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Were two-thirds of US terrorism in 2017 tied to right-wing extremists?

This has been a common assertion recently on social media.  It most often is linking the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) which has found itself in many controversies over the last decade as it has become more a political tool to mislabel those it disagrees with on policies.  While that would be a worthy discussion, rather than use the SPLC’s questionable credibility to undermine this claim, let’s dig into the statistics themselves.

The SPLC links a news site called Quartz  who state they used data from the Global Terrorism Database.  Here were their findings:

  • Attackers in 65 alleged US terror incidents in 2017:
    • 37 were right-leaning
    • 11 were left-leaning
    • 7 were Islamic-extremists
    • 10 were unknown

Since the list is so small, we decided to just explore each of these case by case.  You can replicate this exercise by visiting the database here.  One thing to keep in mind in all this is the definition of terrorism:

terrorism (tĕrˈə-rĭzˌəm)

  • n.
    The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.

Below are each of the 2017 incidents that occurred in the United States in reverse order by date that the GTD database alleges were terrorist attacks.  We will use their own description and then list who the database claimed responsible at the end.  Anything written by them with be in italics.  Due to the length of time it will take us to research and link all of these, we will publish this while it is incomplete and update it as we add more.  We’ll update our conclusive stats here as we go.

After researching back through July 7, 2017 here are the stats:

  • GTD = 6 Unknown, 2 Far Left, 2 Islamic, 13 Far Right
  • Ours = 11 Unknown, 2 Far Left, 2 Islamic, 3 Far Right, 5 National Socialists

You may make the assumption we agree on the 2 labeled Far Left, but that isn’t the case.  The two they cited Far Left we didn’t find enough evidence to make this assumption.  We did, however, find enough evidence to cite the Far Left in two other incidents they labeled as Unknown.  Fundamentally, we see Far Right as extreme Libertarians or even Anarchists, but Antifa are in many ways Anarchists and they’re Far Left.  So, in order to keep this simple we will allow for White Extremists to be listed as Far Right.  Some people listed by GTD as Far Right are Nation Socialists. We see Socialists as Far Left, and uncertain where to place Nationalists without further information of the type of Nationalism they seek.  So we created a separate category for National Socialists and you can choose where you place them.  The fact that Antifa’s violent attacks on conservatives and Trump supporters is missing entirely from the GTD Database indicates the farce that it is.

Anyway, here is the analysis for each incident listed in their database through 7/7/2017.

12/22/2017: An assailant opened fire on a Pennsylvania State Capitol Police vehicle near Strawberry Square in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, United States. At least one officer was injured in the assault. Officers pursued the assailant to the intersection of 17th Street and Mulberry Street, where he was shot and killed. This was one of two attacks targeting police officers in Harrisburg on the same day. No group claimed responsibility; however, authorities identified the assailant as Ahmed Aminamin El-Mofty.  Perpetrator Group:  Unknown

(This one above was actually listed twice in the database under two different GTD ID #’s.  The Department of Homeland Security stated it was a terrorist attack, but a motive hasn’t been found.  The perpetrator was from Egypt and had recently traveled there.  We agree one can’t assume he was a Islamic terrorist regardless of circumstantial evidence that would lead one to jump to that conclusion.)  Our conclusion:  Unknown

12/11/2017: A suicide bomber detonated explosives at Port Authority Bus Terminal between Seventh and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States. In addition to the assailant, three civilians were injured in the blast. Akayed Ullah, a jihadi-inspired extremist, claimed responsibility for the incident and stated “They’ve been bombing in my country and I wanted to do damage here,” and “I did it for the Islamic State.”  Perpetrator Group:  Jihadi-inspired extremists  Our conclusion:  Islamic-extremists

12/07/2017: An assailant, identified as William Atchison, opened fire on students at Aztec High School in Aztec, New Mexico, United States. The assailant shot and killed two students and fired multiple shots at a locked classroom before shooting and killing himself. Statements Atchinson made in his suicide note and posted online reflect a fixation on mass shootings, as well as a misogynist and white supremacist narrative referenced in message forums where participants self-identify as “involuntarily celibate” (incel).”  Perpetrator Group:  White extremists

This one raised our suspicion so we’ve done a bit more digging.  Heavy.com does a good job getting background on people like this.  They note nothing on him being a white supremacist.    The Daily Beast alleges he participated on white supremacist websites and used offensive language online.  We suppose he may have been a 21-year old racist.  But, how are we defining terrorism?  Our conclusion:  Unknown

11/13/2017: Assailants set fire to the Providence Road Baptist Church in Vale, North Carolina, United States. There were no reported casualties in the fire. Pro-LGBT Rights extremists claimed responsibility for the incident and wrote “anti-gay hate group” on the targeted church.  Perpetrator Group:  Pro-LGBT Rights extremists

We couldn’t find anywhere where a Pro-LGBT Rights group claimed responsibility.  This may have been a hoax to make gay rights proponents look bad.  We’ve seen black churches attacked by their own parishioners for similar reasons.  Our conclusion:  Unknown.

11/07/2017: Assailants broke a window and put a bomb on the window sill at Women’s Health Practice at 2125 South Neil Street, Champaign, Illinois, United States. The device failed to detonate and was defuse by authorities. No group claimed responsibility for the incident; however, sources attributed the attempted attack to the White Rabbit Three Percent Illinois Patriot Freedom Fighters Militia.  Perpetrator Group:  White Rabbit Three Percent Illinois Patriot Freedom Fighters Militia

For more reading on this, here is a link.  Our conclusion:  Far right extremists

10/31/2017: An assailant set fire to the predominantly black St Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Richland Parish, Louisiana, United States. There were no reported casualties in the attack. No group claimed responsibility; however, sources identified the assailant as a white extremist.  Perpetrator Group:  White extremists

This was a 15 year old white kid who stole trucks from a nearby lot and ran them into other vehicles in a school parking lot.  No motives are known.  It seems a stretch to list this as a terrorist attack of white extremists.  Remember in the first incident listed with the man from Egypt listed as “Unknown” and we agreed one couldn’t assume he was an Islamic-extremist.  We think this is just a bad of an assumption based on the kid’s skin color.  Our conclusion:  Unknown

10/31/2017: An assailant driving a Home Depot rental truck entered a bike path in an attempt to run over civilians on the West Side Highway in Lower Manhattan, New York City, United States. Following the initial attack, the assailant exited the vehicle and was shot by a police officer after displaying imitation firearms. At least eight people, including two citizens from the United States, five Argentinian tourists, and one Belgian tourist, were killed and 13 other people, including the assailant, were injured in the attack. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed that the assailant, identified as Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, was “one of the caliphate soldiers;” however, sources doubted the veracity of this claim. Authorities also recovered a note from the vehicle in which Saipov pledged allegiance to ISIL.  Perpetrator Group:  Jihadi-inspired extremists

That one is pretty cut and dry.  Our conclusion:  Islamic-extremists

10/28/2017: Assailants threw incendiary devices into Circo Bar, a gay club, in Santurce neighborhood, San Juan, Puerto Rico. There were no reported casualties in the attack. No group claimed responsibility; however, sources identified the assailants as anti-LGBT extremists.  Perpetrator Group:  Anti-LGBT extremists

We couldn’t find anything definitive on this.  There is no known motive so it is an assumption that it is anti-LGBT extremists.  Our conclusion:  Unknown

10/22/2017: An assailant breached a secure area of an Amtrak passenger train, travelling from California to Missouri and triggered an emergency stop in Oxford, Nebraska, United States. There were no reported casualties, and the assailant, identified as Taylor Michael Wilson, was detained by Amtrak personnel. No group claimed responsibility for the incident; however, authorities stated that Wilson possessed neo-Nazi literature and had previously expressed an interest in “killing black people.”  Perpetrator Group:  White extremists

This one is weird.  He was carrying a weapon and was a passenger on a train returning from a trip to the West Coast.  He was facing possible terrorists charges due to the incident.  He had a business card on him for the National Socialists Movement which is a neo-Nazi group.  It’s ironic – likely intentionally – how Socialists are far-left, but “national Socialists” are “far-right.”  He participated in other neo-Nazi protests.  Not sure what specifically motivated this attack, but we’ll take a guess.  Our conclusion:  National socialists.

10/08/2017: Around 11:00 p.m.m two assailants shouting racial slurs and white supremacist statements attacked a black man in Spokane, Washington, United States. The assailants attacked Norris Cooley, pointed a handgun at him, and fired at least six shots into Cooley’s occupied home. The two unaffiliated individuals, identified as Jason Edward Cooper and Donald Lucas Prichard, white extremists, claimed responsibility for the incident and stated racial slurs during the attack.  Perpetrator Group:  White extremists

Our conclusion:  White extremists

10/06/2017: An explosive device was discovered and defused at the Asheville Regional Airport baggage claim in Fletcher, North Carolina, United States. Michael Christopher Estes claimed responsibility for the attack and stated that he wanted to “fight a war on U.S. soil.”  Perpetrator Group:  Unknown

Another weird one.  He pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of explosive materials.  Our conclusion:  Unknown

10/01/2017: An assailant opened fire from the Mandalay Bay Hotel on the Route 91 Harvest Festival concert in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States. At least 58 people were killed and 851 people were injured in the attack. The assailant shot and killed himself before police reached him. No group claimed responsibility for the incident; however, authorities identified the assailant as Stephen Paddock, an anti-government extremist. Witnesses overheard Paddock espousing anger over the 1990s standoffs in Waco, Texas and Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Paddock also expressed concern over the US government “confiscating guns.”  Perpetrator Group:  Anti-Government extremists

Their conclusion renders their entire research unreliable due to bias.  This is still under investigation, but no known motive is known.  Our conclusion:  Unknown

09/24/2017: An assailant opened fire on Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee, United States. One person was killed and eight others, including the assailant, were wounded in the attack. An unaffiliated individual, identified as Emanuel Kidega Samson, claimed responsibility for the incident and stated that the attack was carried out in revenge for the June 18, 2015 attack on a church in Charleston, South Carolina by Dylann Roof.  Perpetrator Group:  Unknown

A note was found in the shooter’s vehicle outside the church explaining he wanted “revenge” for Dylan Roof’s church shooting.  Our conclusion:  Far-left extremists

09/14/2017: An assailant shot and killed Donald Smart 49, on the 3000 block of Alaska Street in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, United States. The perpetrator first fired from inside a car, and then exited the vehicle and continued to fire. Kenneth James Gleason, a white extremist, was arrested and charged in connection with this attack and two similar incidents in Baton Rouge in the same week. Police believe the attacks were racially motivated. He pleaded not guilty in December 2017.  Perpetrator Group:  White extremists (suspected)

Heavy.com’s initial analysis here casts some doubt, but later reports authorities found a Hitler speech in the suspect’s home contradict it.  The fact there were two other events in Baton Rouge the same week lead one to believe they’re related as Gleason was arrested in connection to each of them.  Though we aren’t sure Gleason is the guilty party, we do believe racism is involved.  This is the third of the three.  Our conclusion:  National Socialists

09/12/2017: An assailant shot and killed Bruce Cofield, 59, on the 3400 block of Florida Street in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, United States. The perpetrator first fired from inside a car, and then exited the vehicle and continued to fire. Kenneth James Gleason, a white extremist, was arrested and charged in connection with this attack and two similar incidents in Baton Rouge in the same week. Police believe the attacks were racially motivated. He pleaded not guilty in December 2017.  Perpetrator Group:  White extremists (suspected)

Heavy.com’s initial analysis here casts some doubt, but later reports authorities found a Hitler speech in the suspect’s home contradict it.  The fact there were two other events in Baton Rouge the same week lead one to believe they’re related as Gleason was arrested in connection to each of them.  Though we aren’t sure Gleason is the guilty party, we do believe racism is involved.  This is the second of the three.  Our conclusion:  National Socialists

09/11/2017: An assailant fired shots through the front door and living room of a home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, United States. Two men were home at the time of the attack, but no one was injured. Kenneth James Gleason, a white extremist, was arrested and charged in connection with this attack and two similar incidents in Baton Rouge in the same week. Police believe the attacks were racially motivated. He pleaded not guilty in December 2017.  Perpetrator Group:  White extremists (suspected)

Heavy.com’s initial analysis here casts some doubt, but later reports authorities found a Hitler speech in the suspect’s home contradict it.  The fact there were two other events in Baton Rouge the same week lead one to believe they’re related as Gleason was arrested in connection to each of them.  Though we aren’t sure Gleason is the guilty party, we do believe racism is involved.  This is the first of the three.  Our conclusion:  National Socialists

08/19/2017: An assailant was arrested while attempting to plant an explosive device at the Dick Dowling Confederate monument in Houston, Texas, United States. There were no reported casualties. No group claimed responsibility; however, sources identified the assailant as Andrew Cecil Schneck.  Perpetrator Group:  Unknown

Here is Schneck’s background via Heavy.com.  A park ranger encountered Schneck almost one year earlier when he was found attempting to plant an explosive device at the statue located at Houston’s Herman Park. The attempted bombing followed a Black Lives Matter protest earlier in the day at the scene of a different Confederate statue. Protesters that included activists from Black Lives Matter, the Brown Berets, anarchists, communists and Democratic Socialists, along with others from the “Destroy the Confederacy!” movement.  Our conclusion:  Far-left extremist.

08/12/2017: An assailant drove his vehicle into a crowd of counter-protesters at the intersection of 4th Street and Water Street in Charlottesville, Virginia, United States. One person, identified as Heather D. Heyer, was killed and 19 people were injured in the assault. No group claimed responsibility for the incident; however, police arrested James Alex Fields Jr., a neo-Nazi extremist, in connection with the attack.  Perpetrator Group:  Neo-Nazi extremist

This one is pretty well known.  Here’s the background from Heavy.com.  Our conclusion:  National socialist.

08/05/2017: An assailant threw an explosive device into Dar Al-Farooq Mosque in Bloomington, Minnesota, United States. There were no reported casualties but an office in the mosque was damaged in the blast. No group claimed responsibility; however, sources attributed the attack to the White Rabbit Three Percent Illinois Patriot Freedom Fighters Militia.  Perpetrator Group: White Rabbit Three Percent Illinois Patriot Freedom Fighters Militia

The same three men suspected of this were the same one’s in Women’s Health Clinic later in the same year.  Our conclusion:  Far right extremists

08/04/2017: A package delivered to an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) office made employees sick in Kansas City, Missouri, United States. At least 10 people reported being ill, which included vomiting and nausea. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.  Perpetrator Group:  Unknown

Our conclusion:  Unknown

07/13/2017: Assailants set fire to a portable toilet at a Sunoco pipeline construction site in Campbelltown, Pennsylvania, United States. There were no reported casualties in the attack. No group claimed responsibility for the incident; however, sources suspected the involvement of environmental extremists in the attack. Perpetrator Group:  Suspected Environment Extremists

This actually occurred twice and is listed twice.  We’ll combine it into one.  Here’s the news story link.   We suppose it could be two cases of eco-terrorism, but nobody knows.  It could be local kids setting crap on fire.  Our conclusion:  Unknown and no reason to assume it is terrorism.

07/08/2017: Assailants vandalized and set fire to the Ohio Chapel United Methodist Church near Columbus, Indiana, United States. There were no reported casualties in the attack. No group claimed responsibility for the incident. Perpetrator Group:  Unknown

Here is the link to the news story.  Another nearby church had some damage as well.  Not sure if a coincidence or related.  Difficult to assume this is terrorism, though it could be.  Our conclusion:  Unknown

07/07/2017: Assailants set fire to Abounding Prosperity, Inc., an African American Lesbian-Gay-Bi-Trans (LGBT) community center in Dallas, Texas, United States. There were no reported casualties in the attack. No group claimed responsibility; however, sources attributed the incident to anti-LGBT extremists. Perpetrator Group:  Anti-LFBT Extremists

Here’s the news story.  The GTD often cites “sources attributed…” when news stories mention the possibility of the motive while acknowledging the motive is unknown.  Our Conclusion:  Unknown

 

We’ve found a pattern here.  There’s an assumption of motive based on the allege victim’s demographic.  These sort of assumptions further perpetuate stereotypes and division.  It is obvious that the “research” conducted by GTD was more agenda driven than objective truth seeking.

 

 

 

 

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