How Demagogues Spawn Systems of Oppression & Violence

(Prejudiced Beliefs + Discriminatory Acts + Power Structure Dominance = Societal Systems of Oppression)
A Formula to Help Unravel the Dynamics & Intersectionality of
Prejudice |  Privilege |  Supremacism |  Bigotry |  Denigration |  Discrimination |  Power |  Oppression
Dualism |  Scapegoating |  Demonization |  Conspiracism |  Dehumanization |  Demagoguery
Aggression |  Apocalyptic Aggression |  Segregation |  Ethnoviolence |  Slavery |  Expulsion |  Genocide

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This website is being developed by Chip Berlet to spark a discussion on how current social science research can better assist human rights work built around race, gender, class analyses. Please note that it is currently Under Construction. Apologies for any inconvenience.

Featured Resource: Browse the Full Glossary List


How Systems of Oppression are Created and Maintained

Formula for Discussing Systems of Oppression
Some Common Prejudices
Sources of Discrimination
Arenas of
Power Struggles
Tools of Fear
The Outcome of Passive or Active Aggression is Oppression
     + Power
     = Oppression
Religious Triumphalism
(...and many more)

Structural (defacto)
i.e. kinship structures, family structures

     Systemic (defacto)
i.e. political systems (social democracy, fascism), economic systems
          Institutional (defacto)
i.e. John Birch Society, Heritage Foundation, Free Congress Foundation, Fox News, Tea Parties

                  Legal (dejure)
i.e. Courts, Police, FBI

These can occur singly or in combinations. "defacto" means "in fact" or "in reality" while "dejure" means "in the law" or "done legally"

Unfair power & privilege maintained by social, cultural, economic, or political pressure (norms) create systems of oppression or even repression, violence, & murder.

These processes can produce acts of Passive or Active Aggression
Individual Attacks
Group Attacks

"Apocalyptic Aggression"
is action sparked by fear that time is running out so authoritarian, coercive, or violent solutions are justified
Psychological & Sociological Mechanisms:
Social Cognition | Social Identity | Social Categorization | Ethnocentrism | Confirmation/Disconfirmation Bias | Social Dominance | Normalization | Peer Pressure | Intergroup Hostility | Projection | Exemplary Dualism | Subversion Panics | Interpersonal Aggression | Authoritarianism | Justification

Under Construction

Featured Website: Facing History and Ourselves

Browse the full Glossary List

Understanding systems of oppression

Why revise the formula?

Core Elements of a Human Rights Framework

Building Human Rights
Building Our Planet
Building Democracy
Building Economic Justice
Building Equality
Building Gender Justice
Building Immigrant Rights
Building Liberty
Building Public Education
Building Racial Justice
Building World Peace

What are the Tools of Fear?

The tools of fear are a connected constellation of ideologies, frames, narratives, and processes used by demagogues who are mobilizing resentment, undermining democratic processes, and fomenting forms of authoritarian apocalyptic aggression ranging from discrimination to ethnoviolence to genocide.

About this Website

When reports of violent attacks on individuals, groups, or structures hit the headlines, pundits often shake their heads and say the perpetrators must by crazy and the acts make no sense. This is almost never true. Outdated social science and ignorance need to be replaced with a basic understanding of the concepts explained on these pages.

Why we do not use the terms "Hate Crimes," "Extremism," or "Cults" on this website

"Ethnoviolence" rather than "Hate Crimes"

"Fanaticism" rather than "Extremism"

"Totalist Groups" rather then "Cults"

Explore These Other Websites

Zinn Education Project
How Maps Change the World
Civil Liberties Hall of Fame
Apocalyptic Aggression
Power Structure Research
Research for Progress
Social Movement Study Network
Facing History and Ourselves


The bibliography resources are currently being expanded and properly formatted

Unearthing Research Roots

A scholarly review of the book Challenges to Equality: Poverty and Race in America edited by Chester Hartman noted that “Racial oppression and institutional discrimination in modern-day America is a real and all too tangible aspect of the social fabric.” This illustrates the language used in much scholarship in which Racial Prejudice, Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Racial Oppression are considered separate concepts that are related in a dynamic way.

Key Research:

Prejudice (Belief - an "ism")
(Gordon W. Allport, Elisabeth Young–Bruehl)

Discrimination (Action)
(Gordon W. Allport, Elisabeth Young–Bruehl)

Power (Relative Leverage)
(Frederick Douglass, C. Wright Mills, G. William Domhoff, Sara Diamond)

Oppression (Dynamic Outcome)
(Paulo Freire, Audre Lorde, Peggy McIntosh, Marilyn Frye, Colette Guillaumin)

I use the phrase "Relative Leverage" based on the idea that:

"power in general is the capacity to produce effects. Not the production of effects, since such production may be blocked or overcome by other powers, but rather the potential to do so"

(RJ Rummel, Understanding Conflict and War, Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications). [1]

A popular way to discuss relative power in a society is to speak of "Leverage" and "Relative Leverage."

Prejudice (Belief) + Discrimination (Action) + Power (Leverage) = Oppression (Dynamic Outcome)

When We Started this Discussion

Back in 2001 Surina Khan and I, while at Political Research Associates, began to raise these confounding issues:

Chip Berlet and Surina Khan, 2001, "A Response to 'Digging Out of the White Trap' by Marian (Meck) Groot and Paul Marcus; both in Chester Hartman (Ed.), Challenges to Equality: Poverty and Race in America. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.

The Groot and Marcus essay is here: Our response is not online. (I am going to track down our text and post it on this website).

I then expanded on this argument in Chip Berlet. 2004. “Mapping the Political Right: Gender and Race Oppression in Right-Wing Movements.” In Abby Ferber, ed, Home-Grown Hate: Gender and Organized Racism. New York: Routledge.

The phrase "the tools of fear" appears in "Tao Te Ching, #31" attributed to Lao Tzu.

[ Beware the snakes of Sicily!]