Selling Violent Extremism

60 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2022 Last revised: 8 Jun 2023

See all articles by Danny Klinenberg

Danny Klinenberg

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)

Date Written: October 5, 2022


Domestic violent extremist organizations have become a significant threat to Western democracies, with some groups attracting tens of thousands of members. To investigate how these groups amass such large followings, I study the impact of three tactics – advertising, discounts, and armed events – on recruitment by the Oath Keepers, America’s largest paramilitary organization. Using a synthetic control framework, I find that discounts and armed events caused new member signups to increase by 80% to 400% during the events; in contrast, advertising via NASCAR sponsorships had adverse effects. Economic inequality did not predict new memberships, but previous inflows of new members did.

Keywords: Extremism, Applied microeconomics

JEL Classification: A10

Suggested Citation

Klinenberg, Danny, Selling Violent Extremism (October 5, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Danny Klinenberg (Contact Author)

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) ( email )

United States

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