The Domestic Terrorism Count: Jihadists vs. Right-Wing Extremism

I’ve known Richard since 1981, as a mentor, competitor, and colleague, and I consider him a friend. I only recently though found out how liberal he actually is, but I do not hold that against him.

During a recent business trip, he brought up the subject of terrorism. He stated that the biggest terrorist threat in the U.S. comes from right-wing extremists, not the Jihadis. He then doubled down: white right-wingers have committed more acts of terrorism than radical Islamists. We were two days into a business trip and his diatribes were already wearing thin. This one caught my attention.

I learned his source was a Huffington Post article: “Most Of America’s Terrorists Are White, And Not Muslim” by Sarah Ruiz-Grossman     

The article was based on a study: “Home Is Where the Hate Is” by David Neiwert, published by “the Investigative Fund” organization.

Therein lies the problem. Richard, as well as too many other people, have a tendency to take what they read at face value.

Mr. Neiwart’s piece is full of numbers and statistics to back his claims. However, I am reminded a quote by Aaron Levenstein: “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.”

  • From January 2008 to the end of 2016, we identified 63 cases of Islamist domestic terrorism… The vast majority of these (76 percent) were foiled plots,
  • 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 claim is also made that “Right-wing extremist terrorism was more often deadly.”

It is not surprising that they ignore the over 3000 deaths (counting first responders) which resulted from 9/11.

Simply put, the claim is made that not only are right-wing extremists committing such acts with a higher degree of frequency, they are also better at it.

A closer look is certainly warranted, but before analyzing domestic terrorism, the term needs to be defined. Niewart’s article uses the following:

“What distinguishes an act of terrorism from a violent crime… is the ideological component of "the perpetrator's motivation, his ideology and what he wanted the outcome to be. There needs to be a desire to instill fear among the general public, change government policy, or draw attention to a political or social cause."

In the case of this study the fair definition above is not applied equally, which is standard fare for the political left.

Three examples of questionable inclusions from the report:

Richard Popolawski -- A known white supremacist, he opened fire on Pittsburgh police officers responding to a domestic dispute, killing three and leaving two injured.

Wade Lay and son Christopher Lay -- In 2004 they killed a guard during an armed robbery. Wade Lay testified that the money was meant to buy weapons and according to the district attorney there was a 'self-proclaimed’ mission to revenge Waco. 

Joseph Stack -- In 2010, Stack committed suicide by crashing a small aircraft into an IRS building killing one additional person. Stack left an anti-government, anti-tax manifesto behind.  The FBI stated that it was investigating the incident "as a criminal matter of an assault on a federal officer" and it was not considered terrorism.  

No one is defending the actions of these men, but does a domestic dispute or armed robbery qualify as terrorism, as defined above?

Regarding Mr. Stack, his gripe was with the IRS. His actions may or may not, meet the criteria for domestic terrorism, but does he qualify as being ‘right wing’? No proof on that was given. It’s telling that one of the figures that Stack quoted in his manifesto was that notorious right-wing rabble-rouser Karl Marx.

It appears the methodology used was too quick to label crimes as ‘terrorist’ acts, especially if they could be linked to the “right wing,” even if only tenuously.

Let’s assume their numbers are accurate. The data shows that the non-Muslim population commits twice as many terrorist attacks as the Muslim population. Yet Muslims comprise less than 2% of the total U.S. population. They are attempting to make the case that non-Muslim Americans are a greater threat to the country than the Muslim population. Yet are the authors really so naïve that they can’t tell they have proven the opposite? The relative risk from Muslims in America is 24 times as high as from everyone else combined.

Let’s look at it another way, as the point warrants emphasis:

White Americans comprise 72.5 % of the U.S. population. Muslim Americans comprise less than 2% of the total.

Again if we use their numbers, combined with the sourced demographics for 2008, we have the following:

For every two million white people, over a ten-year period there will be 1.3 acts or failed plots of a terrorist event.

For every one million adult Muslims, over the same time period, there will be 54 such events or failed plots.

Even adjusting the figures for white people to take out children, the resultant figure will not approach that given for the adult Muslims.

We can know with certainty that a very small percentage of any population will be afflicted with mental illness. Naturally, whites being the largest percentage of the population, will have a correspondingly high number of such people.

Muslims, on the other hand, are a very small component of the population, yet they account for a very large percentage of terrorism domestically.

Knowing that the propensity for terrorism is inordinately slanted to a narrow range of the population, logic dictates a focus in both law enforcement efforts, as well as immigration restrictions would be appropriate.

This is unacceptable to much of our nation. Today proposed restrictions are being fought; at the ballot box, through the courts and through domestic terrorism, (including use of chemicals in launched projectiles) by Antifa and other well-organized riot-promoting terror groups.

If we are going to eradicate the primary source of terrorism, the impetus will need to come from within the Muslim communities. It is they that must stand up to declare terrorism is at odds with their faith. It is good to know that this is occurring in many circles. But they must take these proclamations to the next level by pointing their fingers at guilty parties and turning them in to the legal authorities.

Until the time comes that it is no longer safe for radical Islamic terrorists to find safe haven in their own communities, then this issue will not be eradicated.

I’ve known Richard since 1981, as a mentor, competitor, and colleague, and I consider him a friend. I only recently though found out how liberal he actually is, but I do not hold that against him.

During a recent business trip, he brought up the subject of terrorism. He stated that the biggest terrorist threat in the U.S. comes from right-wing extremists, not the Jihadis. He then doubled down: white right-wingers have committed more acts of terrorism than radical Islamists. We were two days into a business trip and his diatribes were already wearing thin. This one caught my attention.

I learned his source was a Huffington Post article: “Most Of America’s Terrorists Are White, And Not Muslim” by Sarah Ruiz-Grossman     

The article was based on a study: “Home Is Where the Hate Is” by David Neiwert, published by “the Investigative Fund” organization.

Therein lies the problem. Richard, as well as too many other people, have a tendency to take what they read at face value.

Mr. Neiwart’s piece is full of numbers and statistics to back his claims. However, I am reminded a quote by Aaron Levenstein: “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.”

  • From January 2008 to the end of 2016, we identified 63 cases of Islamist domestic terrorism… The vast majority of these (76 percent) were foiled plots,
  • 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 claim is also made that “Right-wing extremist terrorism was more often deadly.”

It is not surprising that they ignore the over 3000 deaths (counting first responders) which resulted from 9/11.

Simply put, the claim is made that not only are right-wing extremists committing such acts with a higher degree of frequency, they are also better at it.

A closer look is certainly warranted, but before analyzing domestic terrorism, the term needs to be defined. Niewart’s article uses the following:

“What distinguishes an act of terrorism from a violent crime… is the ideological component of "the perpetrator's motivation, his ideology and what he wanted the outcome to be. There needs to be a desire to instill fear among the general public, change government policy, or draw attention to a political or social cause."

In the case of this study the fair definition above is not applied equally, which is standard fare for the political left.

Three examples of questionable inclusions from the report:

Richard Popolawski -- A known white supremacist, he opened fire on Pittsburgh police officers responding to a domestic dispute, killing three and leaving two injured.

Wade Lay and son Christopher Lay -- In 2004 they killed a guard during an armed robbery. Wade Lay testified that the money was meant to buy weapons and according to the district attorney there was a 'self-proclaimed’ mission to revenge Waco. 

Joseph Stack -- In 2010, Stack committed suicide by crashing a small aircraft into an IRS building killing one additional person. Stack left an anti-government, anti-tax manifesto behind.  The FBI stated that it was investigating the incident "as a criminal matter of an assault on a federal officer" and it was not considered terrorism.  

No one is defending the actions of these men, but does a domestic dispute or armed robbery qualify as terrorism, as defined above?

Regarding Mr. Stack, his gripe was with the IRS. His actions may or may not, meet the criteria for domestic terrorism, but does he qualify as being ‘right wing’? No proof on that was given. It’s telling that one of the figures that Stack quoted in his manifesto was that notorious right-wing rabble-rouser Karl Marx.

It appears the methodology used was too quick to label crimes as ‘terrorist’ acts, especially if they could be linked to the “right wing,” even if only tenuously.

Let’s assume their numbers are accurate. The data shows that the non-Muslim population commits twice as many terrorist attacks as the Muslim population. Yet Muslims comprise less than 2% of the total U.S. population. They are attempting to make the case that non-Muslim Americans are a greater threat to the country than the Muslim population. Yet are the authors really so naïve that they can’t tell they have proven the opposite? The relative risk from Muslims in America is 24 times as high as from everyone else combined.

Let’s look at it another way, as the point warrants emphasis:

White Americans comprise 72.5 % of the U.S. population. Muslim Americans comprise less than 2% of the total.

Again if we use their numbers, combined with the sourced demographics for 2008, we have the following:

For every two million white people, over a ten-year period there will be 1.3 acts or failed plots of a terrorist event.

For every one million adult Muslims, over the same time period, there will be 54 such events or failed plots.

Even adjusting the figures for white people to take out children, the resultant figure will not approach that given for the adult Muslims.

We can know with certainty that a very small percentage of any population will be afflicted with mental illness. Naturally, whites being the largest percentage of the population, will have a correspondingly high number of such people.

Muslims, on the other hand, are a very small component of the population, yet they account for a very large percentage of terrorism domestically.

Knowing that the propensity for terrorism is inordinately slanted to a narrow range of the population, logic dictates a focus in both law enforcement efforts, as well as immigration restrictions would be appropriate.

This is unacceptable to much of our nation. Today proposed restrictions are being fought; at the ballot box, through the courts and through domestic terrorism, (including use of chemicals in launched projectiles) by Antifa and other well-organized riot-promoting terror groups.

If we are going to eradicate the primary source of terrorism, the impetus will need to come from within the Muslim communities. It is they that must stand up to declare terrorism is at odds with their faith. It is good to know that this is occurring in many circles. But they must take these proclamations to the next level by pointing their fingers at guilty parties and turning them in to the legal authorities.

Until the time comes that it is no longer safe for radical Islamic terrorists to find safe haven in their own communities, then this issue will not be eradicated.

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