On November 30, 2015, amidst the debate over what should be done about Syrian refugees when (according to the Arab Center for Research & Policy Studies) 1 in 8 Syrian refugees openly express sympathy with ISIS/ISIL/DAESH, ThinkProgress published an article titled “You Are More Than 7 Times As Likely To Be Killed By A Right–Wing Extremist Than By Muslim Terrorists”. Lest anyone be left unclear what they’re trying to say, the byline reads: “The face of terrorism in the United States is white.” As AddictingInfo puts it: “the true terrorist threat: crazy white people.”
It obviously never occurred to these authors that white people might be more likely to kill you for the same reason that they’re “more likely” to eat at Mexican restaurants or buy hip–hop albums: the majority of the whole population is white, so everything is “more likely” to be done by a white person—in most cases even when white people do it less. This is utterly trivial, and it hardly means anyone is irrational to associate Mexican restaurants with Hispanics or hip–hop with black people instead of white people.
Less trivially, per the highest estimate I can find, Muslims as of 2014 (including native–born converts) were a mere 0.9% of the population. Since white people are currently 63% of the U.S. population, that means there are seventy times more white people in the United States than Muslims. If white people committed the same rate of domestic terrorism as is committed by Muslims, then, we’d expect white people to be seventy times more likely to kill you—there are seventy times more of them.
But that’s not what we find.
According to this, they’re only seven times more likely.
Similarly, this count of the numbers killed in various types of terror attacks finds that non–Muslim attackers had a death toll twice as high as Muslim attackers—and again, since the non–Muslim population in the United States is far more than twice as high as the Muslim population (as Muslims are less than 1% of the population, the non–Muslim population is more than 99 times larger), it’s not clear how any of these outlets can possibly think that these facts downplay the relative risk from Islam–inspired attacks.
If, at 1% of the population, Muslims commit 1/7th the amount of terror attacks as the white 63% of the population does, that means that the Muslim population would only have to reach 7% in order for the amount of terror attacks committed by Muslims to be equal to the amount committed by the white population. And that means that if Muslims were 63% of the population, they’d commit nine times as many terror attacks as the currently white 63% of the population does. Yet, as we’ll see later as we continue to dig through the sources for ThinkProgress’ claim, even these numbers will turn out to dramatically understate the real disparity.
The data behind this claim …
was published by David Sterman of New America, and their full collection of “jihadist” and “right–wing extremist” attacks can be seen here.
The first thing that should be apparent is that according to their actual list, “jihadist” and “right–wing extremists” are already killing an equal number of people despite their population differences—not seven times as many. To revise the above numbers, that means that if Muslims were to become 63% of the population, they’d commit seventy times as many terror attacks as the currently white 63% of the population does.
If we try to control for political ideology, somewhere between around 49–64% of whites lean conservative, so even if we leave aside liberal whites and ignore the fact that left–wing acts of terror take place as well, that’s a bare minimum of thirty times as many per capita terror attacks from the Muslim 0.9% of the population as come from the white conservative ~30% of the population.
But left–wing terrorism exists too.
In fact, in terms of acts of terrorism, it’s the majority.
The Unbiased America Facebook page have summarized this nicely:
Based on sheer number of attacks, environmentalists and animal rights activists together committed 78 of the known total of 178 — about 44% of all attacks. (Do note that their dataset, from the Global Terrorism Database, differs from David Sterman’s data at New America in that it cuts off at the end of 2014, whereas Sterman’s data has been updated to include most of 2015—however, Sterman’s data doesn’t include any breakdown whatsoever of the ideology of non–jihadists whom it doesn’t classify as “right–wing extremists”.)
Now, environmentalists and animal rights activists are high on the list of numbers of attacks, but low on the list of casualties—true. But so are anti–abortion activists: out of 13 anti–abortion attacks across all 13 years, only 1 casualty accrued. And the environmentalists are still entering media outlet buildings and holding people at gunpoint while threatening to shoot them in order to spread the message that “All human procreation must cease!” even if they don’t actually have the nerve to go through with shooting anyone, so this isn’t all just innocent tree–hugging and property damage.
The two “atheist” attacks did center around property damage—as with the “Veterans United for Non–Religious Memorials” group’s placement of an IED on a Christian memorial. But as I discussed in “Is Dylann Roof “White Like Me?””, one “anti–Muslim” attack committed less than two months later arguably deserves to be classified as an atheist terror attack, given that its perpetrator was Craig Stephen Hicks, a liberal fan of progressive causes ranging from “HuffPost Black Voices” to “Forward Progressives” to “The Atheist Empathy Campaign,” to Rachel Maddow and the Southern Poverty Law Center whose Facebook cover photo loudly proclaimed his identification as an “anti–theist” in bold capital letters. Thus, even “anti–Muslim” attacks cannot simply be assumed to have been committed by “right–wingers”.
In fact, if we were to update the list through 2015 to include Craig Stephen Hicks and Robert Dear, atheist terrorists (at 3) would be only a single kill behind the tally for anti–abortion terrorists (at 4) from 2001 through 2015.
Who attacks the police?
Anti–police attacks will be committed both by right–wing survivalists like Eric Frein and by people like Christopher Dorner, the black cop who killed two innocent relatives of a man who had petitioned on his behalf before setting out on a one–man guerrilla war against the LAPD.
The difference between liberal and conservative responses to Frein and Dorner is that no white conservative was heard saying of Frein that his continued run from police was “kind of exciting,” much less that he was “like a real–life superhero”, as viewers of CNN had the opportunity to hear from Marc Lamont Hill, the Distinguished Professor of African American Studies at Columbia University while Dorner’s killing spree was still ongoing. Meanwhile, the largest “Support Eric Frein” page on Facebook has 404 likes; the largest Facebook page in support of Christopher Dorner has more than 17,000.
Of all terror attacks against police: the first, in February of 2013, belongs to Christopher Dorner (who claimed four victims in total, two of whom were police officers—note that this data only lists one of his victims in its tally, since his designated category is “anti–police” but only two of his victims were police officers, and only one of them died immediately). Gregory Lynn Shrader mailed a bomb to Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, apparently in hopes of framing an ex–business partner rather than out of any ideological motivation of his own. David Patterson planted three explosive devices around a West Virginia city building in hopes of orchestrating a shootout with the FBI. The next attack, claiming five victims, was committed by Jerad and Amanda Miller, apparently libertarian followers of Facebook pages like “Taxation is Theft” and “Cop Block”. The next act, claiming no victims or casualties or property damage of any kind, was committed by Douglas Leguin, a member of the Sovereign Citizens movement.
The next attack, in October of 2014, was committed by Zale Thompson—a recent convert to Islam—who killed one NYPD officer and injured three more individuals in a hatchet attack. Note that this attack is registered as “anti–police” rather than “Islamic” terrorism, despite the fact that Thompson was known to have frequented websites related to al–Qaeda, al–Shabab, and ISIS. In November of 2014, Larry McQuilliams claimed one victim in Austin, Texas. Finally, in December, Ismaaiyl Brinsley killed two police officers after tweeting “I’m Putting Wings On Pigs Today. They Take 1 Of Ours….. Let’s Take 2 Of Theirs … #RIPMikeBrown … ” — obviously inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement’s completely distorted popularization of a case of justified self–defense, in an environment in which BLM protesters were chanting the phrase, “pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon.”
Of total anti–police attacks, then, 5 out of 8 — or 62% — were committed by whites—and this is not larger than whites’ 63% representation in the population. 1 out of 8 — or 13% — were Islamic, which is larger than Islam’s 1% representation of the U.S. population. And 3 out of 8 — or 37% — were committed by African–Americans, which exceeds blacks’ 13% representation in the population. Of total victims claimed, 7 were killed by white attackers (5 from Jerad and Amanda Miller; 1 from Larry McQuilliams; and 1 from Eric Frein), while a combined 7 were killed by black attackers (4 from Christopher Dorner, 2 from Ismaaiyl Brinsley, and 1 from Zale Thompson). Black attackers were thus responsible for 50% of deaths in this category—counting only those police deaths which formally classified as “terrorism”, and leaving out killings of police which happen in pursuit of a crime (which black suspects are also extremely disproportionately represented in).
Who attacks government or military targets?
Of a total of 49 attacks on “general” or “diplomatic” government targets, 2 were committed by the environmentalist Earth Liberation Front. Of 32 anti–government attacks taking place between November 12, 2001 and February of 2009, none claim a single fatality, and only one managed to claim a single injury.
In May of 2002, Luke Helder began a series of pipe bombings that were conducted along with messages about astral projection, as well as the illegality of marijuana—the message accompanying his bomb attacks read: “I?m here to help you realize/ understand that you will live no matter what! It is up to you people to open your hearts and minds. There is no such thing as death”, and made allusion to left–wing redistributionist arguments: “When 1% of the nation controls 99% of the nations total wealth, is it a wonder why there are control problems?”
Because of the different locations, these actually classify as the first eighteen events on the count. If we count these as one event, there were only 32 total attacks on government targets during the time period for which we have data after the September 11 attacks. (Let’s not use Luke Helder to artificially inflate the number of more–left–wing–than–right–wing attacks.)
After Luke Helder’s bombings, the first unique attack on government target was committed by Preston Lit, a mentally ill man off his medication who planted a small pipe bomb with a “Free Palestine” message containing scattered references to al–Qaeda. The bomb was defused, and Lit was sentenced to a federal prison psychiatric unit. Next, the Earth Liberation Front set fire to the U.S. Forest Service Northeast Research Station Pennsylvania, causing $700,000 in damage. Steve Kim, a U.S. born East Asian man, then fired shots at the U.N. building in Manhattan in October of 2002 along with what was described as a “rambling political message” about human rights in North Korea.
Then in March of 2003, Dwight Watson caused a several–hour long halt to traffic by driving his truck into a pond in order to call attention to federal policies he considered unfair to tobacco farmers. In October, a ricin–laced latter was sent to the Department of Transportation in Washington, DC threatening more ricin–laced letters if pending trucking legislation wasn’t passed by someone calling himself “Fallen Angel” and claiming to be the “fleet owner of a tanking company”; in November, a second letter was sent.
From February to May of 2004, there were a series of attacks incurring no casualties perpetrated by unknown individuals for unknown reasons: Senate majority leader Bill Frist was sent a letter filled with ricin; a fertilizer bomb was placed outside a county courthouse in California; anthrax was discovered at a mail facility in Virginia; and two homemade grenades were thrown at a building housing the British Consulate in New York City. In May, an arson attack committed by Arthur Gladd and Robert Hurley makes the list although it had no discernible political motive. There are no attacks on government targets from here through to October of 2007, when two hand grenades were thrown at the Mexican Consulate in New York City, once again by unknown perpetrators, once again claiming no damage other than that done to the building’s windows. Again, there are no attacks until February of 2009, when a bomb attached to the car of the head of the Arkansas panel that licenses doctors exploded in his driveway, injuring one person.
Finally, in February of 2010, a real “terrorist” attack takes place when Joseph Stack committed suicide crashing his plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas, killing the IRS manager Vernon Hunter and injuring 15. Was Stack a “right–wing extremist”, then? Here are a few collections of statements from his suicide letter: “Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours? Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political “representatives” (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the “terrible health care problem”. It’s clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in. … The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.”
No, Stack was not a “right–wing extremist,” and his suicide attack was obviously motivated far more by direct personal grievances over the fact that IRS policies had sent his entire life through a series of setbacks than it was about political ideology per se.
In March of 2010, John Patrick Bedell approached the entrance to the Pentagon in Virginia and fired at two Pentagon police officers, non–critically injuring them. Bedell was a libertarian who advocated a monetary system based on the value of a gram of marijuana.
In November of that year, Yonathan Melaku, a naturalized American citizen and Marine Corps Reserve Lance Corporal originally from Ethiopia, was arrested for a series of shootings originally thought unrelated. He was found with a notebook containing references to the Taliban and Bin Laden, and was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia.
In January of 2011, two packages were sent to the offices of Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim–Staley protesting the appearance of street signs urging motorists to report suspicious activity, burning one employee’s fingers. (The data lists these two packages as two separate events because they were sent to two separate locations, and if we count them as one, we’re down to 31 total attacks on government targets). That same month, an unclaimed envelope addressed to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ignited at a postal sorting facility.
There are then no further attacks on government targets until November of 2012, when Iraqi civilian Abdullatif Ali Aldosary set off a homemade explosive outside a social security building in Arizona. Later, an unclaimed explosive device went off outside the Tacoma Community Justice Center building in Washington state. Actress Shannon Richardson was arrested in July of 2014 for sending a series of ricin–laced letters to President Barack Obama during 2013 (which were all, of course, intercepted before they ever came anywhere close to the President). The data counts her letters as two separate incidents, and if we count them as one, we’re down even further to 30 unique attacks across this whole time period. In November of 2013, Paul Ciancia killed one TSA agent in a politically motivated attack against the TSA, and was found with a note containing references to New World Order conspiracy theories. David Patterson and Larry McQuilliams both appear here again from our anti–police attack list (for the same attacks) in May and November of 2014 (McQuilliams’ one attack shows up twice, which again brings our total down to 29 attacks if we count them as one—or down to 27 if we remove both of them, since we’ve already counted them).
Finally, there are two remaining attacks in 2014. In June, Dennis Marx—associated with the Sovereign Citizens movement—opened fire on a county courthouse in Georgia, accruing no casualties. And in September, Eric King—a left–wing vegan anarchist—threw two Molotov cocktails into the office of U.S. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver “in solidarity with Ferguson, Mo” and to “memorialize those who died in Chile under the reign of a U.S.–backed dictator and lives lost in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.”
Thus, of 27 unique attacks on government targets not already counted, the vast majority were unclaimed and incurred no casualties, and several were conducted out of a personal vengeance of interest of some kind or another, rather than out of any explicitly political motivation. Of those with a known political motivation, Luke Helder’s don’t fit neatly into any ordinary political division, but are clearly more left–wing than right–wing. Preston Lit’s pipe bombing was committed along with the message to “Free Palestine” and references to al–Qaeda, but likely had more to do with mental illness than politics. Steve Kim’s attack had something to do with human rights in North Korea. Joseph Stack criticized both “corporate profits” and politicians; both the communist and capitalist “creed”. John Patrick Bedell was about as stereotypical as a libertarian can possibly get, literally advocating for currency based on the value of a gram of marijuana. Yonathan Melaku was fascinated with al–Qaeda, although his attack was likely spurred in large part by his schizophrenia. Shannon Richardson opposed gun control policies. Paul Ciancia believed in “New World Order” conspiracy theories. Dennis Marx was a member of the Sovereign Citizens movement, and Eric King was a left–wing vegan anarchist.
Now we should add to this list the six attacks on military targets taking place across the same period of time. In March of 2003, the Earth Liberation Front vandalized government trucks and set one truck on fire, leaving behind the spray–painted message to “Leave Iraq.” Later that month, Eid Elwirelwir, a Venezuelan–born Muslim U.S. citizen, crashed into the barricade gate of an air force reserve base in California, claiming that he “supports Saddam Hussein’s right to use weapons of mass destruction if invaded”. An attack whose perpetrator and cause was unknown took place in March of 2008. In June of 2009, Abdulhakim Muhammad shot two soldiers outside a recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas, killing one of them, and declaring in letters that “Far as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula … yes, I’m affiliated with them. … Our goal is to rid the Islamic world of idols and idolaters, paganism and pagans, infidelity and infidels, hypocrisy and hypocrites, apostasy and apostates, democracy and democrats, and relaunch the Islamic caliphate … and to establish Islamic law (Shari’ah).” In November of 2009, of course, Nidal Hassan opened fire on fellow soldiers in Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 and injuring 32. The final member of the list of Yonathan Melaku, who we’ve already counted.
So: of all attacks on government or military targets of any kind listed in which the identity of the attacker is known and there was any reason to believe there was actually a political motivation, a grand total of four can even be loosely said to have been committed by “right–wing extremists” (assuming very generously that we can count Joseph Stack who criticized both “corporate profits” and politicians, and both the communist and capitalist “creed”; and Paul Ciancia who apparently believed in “New World Order” conspiracy theories as “right–wing extremists” — the unambiguous cases are John Patrick Bedell and Dennis Marx). The total death count between all four of them? Dennis Marx: 0 (1 injured); Paul Ciancia: 1 (4 wounded); John Patrick Bedell: 0 (2 wounded); Joseph Stack: 1 (15 injured). Including only the clear cases of actual “right–wing extremism” brings this tally to 1 death and 7 injuries; generously stretching the definition of “right–wing extremism” to include Stack brings it to 2 deaths and 22 injuries.
That death count is outdone more than six times over by Nidal Hassan alone, even if we include Stack (which we shouldn’t, because he was not a “right–wing extremist” in any way, shape, or form).
But let’s get back to the New America Foundation’s data.
Their list of “deadly right–wing attacks” counts 18 attacks, for a total of 48 persons killed. How many of these counts are valid? Defining “jihadist” violence is usually quite clear—when Tashfeen Malik pledges allegiance to ISIS on social media before a shooting spree, there’s no question that that attack was motivated by her interpretation of Islam and allegiance to a specific terrorist group espousing that interpretation. But defining when someone’s views count as “conservative” is a little murkier, as we saw above in the discussion of people like Joseph Stark, whose suicide letter criticizes politicians, sure—but criticizes them for failing to reign in “corporate profits”, and ends with “The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.”
And indeed, the New America Foundation’s list includes Joseph Stark as a supposed “right–wing extremist”—which is immediately suspect.
Going through them in chronological order, then, they list Wade and Christopher Lay, who wanted to avenge those in the federal government responsible for the siege on the Branch Davidians at Waco; Jim David Adkisson, who attacked a Unitarian Universalist church and whose manifesto explicitly labeled the attack a “hate crime”, saying “I hate the damn left–wing liberals”; and Keith Luke, a confessed Neo–Nazi.
Next on the list, however, are Albert Gaxiola, Shawna Forde, and Joshua Bush. The entry tells us that they “killed a man and his nine-year old daughter during an armed robbery of the man’s house … to help fund their anti-immigrant organization.” However, digging even slightly deeper quickly reveals that “Gaxiola wanted Flores dead because he was a rival drug smuggler”. Including these three in a list of “right–wing extremism”, then, makes about as much logical sense as saying that people who wish for an end to the War on Drugs are more likely to kill you by putting members of Mexican cartels who kill their white drug–dealing competitors into the analysis, as if this could possibly tell you anything about liberals or libertarians who wish for an end to the drug war. The problem with that wouldn’t be that violent members of Mexican cartels are a minority of those who call for an end to the drug war—it would be that their violence is about self–interest, not politics. Were a cartel member to kill the head of the DEA to send a message, that would count as political terrorism from someone calling for an end to the drug war.
After that, we have Scott Roeder, the member of the Sovereign Citizens movement who assassinated abortion doctor George Tiller; followed by James Von Brunn, a neo–Nazi who killed a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Museum. But after those two, we’re already back to yet another questionable inclusion. While Robert Poplawski was a member of Stormfront, “believed in conspiracy theories that the Jews were behind an imminent collapse of the United States”, and “was busy preparing for the violent collapse of society”, and (to be clear) he deserves no sympathy for these views, the actual “terror attack” happened when Poplawski’s mother called 911 to have him removed after a dispute that was apparently over a dog urinating in the house. Recently unemployed, and panicked at the idea of being thrown out of his home, Poplawski—who already had a reputation for getting into fights with neighbors—fired at and killed the arriving police.
Poplawski had repulsive political views, and it goes without saying that he committed a horrendous action—he killed in cold blood innocent police officers who did nothing more than arrive at his household in response to a domestic disturbance call. But the action was not one he committed in any sense whatsoever in order to propagate his ideological views—it was not “terrorism.” After four hours, Poplawski surrendered, saying “I don’t want to end any more officers’ lives … I’m not going to shoot any more innocent officers. … You know, I’m a good kid, officer … This is really an unfortunate occurrence, sir.”
Next on the list is, of course, Joseph Stack—who as we’ve discussed more than once now already, was nowhere close to “right–wing extremist.” After Stack, Raymond Peake appears on the list for killing a man at a gun show and stealing his rifle. He qualifies to appear on this list apparently because at one point he told one investigator that he “stole the weapon for use in an organization seeking the overthrow of the American government that he refused to name”—an organization that we have no evidence outside of this one statement even exists. Even Timothy Lively, the detective on the case, didn’t buy the story, stating that he “believed the gun theft was the motive for the killing.”
That’s four out of nine cases so far—almost a quarter of the total—representing 7 out of 14 total deaths spanning from May of 2004 to October of 2010 that either were not acts of “terrorism” or were committed by people whose views were not “right–wing” at all.
The rest of the list fares better. The FEAR Militia killed a soldier who knew of their plans to target political figures; neo–Nazi Michael Wade Page opened fire at a Sikh temple; seven members of the Sovereign Citizens movement were indicted for ambushing a police officer who was investigating their activity; David Pederson and Holly Grigsby killed four people in association with a white supremacist criminal enterprise; Eric Frein has already been discussed; Glenn Cross, member of the KKK, killed three people at a Jewish center; Jerad and Amanda Miller, as discussed, were libertarian fans of “Taxation is Theft” and “Cop Block”; Dylann Roof was inspired by racist websites after discovering facts about the relative rates of interracial crime; and finally, Robert Dear killed three people outside a Planned Parenthood in Colorado.
If we subtract the four cases which were either not “terrorism” or not committed by “right–wing extremists”, we come to a tally of 14 “right–wing extremist” attacks representing 41 deaths, in comparison to 9 “jihadist” attacks representing 45 deaths. So what a proper count of this list actually shows is that Islamic terrorists are 1.1 times more likely to kill you than a “right–wing extremist”, not that they are seven times less.
Plugging that back in to our earlier numbers, that means that if the Muslim 0.9% of the population were to become equal in number to the white 63% of the population, they would commit 77 times more terrorism than the white 63% of the population currently does. But even this is still a slight underestimate, because the white percentage of the population has gradually been shrinking, and 63% is a new low that has been reached only recently—most of these acts were committed when the white population was closer to 75% of the U.S. total.
Not to mention the fact that this list doesn’t include foiled plots, which therefore exactly begs the question of whether the amount of focus we place on Islamic terrorism is justified or not.
If Islamic terrorism is only as low as it is because we’ve paid a greater amount of attention to it and therefore stopped a larger number of Islamic attacks, then it is absolutely rubbish reasoning to point to the resulting number of successful Islamic attacks as evidence that our focus on Islamic terrorism has been misplaced.
In Wikipedia’s list of foiled Islamic terror plots just during Obama’s first term in office from 2008 to 2012, we see 13 names: “James Cromitie et al., Najibullah Zazi et al., Michael Finton, Hosam Maher and Husein Smadi, Colleen LaRose et al., Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, Faisal Shahzad, Farooque Ahmed, Rezwan Ferdaus, Sami Osmakac, Amine El Khalifi, Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul, Ahsan Nafis.” As far as the “white–sounding names” on this list, James Cromitie (also known as Abdul Rahman) was a member of a group composed of four Muslim men, three African–Americans, and one Haitian immigrant who planned to plant bombs in two synagogues and fire missiles at airplanes leaving the Air National Guard base in New York; Michael Finton (also known as Talib Islam) who attempted to bomb the Paul Findley Federal Building and a Congressman’s office, considered Nidal Hassan and Anwar Awlaki heroes according to his MySpace page; and Colleen LaRose (also known as Fatima LaRose) was a Muslim convert convicted of—amongst other things—plotting to kill the Swedish artist Lars Vilks for drawing a cartoon depicting Muhammad.
A paper published in November of 2010, “The Plots that Failed: Intelligence Lessons Learned from Unsuccessful Terrorist Attacks Against the United States”, created the most thorough known compilation of all 176 terror plots that have taken place over the last 25 years, and found that “about 75 percent of the plots are associated with radical Islamists and about 25 percent are from right-wing domestic, anti-government militia movements.” That’s 132 out of 176 attacks associated with Islam even when we’re including the pre–911 era—or about 7 foiled Islamic terror attacks each year compared to just 1.8 foiled “right–wing” attacks each year. In other words, the disparity between foiled “jihadist” and “right–wing” attacks is obviously much higher than the disparity found within successful attacks.
In the 14 years since 911, there have been (according to this list) 67 foiled Islamic terror plots. According to Erik Dahl’s comprehensive data, if these 14 years were average, there will have been about 28 foiled “right–wing extremist” attacks. How different would the data in the New America Foundation’s list have looked if instead of 9 deadly “jihadist” attacks and 14 deadly “right–wing extremist attacks”, we were looking at 76 “jihadist” attacks with the potential to turn deadly and only 42 “right–wing extremist” attacks with a similar potential?
To revise our earlier calculations one last time,
Per that number we would have the 0.9% of the population that is Muslim committing 1.8 times as many terror attacks as the 63% of the population that is white (or the 30% that is both white and conservative). At that rate, Muslims commit 126 times as many terror attacks per capita as the white population currently does.
ThinkProgress’ claim that “UNC Professor Charles Kurzman and Duke Professor David Schanzer explained last June in the New York Times [that] Islam-inspired terror attacks “accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years” [whereas] “right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities” leads here, and the paragraph in that article quotes as the source for the claim “a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center.”
Arie Perliger explains on pp.85–86 of this report that “The dataset includes violence against human targets as well as property … based on … relevant information drawn from … the SPLC hate crime dataset.”
It is therefore immediately obvious that we are not comparing apples and oranges here, and it will surely come as a surprise to readers of “ThinkProgress” that white people do not even commit a disproportionate number of officially designated hate crimes. The most recent data we have is from 2013, when Hispanic perpetrators of crime were still being classified as “white”—and according to that data, “whites” (which means whites and Hispanics) committed 52% of all hate crimes in 2013—even though whites and Hispanics together in 2013 represented 77% of the U.S. population. If whites (and Hispanics) committed the same rate of hate crimes as all other groups, we would expect them to commit 77% of all hate crimes—but instead, they commit significantly less than that. Meanwhile, the report tells us that 24% of all hate crimes in the United States in 2013 were committed by people identifying as black or African–American—even though African–Americans represent just 13% of the U.S. population.
I’ll leave aside the blatant dishonesty of comparing a tally of organized, deadly jihadist attacks with organized right–wing attacks and petty hate–crimes while hiding the actual source of this data in another article without referring back to it directly. Even if you include hate crimes in this analysis, neither the face of terrorism nor hate crimes in the United States turn out to be white.