The evolution of a violent extremist

Published 6:32 pm Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Years ago, a person was born in Mobile, Alabama to a father, who was a World War II veteran, and a mother, who was a stay at home parent. This person became a one-man terror in the United States. He was one of four children. His father left the family when he was just 4-years-old. When the father would visit the family, he would be singled out and severely beaten for the slightest provocation. When he was interviewed years later from his prison cell, he stated to the interviewer that it was these beatings that resulted in him being mentally deficient as a child. As an adult, however, he became a proficient home-grown terrorist.

It goes without saying that what happens to us early in life can be a catalyst for the choices we make later in life. Do you ever wonder why some people seem to be happy and the personification of success? What happens to them early in life that prepares them for who they are today? Why is it that other people seem to be a failure in life, not able to develop traction that would lead to a path of self-fulfillment?

If you subscribe to psychologist, Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs,” the answer for success and happiness in life is quite simple. He believed that “once the powerful needs for food, security, love and self-esteem are satisfied, a deep desire for creative expression and self-actualization rises to the surface.” He was emphatic that any deficiency leading up to “actualization” would interfere with one’s psychological health, resulting in a person conceivably reacting at times defensively, or at times, irrationally, from a place of weakness rather than strength.

Taking Maslow into consideration, among many variables, Joseph Paul Franklin (born James Clayton Vaughn Jr.), it is not difficult to understand why Franklin would become a major menace to society. Early in life, he tried organized religion, but after reading the writings of Adolf Hitler, “Mein Kampf” became his bible, that from his perspective, were the words directly from God. It was for this reason that he was encouraged to change his name to “Joseph Paul,” in honor of Paul Joseph Goebbels, a high-ranking officer in Hitler’s Nazi party.

After his baptism into extremism, Franklin immediately began to externalize his hatred for integration and Jews. During his rein of terror in the 1970s and 80s, it is believed that he killed more than 20 people. Interracial couples were a priority for his animus. His terror took him around the country, including here in Georgia, where on March 6, 1978, he is alleged to have shot Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine and his lawyer in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Flynt, who became paralyzed. He was shot because his magazine featured interracial couples having sex.

Franklin was eventually caught and sentenced to death in Missouri. Leading up to his execution on Nov. 20, 2013, Franklin, unrepentant to the end, was defended by Flynt, who believed that the government should not be in the business of killing its citizens and that his childhood history of severe abuse were causal factors for his rein of extremism.