Over the past two decades, the United States has witnessed a significant transition in the landscape of extremist ideologies. This transition, which often extends beyond traditional terrorism concerns, is being lead by a new and younger generation of extremists who are often associated with Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012). These individuals challenge established concepts of extremist radicalization. They blur the lines between opposing extremist groups and leverage the power of online and offline influences.
The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) recently released “Young Guns: Understanding a New Generation of Extremist Radicalization in the United States.” This report outlines the factors that drive youth radicalization and identifies the key trends in extremist mobilization in the U.S. Traditionally, extremist ideologies were categorized into groups such as Salafi-jihadists and white supremacists, which operated in separate areas. Today, a hybridized blend of extremist ideologies has emerged. Young white supremacists may draw inspiration from Islamic State tactics, while Salafi-jihadists adopt elements of the far-right. As a result, extremism has fragmented into a variety of movements, subcultures, and hateful belief systems, all interconnected through digital platforms.
ISD reports that various factors, including personal experiences, on- and offline connections with extremists, triggering events, and political, economic, and social grievances, facilitate the adoption of extremist beliefs. These factors, in combination with mental health conditions, emphasize the need for early prevention efforts.
The changing landscape of extremist ideologies in the U.S., driven by Generation Z, demands proactive strategies to address the challenges posed by ideological fluidity, digital interconnectedness, and the complexities of radicalization.