Democracy Works

Understanding — and addressing — domestic terrorism

Episode Summary

The FBI recently reported that it's opened 2,000 domestic terrorism investigations since 2017. How the United States responds to these threats touches on some of democracy's most basic tensions. We explore those tensions this week and discuss where things might go from here.

Episode Notes

When the social fabric and institutions the hold a democracy together are weakened, it can create a breeding ground for extremism that radicalization that might eventually lead to acts of domestic terrorism like the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. It's a vicious cycle — weaker democracy breeds more distrust which leads to more extreme actions. As Anne Applebaum reminded us last week, democracy is not inevitable and takes hard work to sustain. 

This week, we break down what domestic terrorism is and how it largely spread unnoticed for much of the 21st century while the focus was on international terrorism after 9/11. Our guest is James Piazza, Liberal Arts Professor of Political Science at Penn State and an expert on the study of terrorism, including its socioeconomic roots, the role of minority rights, and state repression of terrorist activity. Piazza talks about why it seems to have taken so long for the U.S. to recognize domestic terrorism as a threat and what 20 years of studying international terrorism can teach us about radicalization and deradicalization.

Additional Information

Piazza's website

Piazza in The Conversation on hate speech and political violence

McCourtney Institute Mood of the Nation Poll on trust in the FBI