2015 was the deadliest year for domestic terrorism in the United States since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, with at least 52 people dying at the hands of domestic terrorists last year, according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). If you listen to the racist fear-mongering of Republican presidential candidates – which the blanket media coverage they receive makes it hard not to do – you might assume this is the result of ISIS’ rise and the threat from the monster of Islamic terrorism that Republicans are convinced is hiding under their beds. In reality, however, 63% of the deaths from domestic terrorism in 2015 were at the hands of right-wing extremists, representing 33 people killed in contrast to the 19 people killed by homegrown Islamic terrorists over the past year.
And right-wing terrorists dominance of the domestic terrorism market this year is not an aberration. Right-wing terrorists are responsible not just for more deaths than Islamic terrorists, but tremendously more. According to the ADL, of the 295 deaths from domestic terrorism over the past decade, fully 86% were at the hands of right-wing terrorists, with 13% resulting from Islamic terrorism and the final 1% at the hands of left-wing terrorists. Another study, conducted by the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center, found that right-wing terrorists were responsible for 254 deaths in the decade after 9/11. Taking into account the overlapping time periods encompassed by these two studies, right-wing extremists have killed over 350 Americans since 9/11, while Islamic extremists have killed 89.
While it is worth noting that the chances of either are infinitesimally tiny, a random American today is about 400% more likely to be killed by a right-wing terrorist than an Islamic terrorist. In every single year except 2001, right wing terrorists killed more Americans than their radical Islamic compatriots. And, unlike the demagogic narcissistic talking heads running for the Republican presidential nomination, those who actually work in law enforcement are well aware of this threat. In a joint Duke and UNC study released last year, some 74% of law enforcement agencies identified right-wing terrorism as a primary concern, compared to only 39% who identified Islamic terrorism as such.
The increasing danger from domestic terrorism is strongly related to the rise of the so-called right wing “militia” movement, such as the deranged Bundy militia currently occupying a wildlife refuge in Oregon in an attempt to gain free land. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the number of right-wing militia groups rose by more than one-third last year to 276. The SPLC has identified a tremendous increase in such terror groups since President Obama’s election in 2008. Such groups, including the violent extremists in Oregon, are domestic terror groups in the making, as the Oklahoma City bombing and numerous other small-scale acts of right-wing terrorism over the past decades demonstrate.
While we should be wary of turning the murderous records of different terror ideologies into a competition, the fact that right-wing terrorists are vastly more dangerous than Islamic terrorists – and that the nation is overwhelmingly ignorant of this fact – is in fact incredibly important given both the double standards in the media regarding political violence and the racist fear-mongering of Republican politicians. In the aftermath of the San Bernardino shootings the entire Republican nomination has become a pissing contest over who can frighten voters the most about the convenient boogeyman of Islamic terrorism. In the last Republican presidential “debate”, the words “ISIS,” “Islamic terrorism,” or “jihad” were mentioned 141 times. Anything related to right-wing terrorism was mentioned exactly zero times, even in the aftermath of such recent right-wing terror attacks as the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood attack or the Charleston Church shooting.
The consequences of Republicans racist fear-mongering over a dramatically overblown Islamic terrorist threat have real and far-reaching consequences, not only for American Muslims and those seeking shelter from war and deprivation, but also for the hundreds of thousands of Muslim civilians whom the candidates would wantonly bomb just to win a few more votes with their cowardly self-indulgent tough-guy routine. Indeed it is just such Republican fear-mongering over Islamic terrorism that has made so much of the American population ready to kill to fight an imaginary menace while a far greater threat lurks within us. The complete silence of both Republicans and the media on right-wing terrorism and their concurrent fear-mongering over Islamic terrorism is criminal. It’s time for Republicans, and America in general, to say the words: “Radical Right-Wing Terrorism!”
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.