Academics usually define extremism as a set of beliefs that fall outside the norms of the society in which they are situated, but entire societies have at times been organized around recognizably extreme beliefs. This paper will examine the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Scott v. Sandford, 60 US 393 (1856), aka the Dred Scott decision, which ruled that Black people, whether enslaved or free, were entitled to no rights under the Constitution.

The paper analyzes the Dred Scott decision to consider whether and how it implements and institutionalizes many widely recognized tropes of extremist ideology. The paper will conclude with a discussion of empirical frameworks that can enable and empower the study of lawful extremism.


Was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 extremist? The first paper in the “Lawful Extremism” series considered whether the 1856 Dred Scott decision that denied Black people citizenship and constitutional rights functioned as an extremist ideological text. This paper uses the same framework to examine the Chinese Exclusion era, covering roughly 1870-1943, and the anti-Chinese movement that traveled from the fringes to the mainstream, becoming the driving force behind the enaction of the Act. 

Focusing on congressional records supporting the enaction of Chinese exclusion, we consider whether they articulate an extremist system of meaning. We then analyze characteristics of the anti-Chinese movement as an extremist ideology in the process of taking power and conclude by considering how the lawful extremism framework can inform analyses of modern anti-immigration movements.

THE last twitter census

The newest VOX-Pol Publication, The Last Twitter Census by JM Berger, is now available on the VOX-Pol Publications page.

This open-access report compares two large random samples of Twitter accounts that tweet in English: one taken just before Elon Musk acquired Twitter in October 2022, and one taken three months later, in January 2023. It also examines several related datasets collected during the period following the acquisition, a period in which, the study found, new accounts were created at a record-breaking pace.


What extremism is, how extremist ideologies are constructed, and why extremism can escalate into violence.

A rising tide of extremist movements threaten to destabilize civil societies around the globe. It has never been more important to understand extremism. In this volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, J. M. Berger offers a nuanced introduction to extremist movements, explaining what extremism is, how extremist ideologies are constructed, and why extremism can escalate into violence. Berger shows that although the ideological content of extremist movements varies widely, there are common structural elements that help us understand the category.

"Elegantly written, the book provides a lucid discussion of a contested concept." -- Perspectives on Terrorism

"J.M. Berger wrote a book that everyone has needed for more than a decade. He combines a wealth of experience from research of extremist groups of all types and sizes to develop a useful taxonomy for all - from the beginner to the expert." -- Clint Watts, author of Messing with the Enemy


A chronological collection of more than a decade of research on American white supremacy and white nationalism by INTELWIRE's J.M. Berger. 

Read it at World Gone Wrong


INTELWIRE presents exclusive collections of Freedom of Information documents, with entity extraction and full text search through Google Pinpoint. Databases at launch include the September 11 attacks and the 1979 Siege of Mecca, with more to come.  

Check out the new INTELWIRE Databases page

An image of a declassified SECRET State Department cable

An image from the document database