Shortly after a racist walked into a Charleston church and gunned down
nine innocent people in June, a group called "The New America
Foundation" released a study appearing to show that "right-wing"
terrorists have killed more people in the United States than
"Jihadists" since 9/11. The count, according to New America, is
Jihadists: 26; Right-Wingers: 48. A few weeks later, a
Muslim supremacist murdered five US servicemen in
Chattanooga - presumably changing the count to 31 and 48,
has been broadly interpreted in the media to mean either
that "right-wing" ideology is more dangerous than Islamism, or
that "right-wingers" (or conservatives, or "white
Americans" as several headlines put it) are more dangerous
than Muslim extremists in America.
obvious problem with the study is that it does not include the
largest terror attack on American soil, which occurred on
September 11, 2001. If the count began one day earlier, then it
would be 3027 to 48 and any question as to which is the larger
threat would be laughable. In other words, ignoring reality can lead to different
conclusions than when it is taken into account.
isn't just the body count from 9/11 that throws off an accurate
comparison. Because of that attack, counter-terrorism in
the United States has focused disproportionately on the
Muslim fringe rather than the "right-wing." Theoretically,
this means that it is harder for an Islamic radical to commit
a deadly attack than someone else. In fact, the same study shows
that significantly more Muslim than non-Muslim terrorists have
been charged and jailed with plotting terror in the US since
9/11. Fewer terrorists free to commit attacks means fewer
attacks, which distorts a results-based comparison
of dead bodies.
Another problem with the study is that it doesn’t define the
pool of potential terrorists, which would make it more
meaningful. Muslims make up
less than 1% of
America, of which only about 25%
violence. How is the
other side defined, given that over 98% of the population is
smallest definable group of "right-wingers" (fortunately) seem
to be racists. A somewhat disturbing 2013
poll showed that as many as 13% of Americans do not approve
of interracial marriage. But some of the attacks on New
America’s "right-wing" side of the list (such as the 2010
Austin, TX plane incident and 2014 Bloomberg Grove Police
shooting) have nothing do with race.
number of Americans holding "anti-government" views is much larger and encompass both sides of the political spectrum.
poll found that 56% of citizens believe their taxes are too
high (odd, since 51% pay no income tax). Even 31% of
Democrats have an unfavorable view of the IRS. 30% of Americans
say they are "angry" with the government (while another 55%
Regardless of how it is defined, the pool of "right-wingers" or
those holding anti-government views in the United States is
certainly many times greater than even the total number of
Muslims, meaning that if only 50% more people are killed by
"right-wingers", it actually proves that that are the more peaceful
of the two groups.
news outlets, such as MSNBC, use the phrase "greater threat" to
obfuscate the findings and make it appear as if conservative or
anti-government views are more dangerous than Islamic teachings.
By this they mean that you are more likely to be killed by a
"right-winger" than a Muslim (even if the Muslim is statistically more likely to kill you). This reporting
may be technically correct, according to the study, but it is
like saying that childbirth is a bigger threat than Ebola.
Contrary to the way it is being presented in the media, the
study is not an apples-to-apples comparison between the Islamic
and anti-government (or racist) ideologies. A closer look at the
that New America applies different standards to the Jihadi and
non-Jihadi groups, making it seem as if more bodies are produced
by the latter.
there are legitimate acts of terror on the "right-wing" side of
the board, including shootings by violent racists, a killer need
only be suspected of holding "anti-government" views to be
included on the list. Sometimes a motive was not expressed, as
in the 2014 Tallahassee Police ambush. Sometimes the act of
"terror" was not even a planned attack, such as the 2009
Pittsburgh Police shooting in which a paranoid man opened fire
on officers who were responding to a domestic disturbance at the
contrast, New America
restricts the Jihad side of the scorecard to attacks
"inspired by or associated with Al Qaeda and its affiliated
groups." Inspiration from the Quran or even other Islamist
groups, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, doesn’t count (at least for New
arbitrarily excludes the 17 victims of the 2002 "Beltway Sniper"
evidence of a religious motive based on numerous Quran
verses and references to Allah and Jihad. In fact, if these
victims were included (along with those from Chattanooga) the
number of Islamic victims would equal exactly the
number of purported "right-wing" victims, at 48.
Also excluded from the comparison are the
2012 killing of two Christians in Houston by a conservative
Muslim family angered over their daughter's choice to leave
2013 shooting of a pastor at an Ohio church by a convert who
said it was the "will of Allah", the
2014 murder of two lesbians in Texas by the father of one
(who left the Quran open to the page supplying his motive) and
the numerous women and girls in America who have been
driven over by conservative family members insisting that it
is their religious duty to restore "honor".
the survey is not demonstrating, as
mistakenly puts it, that "nearly twice as many Americans
have been killed by right-wing radicals than by Muslim
extremists" since not all killings by Muslim extremists are
included. If that were the case then the total would be
higher than those of so-called "right-wing" extremists – even ignoring 9/11.
Perhaps the only meaningful point to the New America study is
just how unlikely an American is to be the victim of any terror
attack. However, when the true number of terrorists are
considered against the size of the pools from which they are
drawn, Islam is by far the deadliest ideology in the United
States - as it
currently is in the rest of the world.
[Update June 14, 2016: The June, 2016 massacre of 49 innocents at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida obviously puts to rest any statistical argument that the "right-wing" in America is a greater threat than Islamic terror.]