Extremism and the Threat to Democracy

Ian Mitroff
3 min readAug 10, 2022


I’m publishing this series of articles to share and discuss my ruminations on coping with a troubled and messy world. Please “follow” me to never miss an article.

Whether they’re on the Left or Right, extremist groups share a number of disturbing characteristics. First and primary, they are governed by Absolutism. They not only demand Absolute Allegiance from their followers, but the views for which they stand are allow no exceptions. No deviations whatsoever are permitted from the central tenets for which they stand. It’s all or nothing. Anyone or anything that does not adhere to the line in any way is the Enemy. They are Traitors through and through.

In accordance with Absolutism, Extremist Groups also make abundant use of Fear Tactics, Half Truths, and Outright Lies to help secure their Cause. While violence may not be officially sanctioned, it’s never far from the surface. Indeed, in response to the recent FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, Far Right Extremist Groups said that it was grounds for Civil War. It was followed with explicit Threats of violence. Even though the raid was approved by a Federal judge and therefore was sanctioned legally, Republicans exploded with outrage thereby encouraging Lawlessness. Indeed, writing in The New York Times, Caroline Fredrickson put it as follows:

“…Donald Trump has doubled down on his attacks on law enforcement and on law itself. And many in the G.O.P. establishment are backing him up — not necessarily because they truly believe him to be innocent but because being seen to be persecuted by federal officers is now a badge of honor in the Republican Party.”[i]

In a horrific footnote, both Merrick Garland and Christopher Wray received death threats on Social Media for initiating the raid.

In line with their Absolutism, Extremist groups are strongly partial to Authoritarian Leaders with their attitude of “My Way or The Highway.”

They are continually proselytizing in their never-ending attempts to attract new followers and thus strengthen their base. In this sense, they are committed to the Long View. They do not expect to achieve their objectives overnight, but they do believe that they will in the Long Term.

Once again, while the preceding apply to groups on both the Left and the Right, in today’s world, they pertain more to the Right. They certainly do to Anti-Abortion groups. Indeed, the frequent use of the term Murder to characterize those seeking Abortions and even to engage in violence towards Providers is more than enough to qualify them as Extremists. The very language not only encourages, but justifies violence.

Yes, it’s true that both the Left and the Right stoke Fear and Provoke Anger, but I do not see them as equal in promoting violence. And even though I thoroughly despise the Left’s notion of Defunding the Police, I do not see both sides as the same when it comes to honoring the Truth.

As I’ve written time and again, never before have I feared so much for the fate — the very soul — of American Democracy.

[i] Caroline Fredrickson, “The Lawless G.O.P. Response to the Raid at Mar-a-Lago,” The New York Times, Wednesday, August 10, 2022, P. A20.

Ian I. Mitroff is credited as being one of the principal founders of the modern field of Crisis Management. He has a BS, MS, and a PhD in Engineering and the Philosophy of Social Systems Science from UC Berkeley. He Is Professor Emeritus from the Marshall School of Business and the Annenberg School of Communication at USC. Currently, he is a Senior Research Affiliate in the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, UC Berkeley. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Management. He has published 41 books. His latest is: The Socially Responsible Organization: Lessons from Covid, Springer, New York, 2022.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash