– Executive Summary –

Identitarianism is a complex anti-liberal ideology based on the desire to preserve traditions, culture, and ethnicity against the perceived tide of ethnic replacement, globalism, and liberalism.[1] While certain identitarian leaders have moved away from violence, adherents like Dylann Roof and Patrick Crusius have committed atrocities in its name.[2] Law enforcement’s focus for the last decade has been on obvious white-supremacist or anti-Semitic markers as leading indicators of identitarian-inspired violence.[3] Whether this oversight has been intentional or inadvertent, the fact is, U.S. law enforcement at all levels lacks useful information on the movement. Without a more complete, nuanced understanding of the identitarian world view, rhetoric, and various political platforms, law enforcement will miss opportunities to prevent extremist violence. Law enforcement’s incomplete and—to some extent—outmoded conception has allowed homegrown violent extremists to seethe undetected in a culture of violence formed in a latent, frequently coded worldview, the hallmarks of which often are violent battles and heroic deeds in the defense of European lands and ethnicity. The end result is brutal mass killings that shock the conscience.

No single, unrestricted, comprehensive work has addressed the threat of identitarianism in the United States. Therefore, the central mission of this thesis is to understand how identitarians view the world (via ideological lenses) and then link this worldview to violence in the overall movement. Research thus far has provided theories on why violence is a part of the movement, and these theories are important because they reveal motivations, but they do not fully identify why identitarians choose a pathway to violence. Identifying how violence is connected to identitarian ideology—where within the belief system it is situated and how it is actionable—offers insight into the resources law enforcement should be employing to combat the violence.

This thesis was organized loosely around the concepts of sensemaking theory as explained by Laura McNamara.[4] The clearest way to understand the overall identitarian ideology and its accompanying violence is to describe how the main players—identitarian leaderships and adherents—see the movement through their respective lenses. Each group builds a lens based on one’s perceptions of the movement; however, the lenses intersect as both sides build a culture of violence around their ideology. This thesis analyzes the lenses through a review of literature, manifestos, and training material. Finally, the thesis reveals that the culture of violence is indeed its own lens, with two different endgames in mind: peace or violence.

This research reveals that while identitarianism is a complex socio-political worldview, it is also an inherently violent movement with the sole mission of ensuring that European culture and ethnicity survive a global onslaught of liberalism, globalism, and mass immigration.[5] Identitarians see themselves as the literal defenders of Europe and European (white) ethnicity. The identitarian culture of violence is a direct result of viewing the world through the lens of persistent threats. In fact, violence itself has become the lens through which they see the world. In some respects, it is not a far stretch to conclude that identitarians see violence in hegemonic movements like globalism and then decide the only way to survive is to counter the violence with their own, righteous, violence. To identitarians, every election, world event, or social policy change is either ground gained or ground lost in this epic struggle for survival. Even identitarians who espouse tenets of metapolitics, the most peaceful of the strains, use ancient heroes and battles to paint the picture that survival is not guaranteed and that a strong defense is necessary. Finally, the research demonstrates that this culture of violence, combined with the ever-present risk of erasure, is the primary motivator of identitarian killers.

This thesis provides a good foundation for understanding the overall movement including the ideology, various strains, and the pathway to violence. The research, conclusions, and recommendations of this thesis contribute critical information to the body of work on extremism and domestic terrorism for law enforcement and the broader homeland security enterprise.

[1] Jose Zúquete, The Identitarians (South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2018).

[2] Chris Meddowes, “Why Identitarians Reject the Old Right,” Identitarian Movement, September 1, 2019, https://identitarianmovement.org/why-identitarians-reject-the-old-right/.

[3] Department of Homeland Security, (U//FOUO) Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment (Washington, DC: Department of Homeland Security, 2009).

[4] Laura McNamara, “Sensemaking in Organizations: Reflections on Karl Weick and Social Theory,” EPIC (blog), March 24, 2015, https://www.epicpeople.org/sensemaking-in-organizations/.

[5] Zúquete, The Identitarians, 1.

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