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In the week-plus since I first began writing this piece, there was indeed one Islamic State-"inspired" attack in the United States.
A twenty-one year old man lunged at an FBI agent searching his home in Staten Island, New York, with "a large kitchen knife." He was reputed to be part of another of those ISIS-inspired terror "plots" that seem unlikely to ever be successfully carried out.
There was also a mass killing. A twenty-one-year-old white racist walked into a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and opened fire in what, if he had been Muslim, would have been called a terror attack, killing nine, including the church's pastor who was also a state senator.
As Reuters reported, the massacre "recalled the 1963 bombing of an African-American church in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four girls and galvanized the civil rights movement of the 1960s."
There was as well at least one more grim toddler shooting. A Cincinnati three year old found his mother’s gun in her purse, shot himself in the chest, and died.
There was also at least one more fellow on a suicide mission: a Vermont man sought by the police in the killing of his ex-girlfriend engaged in a high-speed car chase before crashing and committing suicide by gun.
There were a number of police homicides, including: a man on probation in a Hacienda Inn in South Lake Tahoe; a 28-year-old man in a high-speed car chase in Stockton, California; a 28-year-old man, unarmed but "behaving erratically," in Des Moines, Iowa; a man who stabbed a policeman trying to arrest him in Brighton Beach, New York; and a man tentatively identified as African in Louisville, Kentucky, accused of violently threatening the police with a flag pole (with the usual conflicting stories from police and eyewitnesses about what actually happened).
And in the smorgasbord that is America’s cavalcade of violence, we shouldn’t leave out the off-duty Neptune, New Jersey, police sergeant who chased his ex-wife in his car, caught up with her, and shot her to death in front of their seven-year-old daughter before threatening to kill himself and being arrested by the police;
or the Iowa City mall security guard, evidently fired from his job earlier that day, who went home, got a weapon, returned, and killed a 20-year-old female employee of the mall’s children’s museum whom he had previously been harassing. He fled, but was arrested by the police soon after.
Meanwhile, a mentally disturbed young man with a grudge against the police bought an armored van on eBay ("touted as a 'Zombie apocalypse assault vehicle' with 'gun ports' capable of 'drive-by mow-downs' and full armor and bulletproof windows 'just in case someone might try to take this bad boy from you'"). He then built pipe bombs, armed himself with an assault rifle and shotgun, drove to Police Headquarters in Dallas, and launched a full-scale attack on the place.
Miraculously, he managed to kill no one, despite also crashing his van into several police cars, and was finally killed by a police sniper.
And last but hardly least, some gunfire hit closer to home. Three young men in Brooklyn, New York, were shot and wounded in a housing-project playground complex (named after a neighborhood 13 year old who had been killed by a policeman in 1994). Someone I know gives classes in that complex. The shooter remains on the loose.
Those New America numbers are the most conservative of all the studies that have been done on right-wing violence.
It all depends on the definition.
Kurzman and Scherzer linked to a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center and the numbers are much higher: Right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year between 2001 and 2012, causing a total of 254 fatalities.
Another study, also cited by Kurzman and Schanzer, by the Global Terrorism Center at the University of Maryland shows 65 attacks in the United States associated with right-wing ideologies and 24 by Muslim extremists since 9/11.
No matter how you define it or how you add up the numbers, it’s clear that there have been many more homegrown right-wing terror attacks than attacks by Islamic extremists.
According to John G. Horgan,a terrorism expert from the University of Massachusetts, academics who study the subject are aware of the problem. Shane quotes him saying, “There’s an acceptance now of the idea that the threat from jihadi terrorism in the United States has been overblown. And there’s a belief that the threat of right-wing, antigovernment violence has been underestimated.”