On Wednesday, Mother Jones ran an article making a shocking claim: more Americans have been killed by conservative terrorists than by Islamic terrorists since September 11, 2001. “While America has been fixated on the threat of Islamic terrorism for more than a decade, all but a few domestic terror plots have failed,” the article explained. “Between September 11, 2001, and the end of 2012, there were no successful bomb plots by jihadist terrorists in the United States …. [R]ight-wing extremists killed 29 people during those 11 years.”
But is it true?
The Mother Jones piece is based on a study by the New America Foundation and Syracuse University’s Maxwell School. But that study routinely labels non-right-wing murderers right-wingers, and labels basic crimes involving murder “terrorist attacks.”
Here is their complete list of “rightwing terrorist attacks,” with number of killed in parentheses:
- Christopher and Wade Lay (1): In May 2004, Christopher and Wade Lay shot and murdered a security guard during a bank robbery. The son-and-father criminal team said they wanted to steal the money to buy arms to fight the government thanks to federal action at Waco in 1993 and Ruby Ridge in 1992. This is conspiratorial nonsense, not right-wing extremism. It is also murder, not terrorism, in the technical definition – it was not violence aimed at civilians to achieve a political purpose.
- Jim David Adkisson (2): Adkisson shot up a church in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2008 after he was unable to get a job, opening fire on children performing a musical. In a four-page letter outside the church, Adkisson “repeatedly included disgust for what he perceived to be the liberals in our country,” according to local authorities. He had also recently lost his public benefits, and his wife was a former member of the church. Local authorities stated, “That might have been a trigger.” The motivation is at best split politically.
- Keith Luke (2): A white supremacist broke into an apartment, raped a woman, and shot two more people in 2009. He planned to attack a Jewish synagogue. His motive: killing “nonwhite people.” That is not right-wing. That is white supremacist. But the left always lumps in neo-Nazi types with the right, despite the fact that the Nazi movement was left-wing in orientation.
- Scott Roeder (1): Roeder assassinated Dr. George Tiller, an abortionist, thanks to his own anti-abortion motives in 2009. Again, this is an assassination, not a terrorist attack.
- James Von Brunn (1): Von Brunn shot a security guard at the US Holocaust Memorial in Washington, D.C. in June 2009. He was a white supremacist and Holocaust denier. He was not a right-winger.
- Robert Andrew Poplawski (3): Poplawski got into a fight with his mother over a dog urinating in their home in 2009. He opened fire on Pittsburgh police officers, killing three. He was an anti-Semite and feared a gun ban by Barack Obama. Again, this was not a terrorist attack.
- Joshua Cartwright (2): Cartwright started a fight with his wife over the location of his Clearasil in 2009. His rampage didn’t stop until after he had killed two sheriff’s deputies. Because Cartwright was described by his wife as conspiratorial and anti-Obama, this was labeled a right-wing terrorist attack. It wasn’t a terrorist attack, and it evidences no motivation based on politics.
- ShawnaForde, Jason Eugene Bush, Albert Robert Gaxiola (2):
- Raymond Franklin Peake (1): Peake, a prison guard, shot a lawyer to death at a gun range so he could steal his gun for use to overthrow the US government in 2010. Again, this was a robbery, not a terrorist attack, and there is no evidence Peake was a right-winger.
- Andrew Joseph Stack (1): In 2009, Stack flew his small plane into the IRS building in Austin Texas, killing an IRS agent. Stack’s suicide note contained rage at the IRS. His suicide note was openly communist: “The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.” He railed in that note against George W. Bush.
- David “Joey” Pedersen and Holly Ann Grigsby (4): The white supremacist couple killed four people in the Pacific Northwest in 2011 because they were minority or had Jewish names. They wanted to target Jewish organizations. There is no evidence they were right-wing.
- Wade Michael Page (5): Page opened fire at a Sikh mosque in 2012. He was brewing in the culture of Nazi hate music. There is no evidence Page was right-wing.
- Brian Lyn Smith (2): Smith and his friend Kyle David Joekel were involved in the shooting of two sheriff’s deputies in Louisiana in 2012. Both were members of the sovereign citizens movement. This is the only attack on the list that could legitimately be considered a “right-wing extremist terrorist attack.”
- Isaac Aguigui, Anthony Peden, Christopher Salmon, Heather Salmon (2): These four killed a former Army compatriot, and formed an anarchist militia group. They allegedly wanted to poison Washington State’s apple crop and blow up a dam. Aguigui was a page at the Republican National Convention in 2008. The killing was a murder, not a terrorist attack.
Realistically speaking, then, there were a grand total of 2 killings over the last 12 years by “right-wing extremists.”
The study lists just four Islamic terrorist attacks in that period:
- Hesham Mohamed Hadayet (2): He shot two at the El-Al counter at Los Angeles International Airport in 2002.
- Naveed Afzal Haq (1): He shot up the Jewish Federation building in Seattle, Washington in 2006.
- Nidal Malik Hasan (13): The perpetrator of the Fort Hood terrorist attack.
- Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad (1): He shot up a Little Rock recruitment office in 2009.
The list does not include the Beltway snipers (11 killed, including a 2002 shooting of a Tucson man); Mohammed Ali Alayed, who slashed a Jewish friend’s throat after reportedly undergoing a religious revival; Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, who used his SUV to attack students (9 injured) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in revenge for “the deaths of Muslims worldwide”; the list goes on. The list also does not include honor killings (the equivalent to the George Tiller assassination), or random murders involving Muslims (the equivalent of half the items on the “rightwing terrorist attacks” list.
Naturally, the study does not bother to list left-wing terrorists.
The attempt by the left, including Mother Jones, to minimize the threat of Islamic terror inside the United States and to maximize the threat of “right-wing extremism” is all too obvious. By using the label “right-wing extremism” to apply to everything from neo-Nazis to anarchists, the left seeks to smear the right, the same way it smeared the right with the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords.
The truth remains that the Islamist threat in the United States is very real – and that only the dedication of law enforcement has stopped substantially more Islamist attacks. After the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three and wounded well over 170, only a truly philosophically perverse publication would claim that right-wingers are actually more of a threat to public safety than Islamists.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).