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Ohio: Home to 50+ extremist groups

Ohio, "The Heart of it All” is the state’s brand.

In the world of politics, some believe the art of persuasion is a valuable asset — a skill that can turn a race, stimulate social change or influence national policies. But what happens when a person or a group interweaves extremist ideology into their persuasive stance?

WYSO’s Kathryn Mobley explores some of the factors behind this approach with Arthur Jipson, an associate professor at the University of Dayton in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work. He is an expert in the subject of extremist ideology and extremist groups.

(This transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity)

Kathryn Mobley: Dr. Jipson nationally and right here in the Miami Valley area, extremist ideology is getting more and more attention. Now, you define it as having an agenda. What do you mean by that?

Dr. Arthur Jipson: Trying to encourage people to certain courses of action as a predetermined outcome, like a white supremacist, might share ideologies about an all out historical race war in an effort to convince people that a race war is inevitable. And in order to survive the race war, you need to be on a certain side of it.

Mobley: In your research, you map out three pillars used by extremists to radicalize ordinary people into becoming their followers. What are those?

Jipson: First, somebody joins an extremist group because their personal needs are served by joining that group. The second pillar is almost like you're constructing a narrative. In a lot of my research, I refer to it as a hero's journey that allows them to create goals that are then tied to those ideas, and that becomes who they are. They manage changes and problems. Their whole orientation to the world becomes part of this journey. Then finally, the third pillar. They share it through social networking or through conversations.

A lot of what happens among extremists is by the time we see this radicalization reach this third pillar, they've disengaged. They've disconnected from morality or rules that guide our behavior. The echo chamber becomes supreme. They're only reading things that confirm their ideology. They're only talking to people who believe what they believe and are willing to engage in violence.

Mobley: In the past couple of years, the Southern Poverty Law Center has tracked more than 50 extremists and anti-government groups in Ohio. Who are they and what's the concern?

Jipson: Well, the concerns at the Southern Poverty Law Center raised is consistent with what those of us who research this are saying is that extremism in Ohio is increasing. We know, for example, in 2023, there was a Neo-Nazi homeschool network in Ohio, a whole host of extremist groups who've engaged in significant violence. Right. The Oath Keepers, three Percenters, Proud Boys, the Ohio State regular militia was the fifth most affiliated extremist groups. On January 6, the Aryan Nations, when it moved from Idaho in the late 80's and early 90's, it moved to Ohio. It moved to Parma, Ohio. There are more active anti-government extremist groups in Ohio than in most states of the country.

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Mobley: Dr. Jipson, this sounds very overwhelming. Is there any thing individuals who have no affiliations with extremist groups? Is there anything we can do to help balance the scales a bit?

Jipson: I think it's really important to be literate, to be knowledgeable, question information that the information you receive before you act on it. Investigate the source. Find multiple sources of coverage. Be careful about making assumptions. You see quotes. You see information being discussed in the media, source it, investigate it, research it.

I also think dialog matters — that we don't make assumptions that are unwarranted and to create forms of respectful dialog where people feel safe, people feel supported — where community leaders, stakeholders, authority figures in the community work alongside regular folk. [This way] we have ideas in place for how we're going to protect the most vulnerable members of our community about how to prevent hate crime [and] how to prevent bias incidents. I also think it's important that groups come together to have community action briefings.

Mobley: Dr. Arthur Jipson, associate professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work at the University of Dayton, also an expert in the subject matter of extremist ideology and extremist groups. Thank you, Dr. Jipson, for speaking with us.

Jipson: Thank you. I really appreciate your time and interest. It's very important to get these ideas out so we can build healthier, safer communities.

Kathryn Mobley is an award-winning broadcast journalist, crafting stories for more than 30 years. She’s reported and produced for TV, NPR affiliate and for the web. Mobley also contributes to several area community groups. She sings tenor with World House Choir (Yellow Springs), she’s a board member of the Beavercreek Community Theatre and volunteers with two community television operations, DATV (Dayton) and MVCC (Centerville).

Email: kmobley@wyso.org
Cell phone: (937) 952-9924