During his first joint address to Congress last night, Joe Biden repeated the extremely misleading but increasingly popular talking point on the left that “white supremacist terror,” not Islamic extremism, is the biggest terror threat facing America.
Make no mistake, in 20 years terrorism has metastasized, the threat has evolved way beyond Afghanistan Those who are on the intelligence committees, the Foreign Relations Committee, the defense committees, you know well, we have to remain vigilant against the threats to the United States wherever they come from. Al Qaeda and ISIS are in Yemen, Syria, Somalia, other places in Africa and the Middle East and beyond.
And we won’t ignore what our intelligence agencies have determined to be the most lethal terrorist threat to the homeland today, white supremacist terrorism. We’re not going to ignore that either.
Fortunately both Islamic and white supremacist terror are extremism rare in America, never accounting for more than 1% of all homicides in any given year except 2001.
Whether it’s white supremacists or Islamic extremists that are America’s biggest terror threat determines what timeline we’re looking at. Given that 9/11 resulted in more deaths than every white supremacist terror incident in the 21st century combined by a country mile, it cannot possibly be the case that white supremacist terror is a greater threat than Islamic terror.
But, with groups like ISIS decimated thanks to Donald Trump’s policies, it could easily be the case that white supremacist deaths exceeded Islamist deaths in a single recent year – and that’s what is happening here.
I’ve debunked previous versions of this argument years ago, and the latest iteration comes from a Homeland Security report that spawned headlines such as the one over at CNN: “White supremacists remain deadliest U.S. terror threat.” As one learns on the eighteenth page of the report however, this is based on a sample size of one year of data (from 2018-2019).
“American domestic violence extremists, racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists – specifically white supremacist extremists will remain the most persistent and lethal threat to the homeland” reads the key passage of the report, nothing that from 2018-2019, white supremacists conducted half of all lethal attacks (eight total) among domestic violent extremists, resulting in 39 out of 48 deaths that year from domestic extremism.
For reference, the 2016 ISIS-inspired Pulse Nightclub massacre alone killed 49 people, more than all white supremacists combined in 2018-2019.
The Homeland Security report unfortunately doesn’t give a breakdown of every attack – and an assessment of those events could easily disrupt their narrative. In 2017 the Government Accountability Office released a study titled “Countering Violent Extremism,” which claimed that 73% of terror attacks are from “far-right” groups. To give just a sampling on what constituted a “far right group attack” in their eyes:
- One of the right-wing terrorist attacks is described as “White Supremacist member of Aryan Brotherhood killed a man.” That’s it. No detail as to the motive, the race of the victim, or anything else. Since when does a murder become a terrorist incident just because the murderer also happens to be a bigot? A hate crime perhaps, but not a terror attack. That same white supremacist killed someone else in later weeks, and is counted as a separate “terrorist attack” in the study.
- “Far rightist murdered a homeless man” is counted as a right-wing terror attack, and if these examples thus far weren’t crazy enough, page 32 of the report describes a “White supremacist [who] shot and killed 9 at his community college.” That shooting was the 2015 Umpqua Community College shooting, carried out by a self-described “mixed race” individual who singled out Christians for his attack. Does that sound like a right-wing terrorist attack to you?
- On page 30 the report documents a “right-wing terrorist attack” involving “Six white supremacist inmates beat[ing] another prisoner to death.”? Do you walk the streets in fear that prison inmates will somehow assault you?
Of all the incidents they listed since the report’s timeline begins (conveniently right after 9/11), I could only find seven incidents (carried out by five perpetrators) that resulted in 22 deaths. If the 2019 El Paso shooting is included (which occurred after the GAO report), that death toll rises to 45.
Unfortunately, the Homeland Security report doesn’t give us any detains behind the incidents they’re citing, so it’s impossible to know if their methodology is as flimsy as the GAO’s.
And this is all in the light of the fact that Muslims make up 1% of the population and Whites make up 63%. Even an equal number of attacks from the radicalized fragment of each group would still mean Islamic attacks are 63 times more frequent per-capita. Overall, the FBI’s perpetrator data shows that whites are underrepresented when it comes to their share of hate crimes committed, accounting for only 52.5% of hate crime perpetrators – though it’s actually 25% of perpetrators when you adjust for the fact that the FBI stats count Hispanics as White.
When it comes to imminent threats that the U.S. faces, one can only wonder why the $2 billion in property damage during the George Floyd riots, or the 19 deaths during them, aren’t counted as “left wing terrorism.”
Matt Palumbo is the author of Dumb and Dumber: How Cuomo and de Blasio Ruined New York, Debunk This: Shattering Liberal Lies, and Spygate
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