On June 24, The New York Times reported that during the fourteen years since the 9/11 attacks, white supremacists and anti-government groups have posed a greater threat to US citizens than Muslims extremists.
The newspaper arrives at this conclusion by adding up the number of deaths from “small lethal assaults” by non-Muslims in a way that outnumbers the number of deaths from attacks launched by “self-proclaimed jihadists.” It does not take into consideration the number of jihadis thwarted in various attempts to kill Americans, nor does it consider American citizens who have taken their jihad abroad with groups such as the Islamic State and Al-Shabaab.
The NYT points to a New America study which contrasts “Deadly Jihadist Attacks” with “Deadly Right Wing Attacks.” The study finds “48 [people] have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim [since 9/11], compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists.”
Since the death of an innocent has to occur in order for an attack to make either list, the authors of the study were able to ignore the May 3rd attack on the Mohammed Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Texas, because police killed the attackers before innocent lives could be lost. Nor does the study take into account a growing number of foiled jihadist plots to kill Americans on U.S. soil. Just this month, law enforcement arrested a North Carolina man plotting to kill 1,000 Americans in the name of the Islamic State, an Ohio man planning to behead his son for being an “infidel,” and a New Jersey high schooler planning to travel to Syria to join ISIS.
25 Americans were arrested for trying to join the Islamic State between January and April of this year.
Throughout the column, the NYT cites bits and pieces from various reports to focus on “biased perceptions of terrorist threats.” And this leads them to use Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 Oklahoma City attack to explain how Americans perceive terrorism, although that attack took place well outside the parameter of the last fourteen years.
They quote William Braniff, executive director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland, to claim xenophobic roots for perceptions of terrorism. In other words, Americans do not realize how dangerous white supremacy is because they are more familiar with it, while “the daunting scale of sectarian conflict overseas and wariness of a strain of Islam that seems alien to many Americans.”
Here’s how Braniff put it: “We understand white supremacists. We don’t really feel like we understand Al Qaeda, which seems too complex and foreign to grasp.”
The NYT ends the column with another reference to the Oklahoma City bombing and a quote from John G. Horgan, who is “a University of Massachusetts scholar.” Horgan said, “If there’s one lesson we seem to have forgotten 20 years after Oklahoma City, it’s that extremist violence comes in all shapes and sizes. And very often it comes from someplace you’re least suspecting.”
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.