An ivory tower of fear: Academics of the racist right

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




David H. Bennett


Fear, Academics, Racist right, Right wing, Extremism

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | History | Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences | United States History


Early examinations of the American radical right have generally been undertaken by social scientists interested in those who adhere to extremist beliefs and why they do. Such scholars offered theories to explain why some people in American society turned to the extremism of the right. Some social scientists argued that people became extremists of the far right because of the absence of formal education in their lives, noting that those who occupied the lowest ranks in American society were the most likely to engage in anti-democratic movements and activities. Other scholars of American politics and society have pointed out that while many who fill the ranks of the radical right are intelligent, they tend to adhere to a "paranoid style" of political involvement. Such arguments have come to dominate the thinking of both scholars and the general public regarding the racist right: that those who adhere to extremist and racist beliefs are ignorant, unlettered outsiders. The purpose of this study is not to take issue with the points mentioned above, but to point out that such suppositions neglect an entire aspect of the American far right. By examining the intelligencia, or academics, of the racist right, this study hopes to re-direct the approach many have taken when examining American right-wing radicalism.

Throughout the twentieth century, American society and culture have come to rely on experts, those formally trained and educated, to construct public policy and guide the nation. In the twenty-first century, as militia groups dwindle and Klan groups become smaller, the American far right has also come to rely on its experts--those with academic training and credentials committed to disseminating and forwarding racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric.


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