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American Extremists Paperback – May 1, 1996


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Editorial Reviews

Review

This consideration of militias, supremacists, klansmen and others examines the foundations of hate crimes and movements which are on the fringe of social acceptance and American politics. From social and psychological analysis of individuals who join such movements to summaries of the history of various movements since the 1960s, this provides an excellent account. -- Midwest Book Review

About the Author

John George (Edmond, OK) is professor of political science and sociology at the University of Central Oklahoma. Laird Wilcox (Olathe, KS) is founder of The Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements, the largest collection of extremist literature in the United States.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 443 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (May 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573920584
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573920582
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #975,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
When future American historians and political scientists look back at political extremism in the last half of the twentieth century, this is the book to which they will turn. It is thoroughly detailed and meticulously researched; in short the definitive work on this subject.
The following groups, along with their leaders, are covered.
THE FAR LEFT
Communist Party USA
Socialist Workers Party
Black Panther Party
Students for a Democratic Society
Progressive Labor Party
Revolutionary Action Movement
Revoluntionary Communist Party
Communist Workers Party
THE FAR RIGHT
Reverend Billy James Hargis and his Christian Crusade
The John Birch Society
The Christian Right
Willis Cato and Liberty Lobby
Robert Bolivar DePugh and the Minutemen
The Militias
Gerald L. K. Smith and Christian Nationalist Crusade
The LaRouche Network
Jewish Defense League
The Nation of Islam
Assorted Neo-Nazis
National States Rights Party
Ku Klux Klans
Appendix 1 contains 36 pages of fake quotes and forged documents extremists are fond of using.
Appendix 2 contains a handy guide for extremist watchers and lists their common characteristics and differences. It also lists some mainstream organizations which are sometimes considered extreme, but really are not.
A sample paragraph, from page 48 of American Extremists:
"McCarthyism existed on a half-truth. There were Communists in the United States and some of them were entirely anti-American and would like to do in our system of government. For the most part, however, the Communists, real or imagined, were of no significant security threat to our country.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
I have not only read this book, I have also studied under John George extensively. The idea that Laird Wilcox is a member of the "right wing" or has strong ties to extremist groups is not only misleading, it is ludicrous. Both of the authors consider themsleves to be center left ideologically and somewhat libertarian when it comes to constitutional issues. Just because they are not alarmists does not mean they don't understand the dangers of extremism. Instead of trampling the constitution they recommend caution. If you are interested in "extremism" there are no finer authors and very few books that are as well written or as balanced.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 3, 1996
Format: Paperback
Laird Wilcox has, in his spare time, made himself an expert on both extremes of the American political spectrum. This book, combining looks at groups ranging from the farthest left "Hoxhaist" Communist parties, out to the neo-Nazis on the right, belongs on the bookshelf of anybody interested in these movements. Unlike Morris Dees, Wilcox has no personal axe to grind against one side or the other, which makes this book's section on "militias" a refreshing change of pace in the media-impelled hysteria following the Oklahoma City bombing. He points out that "(H)ad Randy Weaver been a Black Panther, or David Koresh a feminist neo-pagan, some civil libertarians might have shown more interest (in the charges of government abuse of power in their cases.)"
Buy this book; leave Dees' self-serving tome on the shelf.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By New Age of Barbarism on March 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is an exposee of some of the groups judged "extreme" by the authors on the far left and far right. These include communists, socialists, black nationalists, militias, white supremacists, Jewish extremists, Klansmen of various sorts, NeoNazis, and various religious fundamentalists. Fortunately, the authors do not take the smug politically correct stance that is taken by many academics writing about this topic. We learn that indeed the communist parties (CPUSA, for example) were likely linked to the Soviet Union. We learn that the militias are largely not racist. And, we are told that the events of Waco and Ruby Ridge were indeed totalitarian power plays. A decent account of some conspiracy theories is given as well. Overall, this book provides a much more objective view of "extremism" than is usually given by the politically correct in academia.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 8, 1998
Format: Paperback
John George and Laird Wilcox have published the the most honest and fair-minded account of American extremists to date. I have met John George and have known Laird Wilcox for over 30 years. To suggest that he has ties to right-wingers is misleading. In order to amass the collection of extremist literature he has in Spencer Library at the University of Kansas he has had to develop some rapport with his subjects. He is open and honest with them, does't call them names or argue with them. Because he listens well, some individuals assume he is sympathetic when all he had done is treat them like human beings. I was active with Laird in the 1960's civil rights movement and I regard him as a maverick liberal who is genuinely committed to civil liberties and freedom of expression.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By R. England on October 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
John George and Laird Wilcox present an extensive and surprisingly non-biased look at movements considered extreme compared to the standard liberal-conservative spectrum. The book examines the histories and personalities behind a host of marxist-leninist, religious fundamentalist and white supremacist organizations.

While the actual descriptions of the organizations are interesting, the book's real strength is in its analysis of the history of extremist movements and looks at what motivates people to join. Various theories explaining the attractiveness of extremist movements to certain types of people are explored. Perhaps best of all, the authors recognize that extremism is a matter of "style and tactics more than goals." The kinds of emotionally laden thinking, logical falicies and argumentative tactics that extremists tend to employ are analyzed. Yet the tone of the authors is generally non judgemental and they are quick to recognize the dangers of dismissing or worse, suppressing the rights of extremists. Repeatedly throughout the book the authors defend the rights of people to hold controversial views and warn of the dangers of violating the rights of those who hold unpopular opinions. Furthermore, in a day and age marked by liberal dominance over academic discourse, the authors are pleasantly centrist and without dogma or agenda. They are both equally hard and equally gentle with both left and right wing beliefs.

Yet the book is incomplete, especially in its treatment of the far left. The vast majority of leftist organizations looked at are Marxist-Leninist groups, which are quite dated in modern progressive thought.
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