Brian Levin teaches a criminal justice class at CSU San Bernardino.
Going to extremes is nothing new for Brian Levin, a criminal justice professor at CSU San Bernardino. As the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, he advises top government officials, educators and lawmakers about terrorism and extremist groups. He has talked to racist skinheads and members of the Ku Klux Klan and Hamas to learn hatemonger philosophies, and has met with hate crime victims. He tracks websites that spread hate online so he can predict trends and potential threats to others.
A civil rights attorney and a court-certified expert on extremism, Levin has appeared on every major network and on cable TV news broadcasts to discuss extremism, civil rights and criminal law, and has authored or edited numerous books, articles and training manuals. Previously, he served as associate director of legal affairs of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Klanwatch/Militia Task Force in Montgomery, Ala.; legal director of the Center for the Study of Ethnic and Racial Violence in Newport Beach; and a New York City cop in the 1980s. Levin founded the center in New Jersey in 1996 before moving it to San Bernardino in 2001, where it serves as a nonpartisan domestic research and policy center that looks at how bigotry, terrorism and hate crimes deny civil or human rights to others based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or other reasons.
“I’ve been fortunate to have been able to research and lecture on hate and extremism internationally,” says the California Faculty Association member. “As methods of violence become more accepted, lethal and accessible, there will be those who employ it to circumvent democratic methods because they simply lack the rational power of persuasion and a belief in civilized conflict solving. I am particularly concerned that for some on all different sides of the political spectrum, bigotry, falsehoods and violence have become an acceptable way to advance their cause. Through the power of balanced information and discourse, we intend to stand in their way. The center vigorously opposes violence, bigotry, attacks on democracy, but also censorship by government officials — even when free speech is bigoted, blasphemous and unpatriotic.”
Levin reports that record numbers of small, dangerous extremist groups exist today due to technology, a splintering of society, conspiracy theories and fear of the future. The No. 1 target of hate homicides today is the homeless, driven in part by Web videos of “bum fights” and homeless abuse.
Levin has interviewed extremists, including deceased neo-Nazi Jeff Hall, a Hamas convict, and Ku Klux Klan members. Sometimes he is treated with open hostility, but more often he finds extremists are pleased that a researcher wants to hear their views. However, most of his research is gathered from monitoring websites, public events and publications of extremist groups.
“By providing information on these [hate crime] issues, it is our hope that all sides of the political spectrum can become engaged,” says Levin. “We welcome and post scholarly and professional contributions and links from diverse perspectives — including some that I personally and vigorously disagree with. A key element to the maintenance of our pluralistic democracy is the ability of folks to be exposed to peaceful, nonthreatening, deliberative, intelligent discourse as a way to move forward.”
The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism offers a wealth of online information about hate crimes and extremism at hatemonitor.csusb.edu.