Friday, June 23, 2017
Who are the terrorists?
|A member of the Scranton Police Special Operations Group enters the woods in October 2014 near Canadensis, Pa., in a search for Eric Matthew Frein, an anti-government radical later convicted of killing a state trooper. Frein was caught after a 48-day manhunt.Credit: Butch Comegys/AP Photo/Scranton Times & Tribune|
Dave Neiwert has written a vitally important piece on terrorist violence for the Center for Investigative Reporting. It won't reveal anything that most of my readers don't know in the abstract, but here is the data that shows where the real terrorist threat in America comes from:
Trump frequently had excoriated his predecessor, President Barack Obama, and his chief political opponent, Hillary Clinton, as naive, even gutless, for preferring “violent extremism” to describe the nature of the global and domestic terrorist threat.
“Anyone who cannot name our enemy is not fit to lead this country,” Trump said at one campaign speech in Ohio. During another, in Philadelphia, he drove home the attack: “We now have an administration and a former secretary of state who refuse to say ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ ”
It was a strange place to make his point. The only Islamist terror attack in Pennsylvania over the past 15 years was committed by Edward Archer, a mentally ill man who shot and injured a police officer in early 2016, later telling investigators that he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Far-right episodes of violent extremism were far more common.
Just two years before Trump’s Pennsylvania speech, anti-government radical Eric Matthew Frein ambushed two police officers in the township of Blooming Grove, killing one and wounding another, then led law enforcement authorities on a 48-day manhunt in the woods. (He was sentenced to death in April.)
Two months before that, police discovered that Eric Charles Smith, who ran a white supremacist church out of his home in the borough of Baldwin, had built a stockpile of some 20 homemade bombs.
In 2011, Eli Franklin Myers, an anti-government survivalist, shot two police officers, killing one, before being shot dead by state troopers in the small town of Webster. And in 2009, white supremacist Richard Poplawski opened fire on Pittsburgh police officers who had responded to a domestic dispute at his mother’s home, killing three and leaving two injured before surrendering. Poplawski, who was active on far-right websites, said he feared the police represented a plot by Obama to take away Americans’ guns.
This contrast, between Trump’s rhetoric and the reality of domestic terrorism, extends far beyond Pennsylvania. A database of nine years of domestic terrorism incidents compiled by The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has produced a very different picture of the threat than that advanced by the current White House:
- From January 2008 to the end of 2016, we identified 63 cases of Islamist domestic terrorism, meaning incidents motivated by a theocratic political ideology espoused by such groups as the Islamic State. The vast majority of these (76 percent) were foiled plots, meaning no attack took place.
- During the same period, we found that right-wing extremists were behind nearly twice as many incidents: 115. Just over a third of these incidents (35 percent) were foiled plots. The majority were acts of terrorist violence that involved deaths, injuries or damaged property.
- Right-wing extremist terrorism was more often deadly: Nearly a third of incidents involved fatalities, for a total of 79 deaths, while 13 percent of Islamist cases caused fatalities. (The total deaths associated with Islamist incidents were higher, however, reaching 90, largely due to the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood in Texas.)
- Incidents related to left-wing ideologies, including ecoterrorism and animal rights, were comparatively rare, with 19 incidents causing seven fatalities – making the shooting attack on Republican members of Congress earlier this month somewhat of an anomaly.
- Nearly half (48 percent) of Islamist incidents in our database were sting operations, more than four times the rate for far-right (12 percent) or far-left (10.5 percent) incidents.
Yet as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch pointed out in early February, Trump has yet to acknowledge the threat of right-wing violence:
Long before the 9/11 attacks, the worst terrorist attack on American territory occurred at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. The bomber, Timothy McVeigh, and co-conspirator Terry Nichols were unabashed radical right-wing terrorists. But check the record. You won’t hear Trump use those words.
Instead, with his statements, policies and personnel, the president has exhibited an obsession with the Islamist threat to the homeland.
Please read the whole thing. There's a lot more. The right is in the process of creating a myth of left wing violence. As Joshua Holland points out in this piece for The Nation on the same subject:
In the wake of the mass shooting in suburban Virginia last week that left House majority whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and three others wounded, conservatives have been furiously waving the bloody shirt. With left-wing hate filling half the screen, Sean Hannity blamed Democrats, saying they “dehumanize Republicans and paint them as monsters.” Tucker Carlson claimed that “some on the hard left” support political violence because it “could lead to the dissolution of a country they despise.” Others have blamed seemingly anything even vaguely identified with liberalism for inciting the violence—from Madonna to MSNBC to Shakespeare in the Park.
Read that piece too. I don't know where all this is going but with all these right wingers armed to the teeth, the least we can do is be armed with the facts.
This is all a truly remarkable example of projection. In the wake of the shooting, Erick Erickson wrote a piece titled, “The Violence is Only Getting Started,” as if three innocent people hadn’t been brutally murdered by white supremacists in two separate incidents in just the past month.
In the real world, since the end of the Vietnam era, the overwhelming majority of serious political violence—not counting vandalism or punches thrown at protests, but violence with lethal intent—has come from the fringes of the right. Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project says that “if you go back to the 1960s, you see all kinds of left-wing terrorism, but since then it’s been exceedingly rare.” She notes that eco- and animal-rights extremists caused extensive property damage in the 1990s, but didn’t target people.
Meanwhile, says Beirich, “right-wing domestic terrorism has been common throughout that period, going back to groups like to The Order, which assassinated [liberal talk-radio host] Alan Berg [in 1984] right through to today.” Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told NPR that “when you look at murders committed by domestic extremists in the United States of all types, right-wing extremists are responsible for about 74 percent of those murders.” The actual share is higher still, as violence committed by ultraconservative Islamic supremacists isn’t included in tallies of “right-wing extremism.”
A 2015 survey of law-enforcement agencies conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum and the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security found that the police rate antigovernment extremists as a greater threat than reactionary Islamists. The authors wrote that “right-wing violence appears consistently greater than violence by Muslim extremists in the United States since 9/11, according to multiple definitions in multiple datasets.” According to the Department of Homeland Security, “Sovereign Citizens”—fringe antigovernmentalists—launched 24 violent attacks from 2010 through 2014, mostly against law enforcement personnel. When Robert Dear shot and killed three people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015, it became the latest in a series of bloody attacks on abortion providers dating back to Roe v. Wade in 1973. In the 30 years that followed that landmark decision, providers and clinics were targeted in more than 300 acts of violence, including arson, bombings, and assassinations, according to a study by the Rand Corporation.
But while the extreme right has held a near-monopoly on political violence since the 1980s, conservatives and Republicans are no more likely to say that using force to achieve one’s political goals is justified than are liberals and Democrats. That’s the conclusion of a study conducted by Nathan Kalmoe, a professor of political communication at the University of Louisiana. In 2010, he asked respondents whether they agreed that various violent tactics were acceptable. Kalmoe found that less than 3 percent of the population strongly agreed that “sometimes the only way to stop bad government is with physical force,” or that “some of the problems citizens have with government could be fixed with a few well-aimed bullets.” He says that while “there were tiny [partisan] variations on these specific items,” they weren’t “statistically significant on average.”
Ideology alone isn’t a significant risk factor for violence. “There’s a much stronger factor of individual personality traits that predispose people to be more aggressive in their everyday lives,” Kalmoe says, “and we see that playing out with people who engage in political violence.” Mass shooters are often found to have had histories of domestic violence, and that was true for James Hodgkinson, the shooter who attacked the congressional baseball practice in Virginia. Kalmoe says, “we often see that violent individuals have a history of violence in their personal lives. People who are abusive, or who have run afoul of the law in other ways, are more likely to endorse violence.”
digby 6/23/2017 11:00:00 AM