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Ku Klux Rising: Toward an Understanding of American Right Wing Terrorist Campaigns

Ku Klux Rising: Toward an Understanding of American Right Wing Terrorist Campaigns published on

Authored by Naval Postgraduate School

Since 1866, the Ku Klux Klan has been able to muster three distinctive and sustained campaigns of terrorism, commonly referred to as the three “waves” of Klan violence. The first occurred between 1866 and 1871, the second between 1915 and 1928, and the third from roughly 1954 to the mid-1960s. Subsequent to the third wave, the Klan unsuccessfully attempted another resurgence in the mid-1970s/early 1980s but was snuffed out before a campaign could be triggered. By studying the three most successful Klan campaigns of the past (granting that each varied in scope, intensity and outcome) alongside the failed campaign attempt of the 1970-1980s, this dissertation will investigate which commonly cited factors and conditions were, in fact, associated with the rise of the KKK’s campaigns of terrorism.

Ultimately, the dissertation finds that four factors-the presence of a safe haven, organizational structure, leadership, and recruitment techniques-are necessary and jointly sufficient to explain Klan campaign emergence. By combining these factors in a manner which better reflects their interplay, a model offering greater explanatory value emerges. The first significant set of correlates is the presence or absence of safe havens and their relation to the organizational structure chosen by Klan leadership. The second set of correlates is the ability of the Klan to downplay its core ideology and effectively frame a recruitment message which resonates with a pre-existing dominant social narrative-a narrative usually based on mythologized history or an unfalsifiable belief system. As will be explained in concluding chapters, the probabilistic model that emerges when these factors combine proves more effective in explaining and predicting campaigns of Klan terrorism than simply listing these factors as if they are not consciously combined for effect.

Publication Date:
Aug 25 2014
1500940135 / 9781500940133
Page Count:
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
8.5″ x 11″
Black and White
Related Categories:
Political Science / Political Freedom & Security / Terrorism


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