Notes for a talk on the Psychology of Extremism
Hatred as an Organizing Tool

by Allen Tate Wood

(intra group origins)

Extremist movements, destructive cult groups, and terrorist organizations from the Nazis to Mao's Red Guards to the Moonies to contemporary gangs employ hatred of outsiders as an organizing principle: a tool for shaping the psyche of the faithful. The adversary psychology which becomes so prominent in such groups is a kind of self fulfilling prophecy. It has both intra and extra group origins. The groupsí founders and leaders through "religious revelation", "historical analysis" and or the manipulation and control of information define the sacred and the profane, the "in" group and the "out" group, us and them, the chosen and the damned. This "knowledge" is the basis for the groupsí collective and individual relationships with outsiders. It is the philosophical and moral foundation for activities which fall along a continuum ranging from charities fraud, and character assassination to racial hatred and genocide. Outsiders and backsliders are judged against an absolute standard of moral purity. Their failure to measure up or their failure to acknowledge their depravity proves to the "faithful" that the barbarians are at the gates, that the "anti-Christ" is on the march and that the "running dogs of American Imperialism" are lunging at the pristine throat of the Chinese Communist Peoples' Revolution.


(extra group origins)

As the group in question gains power, It begins to flex its social and political muscles. It, through its dispensation from god, through its historical mandate, carries out a program of "reformation" or "revolution." These programs awaken a variegated host of responses from the society at large. These responses also fall along a continuum ranging from apathy and ignorance, to irritation and frustration, to the organization of groups opposing the methods, activities and philosophy of the original group. This last response feeds into the world view of the original group. Having an opponent or enemy becomes proof that you are one of God's minions that you are standing in the vanguard of history.

Let's reflect on:

The Auto da Fe(the inquisition),
The Khmer Rouge performance under Pol Pot,
The activities of police agencies in carrying out the mandates of their various governments whether in Latin America or in the former
Eastern Block, or here(the U.S.)
Mein Kamph (spelling)
Jim Jones( People's Temple)
The Palestinians/Israelis
Luther's remarks about Jews.

The Shadow

ally of the Dictator, demagogue, cult leader and gang leader

Religious and political extremism are examples of the social projection of the shadow. The projection of the shadow organizes the world and the psyche into an armed camp... the integration of the shadow (much less exciting) bodes toward pluralism, polytheism, compassion...feeling with as opposed to feeling against... the great demagogues, dictators and cult leaders see in hatred (the projection of the shadow) their great ally.