During the presidential election, President Donald Trump repeatedly described “radical Islamic terrorism” as the most significant threat to the homeland. and Throughout his first five months as president, regularly commented on any criminal act perpetrated by a Muslim, saying that “radicalized” Muslims are the biggest threat to America. He’s wrong.
According to a joint study by the Investigative Fund at the National Institute and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, right-wing extremists plotted and executed almost twice as many terrorist attacks that Islamic radicals. Out of 115 right-wing terrorist plots, police only stopped 35%. In comparison, there were 63 Islamic terrorist cases, and police prevented 76% of them.
The data also reveals a serious imbalance in the way the United States confronts terrorism institutionally, from the resources federal officials devote to gathering intelligence to the investigation, prosecution, and punishment of perpetrators and their associates.
There are 201 incidents in the database, sorted broadly as Islamist, right wing —including white supremacists, militias and members of the so-called Patriot and sovereign citizens movements—, and left wing —including animal right militants, environmentalists, and Black Lives Matter sympathizers. Most of the Islamist incidents are thwarted plots, indicating a significant investment of law enforcement resources. Most of the others are successful acts in which attackers damaged property or inflicted human casualties.
This project quantifies just how “irrational” Trump and the GOP’s fixation on ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ as the greatest security threat is. But is worse than that.
Trump and the GOP willfully ignore non-Muslim involved attacks. In recent months, Trump tweeted on every incident in the Western World involving a Muslim terrorist. But when a White, right-wing terrorist plowed his car into Muslims leaving a Mosque after a Ramadan prayer, Trump was silent.
“Anyone who cannot name our enemy is not fit to lead this country,” Trump once said when campaigning in Ohio. In this, Trump is correct—and if he can’t name right-wing extremists as a threat to Americans, he is not fit to lead. If he continues to listen to people like Michael Flynn, who says that “fear of Muslims is rational,” or Steve Bannon, who favors the travel ban, then Trump is not fit to represent all Americans.
Conservatives aren’t wrong when they say we have to fear terrorists —they just aren’t including the terrorists we need to fear most.
Below is a map reflecting terrorist acts in the U.S. from 2008 through 2016.