The good news about extremist violence in the United States: It’s vanishingly rare

janklow Members, Moderators Posts: 8,613 Regulator
edited July 2015 in The Social Lounge
main thrust for the TL, DR crowd: whether right-wing or Muslim or whatever, extremist violence in the US is rare as hell. stop letting people wind you up for political reasons:

The good news about extremist violence in the United States: It’s vanishingly rare
Last month, the New York Times highlighted a study from the New America Foundation on political extremism in the United States. The report found that extremism that could loosely be described as right-wing was responsible for twice as many deaths since 2001 as extremism associated with violent Islamism.

Over at Bloomberg View last week, Megan McArdle pointed out that the authors of the study appeared to tweak their definitions of each term to maximize right-wing violence while minimizing Muslim violence.


McArdle goes on to question several other killers the study classified as right-wing, while also pointing out that the study did not include the D.C. snipers in its list of extremist Muslim killers, even though they could arguably be as associated with Islam, as many of the counted killers could be associated with right-wing extremism.

There’s a regrettable script that seems to play out every time news breaks of an attack in the United States — or for that matter in the rest of the Western world. When word first broke of Anders Breivik’s horrific massacre in Norway, right-wing pundits immediately chalked the attack up to Islamic terrorism. (Breivik was an anti-immigration, anti-Muslim white supremacist.) When word first broke of bombs at the Boston Marathon, left-wing pundits postulated they were set off by a tax protester or a tea partyer. Some even openly hoped for some sort of right-wing plot by white people. (The bombs were, of course, set off by two extremist Muslims.)

Inevitably, the left jumps on attacks perpetrated by right-wingers to decry the government monitoring, investigating and restricting the activities of peaceful Muslims, while the right seizes on attacks by Muslims to question why the government is spending so much time and energy investigating right-wing extremism. Too often, both escalate these criticisms to call for more government surveillance and investigation of the groups they find unsavory.

This is likely why pretty much everyone missed the real story about the New America study that was released last month — just how little extremist violence there is in the United States of any kind. According to the study, extremist attacks have killed 74 people in the United States since 2001. That comes out to just over five per year. In a country of 320 million people, that’s an incredibly small number. According to FBI statistics, there were an average of 15,865 homicides between 2002 and 2013. That means, on average, political extremism motivated the killers in .003 percent of U.S. homicides since 2001. That’s statistical noise. It’s about the same number of people killed each year by sharks. (Note: I’m not claiming here that there is no more racism in America, or that violent Islamists don’t exist. Only that neither is responsible for a statistically significant number of homicides in the United States.)

Of course, the New America study may have overlooked some incidents. And the New York Times article points out that there were several attacks that may have been thwarted. But if we were to double, triple or even increase the number by a factor of 10, in a country of 320 million people, we’re still talking about a really small number.
full piece is quite a bit longer, but worth a read.