**UPDATE: 03/30/2014: Updated second from last paragraph; update highlighted in blue.**
Parts I, II, and III Are Here:
Government and media accusations of right-wing or patriotic Americans being a literal national security threat are common but the accusations don’t hold up to examination and in fact statistics and data on terrorism are often ambiguous or politicized.
Part II of this series revealed how some of the alleged evidence the government presented of Constitution-supporting, patriotic, or right-wing being violent was outright false.
For example, Part II discussed how a study on “far right violence” (from an author working in his official government capacity) didn’t even understand how to distinguish “right” from “left.”
And then in early 2013 the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC), part of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, published, “Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right.” The author of this report wrote an article on the same topic in late 2012 called, “Identifying Three Trends in Far Right Violence in the United States.” The article included the following:
Conventional wisdom suggests that the most damaging and dangerous mass of an iceberg is actually the section that is underwater. Indeed, the high volume of far right violence reflected in vandalism and attacks against individuals is probably a better indication of the growing threat from the far right than the small number of mass casualty attacks. A group or individual will rarely engage in mass casualty attacks without first moving through the lower base of the iceberg by engaging in low profile attacks. A rise in the number of low profile attacks should eventually result in an increase in mass casualty attacks.
In more specific terms, the findings reflect a steady rise in the level of far right violence in the United States during the last two decades. While some far right groups are clearly in decline, such as the KKK and anti-abortionists, others such as the skinheads, neo-Nazis and militias are still active and represent a growing threat.
The author’s understanding of the “far right” clearly is flawed as both Nazis (National Socialists) and the KKK are explicitly left-wing groups, with the KKK during its earliest days having served as the terrorist arm of the Democratic Party.Meanwhile, Part III of this series cited examples of the media accusing Constitution-supporting, patriotic, or right-wing Americans of being violent. But those examples are also highly flawed and as such their allegations are baseless.
For instance, Part III mentioned Peter Bergen asking at CNN in 2012 if, “Right-wing extremist terrorism as deadly a threat as al Qaeda?” Yet Bergen makes the same error that the author at CTC did by erroneously labeling non-right-wing groups and people as “right-wing”:
And if, after investigation, Sunday’s attack on the Sikh temple in Wisconsin is included in this count, the death toll from right-wing terrorism in the U.S. over the past decade rises to 15.
The shooting suspect, Wade Michael Page, posed with a Nazi flag on his Facebook page and has played a prominent role in “white power” music groups. The FBI is investigating the case as a “domestic terrorist-type incident.”Bergen cites some examples that might legitimately be considered right-wing (violence by so-called Sovereign Citizens) but these examples are rendered worthless by further false or questionable allegations of “right-wing violence”:
The numbers in the New America Foundation database may well understate the toll of violence from right-wing extremists. Another FBI study reported that between January 1, 2007, and October 31, 2009, white supremacists were involved in 53 acts of violence, 40 of which were assaults directed primarily at African-Americans, seven of which were murders and the rest of which were threats, arson and intimidation. Most of these were treated as racially motivated crimes rather than political acts of violence, i.e. terrorism.Furthermore, he outright undermines his argument when he lumps in left-wing violence (his own admission) with alleged right-wing violence in an attempt to make his point that “right-wing extremist terrorism” is as big of a problem as Islamic terrorism:
After 9/11, there was great concern that al Qaeda or an allied group would launch a terrorist attack involving chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) weapons. But in the past decade, there is no evidence that jihadist extremists in the United States have acquired or attempted to acquire material to construct CBRN weapons.
By contrast, 11 right-wing and left-wing extremists have managed to acquire CBRN material that they planned to use against the public, government employees or both.But Bergen wasn’t the only one who used the attack on the Sikh temple in Wisconsin to distort information and use it as a jumping off point to warn of the dangers of patriotic Americans. Part III noted how multiple media outlets did the same thing. The Daily Beast (“Wisconsin Sikh Massacre Reveals Need for Domestic Antiterrorism Unit”), Salon (“DHS’s right-wing terror blind spot”), and the Wired “Danger Room” blog (“DHS Crushed This Analyst for Warning About Far-Right Terror”) were three such outlets.
Part III extracted a portion of Spencer Ackerman’s, “DHS Crushed This Analyst for Warning About Far-Right Terror,” to show how it (with an assist from a former government official—Daryl Johnson) was making a case for “right-wing” Americans being a national security threat. However, Part III left out portions of that blog post that shows just how bad the case it made was. Here now is another excerpt from that blog post. Some of the portions were included in Part III and some weren’t. The new portions are in bold.
“DHS is scoffing at the mission of doing domestic counterterrorism, as is Congress,” Johnson tells Danger Room. “There’ve been no hearings about the rising white supremacist threat, but there’s been a long list of attacks over the last few years. But they still hold hearings about Muslim extremism. It’s out of balance.” But even if that balance was reset, he concedes, that doesn’t necessarily mean the feds could have found Page before Sunday’s rampage. . . .
Johnson, who has written a forthcoming book about far-right extremist groups, concedes that the definition of “right-wing” in his product was imprecise. In retrospect, he says he should have clarified that his focus was on “violent” right-wing organizations, like white supremacists, neo-Nazis and so-called Sovereign Citizens who believe the U.S. government is an illegitimate, tyrannical enterprise. Much like mainstream Muslims denounce terrorism and object to over-broad analysis portraying Islam as an incubator of extremism, so too do mainstream conservatives denounce neo-Nazis and white supremacists and dispute that those groups are authentically right-wing.
Nor does he think DHS should ignore Islamic extremism. “It just needs to be more balanced,” Johnson says. New York congressman “Peter King has held three hearings in the past year on Muslim extremism,” he says, referring to the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, “but he’s yet to have a single hearing on right-wing extremism when there’s been a lot more activity.”
Indeed, since Johnson released his ill-fated report, the Wichita, Kansas, abortion doctor George Tiller was assassinated; a security guard was killed when a gunman with neo-Nazi ties went on a shooting spree at the U.S. Holocaust Museum; the FBI arrested members of a Florida neo-Nazi outfit tied to drug dealing and motorcycle gangs; a man was charged with attempting to detonate a weapon of mass destruction at a Spokane, Washington march commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday; and several mosques around the country have been vandalized or attacked — including a Missouri mosque that burned to the ground on Monday, which had been attacked before.
As Salon recounts, the FBI has been warning for years that far-right racialist organizations might be interested in suicide terrorism. Peter Bergen, a longtime chronicler of al-Qaida, wrote on Tuesday that far-right domestic terrorism rivals and might eclipse the threat of homegrown jihadism.
In a press conference on Monday, FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Teresa Carlson acknowledged that Page, the perpetrator of the Sikh temple assault, “had contact with law enforcement in the past,” but that contact didn’t rise to the level of sparking an active investigation. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks right-wing extremist groups, has apparently had Page on its radar for some time.Johnson’s identifying of white supremacists and Nazis as “right-wing” calls into question his so-called expertise. And the analogy (whether Johnson’s or Ackerman’s) of “right-wing” terrorists being to the political right what Islamic jihadists are to so-called mainstream Muslims is at best a stretch and something many people would dispute.
Furthermore, Ackerman’s suggestion that the 2009 U.S. Holocaust Museum attacker was “right-wing” (an accusation that pundits initially embraced—including Shepard Smith of Fox News who cited the never-published 2009 DHS report as something that “was a warning to us all”) has explicitly been proven false with, ironically, a Fox News location having been one of multiple potential other targets for the attacker.
Possibly the only people and groups mentioned in Ackerman’s blog post that could accurately be described as right-wing are the murderer of George Tiller and the so-called Sovereign Citizens.
And Daryl Johnson saying that the Congress hadn’t held, “a single hearing on right-wing extremism when there’s been a lot more activity,” is also problematic. What about hearings on left-wing extremism? Have there been any hearings? If not, why not? Did Johnson mention left-wing extremism and Ackerman just decided to leave it out or did Johnson not mention that at all? Defining terrorism and the political leanings of those engaging in it is a challenge at best (more on that later) but quasi-private organizations and the government have consistently published reports claiming that incidents of terrorism in the name of secular/political/anarchist causes and “animal rights” and/or the environment are at the top of the list of domestic and (non-Islamic) international terrorism. These seem to be left-wing causes. So if people are complaining about a lack of hearings on “right-wing” extremism, where is a similar outrage over the lack of concern about left-wing domestic terrorism?
Then there also is the problem of Ackerman and the government going to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a source of authority. The SPLC is a notoriously biased and unreliable group. Also, as Part III noted, it was the group that Floyd Lee Corkins referenced before he attacked the headquarters of the Family Research Council in Washington, DC in 2012.
-- END SECTION A OF PART IV --