Domestic Terrorism, Left and Right

You may have seen that the Daily Wire did a piece about domestic terrorism. Well, you probably didn’t see it unless you’re a masochist. The Daily Wire, the “brain” child of whiny pseudo-intellectual hack Ben Shapiro, is an excruciatingly awful propaganda organ that most sane people rarely would have reason to pollute their eyeballs with. But alas, it’s my dirty duty at this site to dig into such cesspools, so here we are.

The Daily Wire post points out that most of the fugitives on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List of Domestic Terrorists are “Leftists”. And that information is true enough as far as it goes. But the conclusions that Daily Wire is nudging you toward – namely that (a) most domestic terrorists are Leftists, and (b) the FBI and the media have been deceiving you by singling out the MAGA Cult as the largest domestic terror threat – are severely misguided. There are four big problems with the phrase “ten most wanted domestic terrorists”. Those problems are: (1) “ten”, (2) “most”; (3) “wanted”, and (4) “ terrorists”. Let’s consider them in reverse order.

Terrorists and others

First of all, the list, and Daily Wire, are quite off-target in their categorization of terrorists – and the FBI itself is partly to blame. A terrorist is someone who causes death or bodily harm in an effort to achieve some ideological goal. They use terror as a weapon to try to coerce changes in policy. Some of the individuals on this list don’t satisfy this basic definition; they are not terrorists at all, but saboteurs – i.e., activists who damage property. Some of these appear to be specifically eco-saboteurs, conducting their activities in the name of environmental activism; unlike terrorists, they at least have a commendable objective, even though their means of pursuing it is unacceptable.

Saboteurs generally don’t try to harm people; instead they make certain the sites they bomb or otherwise damage are unoccupied – and even give people an evacuation warning. Corporate and government interests might be concerned, worried, or angered about damage to their property, but they’re hardly terrorized. But since we live in a society that not infrequently values property on a par with human life, or even above human life, it shouldn’t surprise us that saboteurs get branded as terrorists.

One of the most notorious Leftist “terrorist” groups was the Weathermen/ Weather Underground – which was active in the Sixties and Seventies, and was catapulted into the spotlight again decades later because one of its former leaders, William Ayers, had a tenuous connection to presidential candidate Barack Obama. The Weathermen were indeed Leftist, and they were radical, and they were militant, and they were destructive. But even though they expressed a willingness to commit violence (and allegedly had plans to do so in the future), they never killed anyone except for three of their own members who perished in an accidental explosion while assembling bombs. After that episode, they reevaluated their tactics and resolved to make certain they never harmed anyone.

Genuine terrorists, on the other hand, do not kill people accidentally – except in the sense that they might accidentally kill even more people than they intend to. The Oklahoma City bomber, who was hardcore right-wing, even stated his intention of creating a “body count”; and before his execution he gloated that “it’s 168 to one”.

Feeling Wanted

While it may not make any net difference in these particular cases, wanted means that someone is a suspect – not that they are confirmed offenders. Unless they’re wanted for escaping from prison, in which case their guilt is indisputable even before it is made official.

Who’s Who

And what are the criteria for someone being placed on a Most Wanted list in the first place? They aren’t necessarily the worst of the worst. They’re essentially the fugitives who have eluded capture for a length of time – for years, and quite often for decades. One of the fugitives on the roster in question has not been heard from since 1970. (Note to Ben Shapiro – that’s more than half a century ago.) The FBI even removed him from its overall Ten Most Wanted list in 1976.

These are individuals whose trail has gone cold. Which is to say, they have not drawn attention to themselves. And that generally means they have not been committing any further criminal activity – either because they are deceased, or because they’ve simply turned over a new leaf. In any case, they no longer pose a threat.

Contrast with this the hundreds if not thousands of MAGA cultists who right now are committing or plotting acts of violence – against people, not just property. Those who bomb medical clinics. Those who threaten and attack agents of the FBI, the IRS, the ATF as well as elected and appointed officials. Those who stormed the Capitol with the intent of assassinating politicians. And on and on and on. This is all happening in the present tense, not the remote past.

The magic number

Then there’s the number ten, which of course is a very popular number, the typical number of digits on a human hand, allowing us to enumerate things even if we’re innumerate. But it’s a very small number, especially in this context – ten “terrorists” out of a total of hundreds if not thousands is hardly a sufficient sample to draw some kind of broad generalization.

The Anti-Defamation League has compiled a graphic of murders connected to ideology between 2012 and 2021. It’s quite instructive.

Note, however, that the bar representing the 20 percent by radical Muslims also should be colored red; Islamic terrorists are very much right-wing, even if they aren’t the American right wing (with whom they do nonetheless share many values, positions and traits). That leaves at least 95 percent of these murders committed by the Right, and no more than 4 percent by the Left.

Note also that murder, even if connected to ideology, isn’t necessarily terrorism. Yet even if you go by official accounts, which use the loosest of definitions for terrorism, the only recent (as in past 40 years) acts of “left-wing terrorism” in the U.S. were two shootings by individuals – in 2020 and 2017 – resulting in one death. Both of these incidents were spontaneous and emotionally driven; real terrorism is premeditated, cold and calculated. You’d have to go back at least a century to find a confirmed, premeditated act of left-wing violence on American soil that resulted in death.

Right-wingers, however, commit premeditated ideological killings with considerable regularity. These often qualify as terrorism under any criteria. Dozens and dozens and dozens of them. But right-wing propagandists like the Daily Wire want you to believe not only the opposite of reality, but an extremely lopsided opposite of an extremely lopsided reality.

That’s really the purpose of right-wing propaganda. To convince you that black is really white, up is really down, hate is really love, bad is really good – and a violent attempt to overturn an election and overthrow the U.S. government is really a peaceful protest to protect the integrity of elections and preserve the Republic.

4 comments

  1. The MAGA universe really fears liberals and our supposed evils. Their leaders are leading them astray, but many are not evil, even though they crave assinating liberals for everything from communism to cannibalism. But can anyone really tell me what they are afraid of? Not just regulating guns but all the other stuff?

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