In the spirit of giving credit where it is due, even to ideological opponents, it is with considerable respect that we must state that the New York Slimes, the loyal lapdog of the US imperial empire, finally got something right. In June 2015, the august newspaper of American ruling class expansionism published an article called ‘The Growing Right-Wing Terror Threat”, which elaborated upon the threat posed by the politically active ultra-right. Written by Charles Kurzman and David Schanzer, the opinion piece elaborates on the numerous studies and data sets aggregated by academic institutions and think tanks across the country that highlight the mortal danger of far-right terroristic violence. While the headlines of major newspapers and media channels are dominated by hyperbole regarding terrorism from Islamist-inspired individuals, the writers go on to state that:
But headlines can mislead. The main terrorist threat in the United States is not from violent Muslim extremists, but from right-wing extremists. Just ask the police.
It is easy to find stories that regale the public with the threats (real or imagined) from groups that proclaim themselves Islamist-oriented. Since the ‘war on terror’ and the September 11 attacks, public anxiety about such movements has reached incredible levels, and almost every discussion in the corporate media about terrorism immediately focuses on the issue of Islam, the Islamic ideology, and the presence of the Muslim community as an allegedly stealthy reservoir of support for terrorist activities. Blame for attacks by Islamist individuals warrant apportioning onto the entire Islamic community.
However, the New York Times writers, summarising the findings of numerous studies into the subject of terrorism, state otherwise:
Despite public anxiety about extremists inspired by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, the number of violent plots by such individuals has remained very low. Since 9/11, an average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots against targets in the United States. Most were disrupted, but the 20 plots that were carried out accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities, according to a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. The toll has increased since the study was released in 2012.
Collective responsibility, applied far and wide to the Muslim community when a terrorist perpetrator is ostensibly motivated by his/her religion, evaporates into thin air when the perpetrators of violence are white. When Jerad and Amanda Miller, in Las Vegas in 2014, killed two police officers stating that the citizen revolution had begun, were they speaking for white America when they placed the Gadsden flag, and a swastika, on the bodies of the slain police officers?
The rightist killers had, six days prior to the killing, posted a rambling manifesto on their Facebook page, explaining that they were joining the militia movement to fight the government oppression of their kinfolk. Patriot and far-right groups cloak their actions in the mantle of liberty and fighting tyrannical government, citing the doctrines of America’s Founding Fathers (the founders of white America that is). After all, are they not just remaining faithful to the literal interpretation of the foundational documents of the American constitutional system?
Rightist and white supremacist violence are routinely interpreted as isolated incidents, blown out of proportion by the allegedly liberal bias in the American media. The Department of Homeland Security would disagree with that interpretation, issuing a report detailing the rising and constant menace of ultra-rightist terrorist groups. The shootings at Charleston, South Carolina, back in June 2015, by white supremacist Dylann Roof, refocused some attention back on the terror threat presented by the ultra-right. Al Jazeera (American edition) carried a story in July 2015 analysing the understated yet intimidating menace of white supremacist terrorism. At a White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, hosted by President Obama in February 2015, there was extensive discussion about Islamic-inspired movements, such as Islamic State, and their propensity for violence. However, ultra right extremism did not rate a mention.
Since September 11, numerous legislative measures have been taken to combat the ostensible threat of Islamic extremism, legislative measures clamping down on civil liberties have been approved by political bodies on the basis of combating this terrorism, and the character of Western political society has changed, perhaps irrevocably. The purported rationale for launching the ‘war on terror’ was precisely the combating of Islamist groups that resort to violent methods. Domestic and foreign policies have been influenced by this paradigm, even though the scale of this eruption of American militarism is poorly understood by the public. It is interesting to note that the multiple interventions carried out by the United States has not actually reduced the threat of terrorism. The rationalisation of US invasions overseas as part of a war on terror only serves to disguise the violent methods and predatory aims of American imperial conquest.
It is necessary for the New York Times writers to ask the next question – what steps are being taken to combat the rise of ultra-right terrorism, directed against federal authorities and minority groups? Surely white supremacist shooters are not as likely to use the same methods as Islamic fanatics, like flying airplanes into buildings on a suicide mission? Well, actually, ask that question to the residents of Austin, Texas.
It is not just a question of greater numbers, or more violent methods, of ultra-rightist violence. White supremacist and sovereign citizen militia groups are allowed to flourish and recruit because of deep-level sympathies their ideologies draw from Republican and associated right-wing parties. The disparity in media scrutiny between white ultra-right terrorism, and Islamist-based attacks, serves to shift public attitudes away from examining the racism and discrimination that pervades American capitalist society itself. Right-wing violence results in greater casualties, higher fatalities, but is met with lower rates of prosecution of the perpetrators by the federal authorities.
Make no mistake – white supremacist groups have been waging an ongoing war on the African American community for decades, something that is under-reported but deeply entrenched in the capitalist system. Dylann Roof was caught, but the threat has not subsided. The ultra right threat is not only physical, but political as well. If the ideologies motivating its practitioners find a level of community support, then extremism becomes the new normal. Social and economic policies can be changed to influence the character of the society in which we live to be more intolerant, xenophobic, and based on ultra-competitive individualism. The ultra right can commit its atrocities because the ideologies that underpin it are ubiquitous, aided and abetted by a culture of complicity that refuses to recognise the magnitude and extent of racism in capitalist society.