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News Tip: Violence in Hillsborough Does Appear to be Act of Political Terrorism, Two Duke professors Say

Over the weekend, the Orange County Republican Party headquarters in Hillsborough, N.C., was firebombed. Two Duke professors -- political scientist John Aldrich and national security expert David Schanzer -- comment.

John Aldrich

”Yes, this does appear to be an act of political terrorism," says John Aldrich, a professor of political science at Duke University. “There are, at least as of now, far too few details to be sure, but it gives every appearance of being so.”

“There are other possibilities, as well, so we shouldn't rush to judgment, especially since some of those other possibilities have very different origins and very different motivations.  No matter what turns out to be the case, it was terrible, and we are fortunate that there were no injuries or deaths.”

“It has an uncomfortable similarity to violence during the Jim Crow era and especially during the Civil Rights Movement. That, of course, was from the right, sometimes the acts of a few individuals, sometimes organized groups such as the KKK. “

“It presumably was done by someone from North Carolina. It is hard to say, however, whether it was motivated politically by events in North Carolina politics (if it is an act of political terrorism) or national politics or both. Assuming it is what it seems to be, it does speak to the growing divide between the two parties, reaching deeply down into society.”

“In many cases, the substantive differences are less than the emotional, and it seems that this campaign, particularly at the national level, has touched, perhaps even created, emotions within the polity that point to a nearly unbreachable divide. If so, matters like HB2 at least penetrate that national division down to the state and perhaps local levels.”

John Aldrich
is a professor of political science at Duke University. He specializes in American politics and behavior and political institutions. Aldrich is author of the book "Why Parties?" and co-author of "Change and Continuity in the 2012 and 2014 Elections."

Archive video interview (different subject):
(4:52 mark)

For more comment, contact Aldrich at:

David Schanzer

"The violence in Hillsborough has no place in American politics," says David Schanzer, an associate professor of the practice at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy, and director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security.

“To demonstrate this, I would recommend that our top statewide candidates make a joint appearance to denounce this act and discuss how they will continue to express their differences with both intensity and civility in the next three weeks. This is the American way.”

“Terrorism is the use of violence for political purpose. So, yes, this is political. That’s how you distinguish it from other forms of violence. At this point we don’t know the perpetrators or their political purpose, but they were trying to use violence to make a political statement or influence politics.”

David Schanzer is an associate professor of the practice at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy, and director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, a collaboration between Duke, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and RTI International. He is an expert on counterterrorism and homeland security. From 2003-2005, Schanzer was a Democratic staff director for the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security.

Archive video interviews (on Boston Marathon bombings):

For more comment, contact David Schanzer at: