to recruit military personnel as stated in an essay written by a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy,
“Right-wing extremists and hate-motivated groups have historically, and are currently recruiting active duty military personnel for several reasons, including: 1) they lend a degree of "legitimacy" and "bravado" to militant groups that aids in the group's ability to recruit civilians, 2) they are trained and are capable of training group members in the use of weapons and tactics, 3) they are useful as an "inside" point of contact for ordinance and munitions thefts, and 4) the military environment fosters a more disciplined and conservative mindset that these groups can exploit and construe to attain loyalties and devotion based upon the racial or religious convictions of the soldier” (Presley 1996).
     Wolfgang and Ferracuti’s Subculture of Violence theory is a theory that gets right to the point and presents its views very clearly to the reader. This theory focuses on subcultures of society and how their members are socialized. “They argued that after being exposed to such an environment, community residents become desensitized to the vicious nature of crime and violence that proliferate in these areas” (Anderson 162). When the members of these subcultures begin to internalize these violent behaviors they become socialized into believing that the violent acts are normal and even acceptable behavior. They choose to cast off the conventional norms of society and put their own set of beliefs in place of those. An important area of their research was in the consideration of those that did not grow up in these violent subcultures. They were considered more pathological than those who were reared in the violent environment.
     It is this aspect of the theory that lends itself to the terrorism issue at hand, the majority of people in the white supremacy movements were not raised in that environment. They were seduced by the charismatic hate-mongers that they came into contact with. There are many ways in which people are indoctrinated into their particular subculture; these include, but are not limited to, music, literature, playing on paranoia’s. “All of this-ideology, music, weaponry and white male bonding-comes together to trigger the vitality, the emotions and the excitement necessary for skinheads to ‘go berserk’ on their perceived enemies (blacks, gays, foreigners, Jewish institutions, etc)” (Hamm 327).
     The youth that are targeted by these groups vary greatly, the only noticeable characteristics that they share is the fact that they’re white and impressionable. These young people are enticed by the comradery they can get in the group. They buy into the notion of violence and superiority of the white race. They process of their socialization often begins in the halls of Christian identity churches, which preach, “Anglo-Saxons are the true Israelites depicted in the Old Testament, while Jews are actually the children of Satan” (Hamm 328). Mark Hamm did several case studies, one involving the founder of the Aryan Republican Army (ARA), Peter Langan. In this study he reported on a conversation he had with Langan in prison during which Langan said, “They talked to me about a point of view that I had never heard, I tried to hold on to my liberal values, but that didn’t last long” (Hamm 331). This is a great look as to the impact this subculture can have on people and make them forget everything they’ve known to replace it with their values and norms. During his time with the ARA Langan was involved in 22 bank robberies, armed robbery, arson, assaulting police, prison escapes, and trafficking in firearms and explosives.
     This subculture of violence that entails domestic terrorism is part of a larger world-wide subculture of the same. Once involved in the life it is very difficult get out of and even harder to stop believing in it. The unadulterated hate that is taught within this subculture leaves the members believing that no one else deserves to live and therefore must be erased from the earth. When this hate is focused on other groups of people it is bad enough, but they in turn focus this hate on the government and become obsessed with overthrowing our government. This hate for the government is what causes these groups to engage in bank robberies and the robbing of armored cars to finance their attempts to war the government. This can be manifested in open stand-offs with federal agents or cowardly attacks like that in Oklahoma City.
     Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to stop the spread of this violent subculture. There will always be those people out there who are full of hate and have the will to harm others, and as long as there are impressionable minds there will be new recruits. These subcultures are never easy to detect and even harder to undo. Once indoctrinated with the beliefs and norms of a particular subculture you cast off all ties with dominant society and feel as if everyone is out to get you. This would undoubtedly lead to confrontation between those involved in the subculture and members of the mainstream society, which would hardly be good for either party. Perhaps more could be done to stem this growing tide, be it programs to strengthen the family or other pro-social institutions, but how can one tell who will end up subscribing to the values of a violent subculture and who would not.


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