In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, a narrative on the left seems to be developing to move the focus away from terrorism connected to Islamic extremism to that of right-wing extremism.

Not surprisingly, the narrative is also being directed from one of weapons of mass destruction (which includes explosive devices) to guns.

Mere days after the tragic events in Boston, Mother Jones published an article titled “Charts: How Much Danger Do We Face From Homegrown Jihadist Terrorists?”  The charts illustrate data from a New America Foundation report and are intended to imply that right wing terrorists in the United States are a greater threat than Islamist terrorists.

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. Between September 11, 2001, and the end of 2012, there were no successful bomb plots by jihadist terrorists in the United States.

Jihadists killed 17 people in the United States in four separate incidents during this time, according to data collected by journalist Peter Bergen and the New America Foundation. All four of these incidents involved guns, including Nidal Hassan’s shooting rampage at Fort Hood, which killed 13 people. In contrast, right-wing extremists killed 29 people during those 11 years.

terrorism-deaths

In examining both the charts and the data, a few points in particular caught my attention.

First, one has nothing to do with the other.  That there may be other types of threats does not alter the treat level from Jihadists.  It’s the “look, Squirrel” strategy we have seen repeatedly since the Boston bombings.

Second, by any count the majority of indictments have been for Jihadist plots, out-numbering all other arrests combined according to the study relied upon by Mother Jones:

At least 380 people were indicted on terrorism-related charges in the United States between September 11, 2001 and December 31 2012.

207 of those people are identified as “jihadist” terrorists, and they subscribe broadly to the ideology of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda.

Because we have been better — until recently — at preventing Jihadist attacks does not mean that the threat is any less.  Just think about how many hundreds of deaths would occurred if the explosives carried by the Shoe Bomber and Underwear Bomber had detonated properly.

Mother Jones confuses threats with success.  The Jihadist threat outweighs all others.

Third, it’s also clear that Mother Jones misuses the term “right-wing” to include all manner of people who have nothing to do with the political right in America, a tactic common to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

When illustrating “right wing terrorists,” what exactly about them classifies them as “right wing”?  To delve just a little bit deeper into this query, I took a look at the data.  Allow me to provide just a few the report has classified as “Deadly Rightwing Terror Attacks.”  Each is followed by my brief notes on the background of those names and corresponding attacks.

  • James Von Brunn, a white supremacist and Holocaust denier who shot up the Holocaust Memorial, was idolized as a hero by commenters on the white supremacist website Stormfront, helping to earn him a classification as a hateful right-winger by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
  • Keith Luke, a white supremacist and anti-Semite who complained to arresting officers about a “Zionist occupation” and “the demise of the white race” after committing the Brockton shooting spree in Massachusetts.  This, and his neo-Nazi rants, also landed him on the SPLC’s website as a right-winger.
  • Robert Andrew Poplawski, who fired upon people on a Pittsburgh street, while having made statements about fearing his gun rights would be infringed upon by Obama, also told a friend that “Zionists were controlling the media and controlling our freedom of speech.”  He was described as a white supremacist and frequented the Stormfront website.  This prompted his listing as a right-winger at SPLC.  Mark Potok of SPLC described Poplawsi: “he believed the Jews were coming, the Jews controlled society, you know, we’re all under the thumb of Zionists and so on.”  As a matter of fact, a search for “Poplawski” yielded no less than 21 results at the SPLC website.
  • Joshua Cartwright, who shot 2 police officers dead at a shooting range after they responded to a domestic violence call from his wife.  But because his wife said that he “believed that the US Government was conspiring against him…and had been severely disturbed that Barack Obama had been elected President,” this earned him a “rightwing terrorist” classification.  It also gained him his own page at the SPLC website as hating right-winger.
  • Andrew Joseph Stack, who committed suicide by crashing his small plane into an Austin IRS building, left behind rantings that railed not only on the IRS, but the Catholic Church, George Bush and companies like Enron and Arthur Andersen.  His actions were infamously and incorrectly blamed on the Tea Party.  Not surprisingly, SPLC cited his anti-government rants in classifying him as “radical right” and made sure to call out Stormfront’s idolization of Stack as indicative of him being right-wing.
  • Wade Michael Page, who fatally assaulted a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, had ties to white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.  While SPLC even admits at its site that Page’s motive was not known, it didn’t stop them from giving him his own listing as a hater from the right-wing.
  • Terry Lyn Smith, who shot and killed two sheriff’s deputies near New Orleans, hated law enforcement and belonged to a movement that “refused to acknowledge the government’s legal sovereignty over him.”  Despite the fact that he and another man were on the FBI’s domestic terrorism watch list and were linked to an anarchist movement, SPLC again classifies them instead as hateful right-wingers.

Have you noticed a pattern in these examples?

They are the opposite of the political right in America.

From a political standpoint, “right wingers” are typically Republicans and Conservatives.  I don’t know many Republicans and Conservatives who deny the Holocaust, despise Israel and Jews and fear that Jews control everything, or are white supremacists and/or neo-Nazis.  Nor do I know many who are anarchists.  Is Occupy Wall Street right-wing?

This is the abuse of the term “right-wing” described by Phillip Klein:

So, the reason why conservatives get irked when “right wing” is used in reference to major acts of violence — often without an iota of evidence to back it up — is that the term “right wing” is broadly applied by the media to the entire conservative movement. I don’t think “right-wing” Jennifer Rubin and Sheldon Adelson get pumped every April for Hilter’s birthday, that  “right-wing think tanks” like the Heritage Foundation burst out the champagne on the Columbine anniversary, or that “right-wing rock star” Scott Walker is a big fan of the Oklahoma City bombing.

Recently, Think Progress echoed the same sentiments as Mother Jones, also just days after the Boston Marathon bombings.  The website cites the 2009 Department of Homeland Security report – the one that was withdrawn for its disingenuous and non-specific classification of “right-wing extremism” – as its source.

It would appear that the classification of “right-wing terrorist” is largely an arbitrary one done to minimize the Jihadist threat.

It seems the left is trying its best, not surprisingly, to reset the narrative.