Domestic Terrorism, Overlooked?
National terrorism has been the focus of attention since September 11. But now domestic terrorism is becoming increasingly common among hate groups across the nation. Domestic terrorism can be defined as visible crime, or “street crime.” These acts would consist of violent crimes, (acts against people in which injury or death results) property crimes (acts that threaten property held by individuals or the state) and public order crimes. (acts that threaten the general well-being of society and challenger accepted moral principles) It can also however be described as political crime, (criminal acts by or against the government for ideological purposes) which would include the 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing.
This article directly relates to the definition of sociology, which is the systematic study of social behavior and human groups. This news item is sociological because it focuses on terrorism which is an act of violence (social/deviant behavior) against a person, group, or an entire nation (human groups). This article focuses on the behavior of domestic terrorist groups or gangs of people such as “the white supremacists, anti government types, militia members, eco-terrorists and people that hate corporations.” 1 “They include violent anti-abortionists and black and brown nationalists who envision a separate state for blacks and Latinos.” 1 Throughout this article I will use domestic terrorist groups as the name for the groups listed above. (hate groups, etc.)
Many sociological concepts can be applied to this news article; however there are four specific ones which I feel are the best, which are social structure, roles, deviance and social control. Every society has a social structure, which is the way in which a society is organized into predictable/patterned relationships. This relates directly to the human groups, i.e. white supremacists etc. discussed in the news article. When you belong to such a group you stand for something, and the people that occupy the group consider it their own society in which they make their own rules and regulations. They take on different roles which are deviant to our society but acceptable to theirs. In the case of this article these groups all plan and/or commit violent acts against people or other groups because they believe it’s acceptable, which according to us would be organizing themselves into predictable/patterned relationships. This directly ties in with the term roles, which are culturally defined rights and obligations attached to statuses. More specifically, we read and study for classes because we are students. In turn, people in these deviant groups plan and/or commit violent acts against people, other groups, the government, etc. because they are in those groups. A specific example from the article would be in “October 2004 in Tennessee the FBI arrested Demetrius “Van” Crocker who hated the government and tried to acquire explosives and chemical weapons so that he could blow up a government building.”1 His role was to hate the government, and try to destroy it or hurt it in anyway. Perhaps the concept that would relate to this article the best is deviance. Deviance is behavior that violates the standards of conduct or expectations of a group or society. To our society these domestic terrorist acts and domestic terrorist groups would be considered deviant. They violate the standards of conduct or expectations that we set for our society, by committing acts of terrorism on people, other groups and our nation as a whole. Deviance can tie into the labeling theory which is when the label of being deviant is applied to a person. Furthermore, these people and groups would be seen as pure deviant(s), which means they are perceived as deviant and actually are deviant. This brings us to our last concept, social control, which are the strategies and techniques for preventing deviant behavior in any society. The article describes attempts and successful apprehensions of deviant people in the domestic terrorist groups. Although the terrorism hasn’t hurt society as much, we still have to attend to it and focus on it a little more so it doesn’t get out of hand. We have been focusing on the national terrorism so much, and for good reason, that we have lost sight of the domestic terrorist groups and people that are trying to hurt society. Controlling these terrorist groups would be a form of “formal” social control, which is social control carried out by authorized agents, police officers, government etc. Their main focus is to try and arrest these domestic terrorists before they get a chance to actually commit the crime which is very important.
The sociological theories we learned in class can also be applied to this article. Two theories that probably relate the best are the interactionist and the conflict theorist. The interactionist is primarily concerned with fundamental or everyday forms of interaction, including symbols and other types of nonverbal communication. One of the main assumptions of the interactionists, which directly relates to this article, is that we act according to our own interpretation of reality. The people and domestic terrorist groups described in this article all act the way they do because their interpretation of reality is to wipe out e.g. the government, or other groups of people. They are manipulating symbols and are creating their social worlds through interaction with other group members. They have nonverbal communication with us by the terrorist acts they perform. As opposed to the functionalist and conflict theories, the interactionist sees people disobeying the law because of their own past experiences. The next theory is the conflict theory, which assumes that social behavior is best understood in terms of conflict or tension between competing groups. This relates to the article because the two groups are our nation and the domestic terrorist groups. They believe that people are shaped by power, coercion, and authority. I believe this relates to the deviant people and the domestic terrorist groups in the article because most of the groups have leaders which are figures of authority to them. Also according to psychological theories of deviance, people can be deviant because of an ID or Superego defect which is part of Sigmund Freud’s (1856 – 1939) research. He was a conflict theorist and determined that personality has three parts; the ID, (sexual, aggressive urges and bodily pleasure) Ego, (rational part of self) and Superego (conscience, ideas of right and wrong). I think it is more important to talk about a superego defect because when our ideas of right and wrong become damaged, we will think wrong things are right and vice versa. Therefore, we can see that the people and groups in this article have gone through a superego defect because what they are doing is wrong and it is hurting our nation.
After reading through the article it would seem that much more research needs to be done to control the situation better. Therefore, I have come up with a potential research method to study the activity or behavior of these domestic terrorist groups or individual domestic terrorists. The hypothesis would be that domestic terrorist people in domestic terrorist groups are more likely to plan and/or commit crimes than domestic terrorist people who are not in domestic terrorist groups. The dependent variable is planned and/or committed crimes. The independent variable is whether they are in a domestic terrorist group or not. To study the dependent variable a survey could be used in which local, state, or federal law enforcement organizations would be contacted to find out how many people were arrested over a certain amount of time, and how many of those arrested planned and/or committed crimes that were labeled as domestic terrorism. This study would have more general questions. How many arrests were made? Of the arrests how many crimes were planned? How many committed? Would this crime qualify as domestic terrorism? To study the independent variable, another, more specific survey could be conducted in which the crimes labeled as domestic terrorism would be looked over more specifically to see if the crimes were planned and/or committed by people in a domestic terrorist group or not. Furthermore, we could see if the possibility of the person being in a domestic terrorist group was even considered by the law enforcement organization that apprehended them. This study would show more specific questions. Of the arrests made how many of the domestic terrorist crimes were group related? Of the arrests made how many were there in which a group not mentioned/considered by police or the arrested person? Of the arrests made how many people openly admitted to being in a domestic terrorist group?
The most beneficial way to research this topic would be a survey. This is the most appropriate research method for this area because it could be conducted nationally, through a countless number or law enforcement organizations. To offer a suggestion, the first thing that could be done is a mailing list. This would include each organization being sent a packet including the survey (however formatted), and a letter requesting their participation. Then, over a period of time monitor which organizations respond and which do not. Of the ones that don’t respond, a letter of reminder or even another packet could be sent back to the organization. After that, another letter could be sent but it should probably stop at that point, as the organizations probably don’t want to respond.
In conclusion domestic terrorism is recognized by all law enforcement agencies as a “problem.” They all agree that this issue needs to be deeply looked at and that efforts to counter domestic terrorism must develop quickly. Although, in the article “police say the number of people arrested for plotting domestic terrorist acts is greater than the number of people arrested for actually carrying out the terrorist acts,”1 there is still lots of work to be done on the issue. There should be an equal amount of focus on national and domestic terrorism in our country.
1 Copeland, Larry. “Domestic Terrorism: New trouble at home.”
USA TODAY 15 Nov. 2004, natl. ed. : 1A – 2A