By Andy May
The NY Times and Vox make up false statistics that call white men more dangerous than Muslim terrorists.
We now read that white American men are the biggest terrorist threat in the USA in Vox. Is this true? Reading further we see the writer chose the eight-month period since Trump took office, this seems like a very short period to draw such a conclusion. Still later she presents a graphic of incidents from 2008 to 2016, it is divided between Right-wing, Islamist and Left-wing, but uncorrected for population size. According to Pew Research, Muslims are only 1% of the U.S. population, yet according to her graph, they committed over 60 incidents in this period. The article also contains this statement:
“In fact, between 2001 and 2015, more Americans were killed by homegrown right-wing extremists than by Islamist terrorists, according to a study by New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C.”
Considering that Muslim terrorists killed 2,977 people in the 9/11 attack in 2001 this seems very unlikely, but let’s check the link. In the link, which takes us to a 2015 NY Times article, they exclude the 9/11 attack. Then they say:
“Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: 48 have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, including the recent mass killing in Charleston, S.C., compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists, according to a count by New America, a Washington research center.”
But, is this even true? Our database tells us that since 9/11 and through the end of 2015, 74 people were killed in 32 Muslim terrorist attacks and 62 in 27 white attacks. The New America database tells us 45 were killed in 170 Muslim attacks through 2015, post 9/11, and whites killed 64 in 30 attacks. The New America totals are not what is in the article, but directionally the same in terrorist murders. It is significant that Muslims attempted 170 (or 32) attacks versus 30 (or 27) attempted by whites. White men, excluding Hispanics, are 31% of the U.S. population according to the U.S. Census. So, since all Muslims total 1% of the population, if we are comparing the odds of an attack by a white male or a Muslim properly, the Muslim attacks should be multiplied by 31. This alone, pretty much blows the New York Times and Vox thesis out of the water, but let’s look at the terrorist incidents since the year 2000 in more detail. The list is mostly from Wikipedia here. They used a common definition of terrorist act to compile the table, we adopted the same definition:
Definition: The systematic or threatened use of violence to intimidate a population or government and thereby affect political, religious, or ideological change.
Defining terrorism, to separate terrorist acts from other crimes is not easy, but this definition seems to work reasonably well. For a discussion of the definition of terrorism, see here. The word “threatened,” as used here is the legal definition. This means the threat (see here for details) is highly specific and:
“so unequivocal, unconditional, and specific as to convey a gravity of purpose and immediate prospect of execution; the threat actually causes fear in the victim; and the fear is reasonable.”
This definition of “threat” does not include idle talk. To be a terrorist threat a specific plan has been made to attack a specific target and actions to execute the plan already completed. For example, the “shoe bomber” (Richard Reid) had built a bomb into his shoes, but it didn’t go off, this qualifies as a terrorist threat and a terrorist act.
The NY Times article proclaiming American white men as a greater threat than Muslims since 9/11, relies on a database and articles put together by New America. New America database wants to include the murder of a bank security guard during a bank robbery as a terrorist act because the bank robbers had discussed killing 15 people in revenge for the FBI attack on the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. Other lists of terrorist incidents do not include this bank robbery because the “threat” was all talk and because the bank robbers were “operating outside of reality” according to the local district attorney. Here we will adhere to the official definition of “threat” and reject idle threats.
There are a lot of terrorism convictions of people who supported terrorist organizations overseas with money, goods or other services. People who have been convicted for these acts include: Saynab Abdirashid Hussein, Mohamed Amiin Ali Roble, and others. We have not included these acts in our list. New America included some of them, but not all. Likewise, we have not included any overseas terrorist incidents, even if some of the victims were American. The New America database has some overseas incidents, but it does not seem they included these in their reported U.S. statistics. Our analysis of the New America database excludes all overseas incidents.
The lists do not count the number of people involved, an act by one person is the same as an act by multiple people in both databases. However, when multiple people are involved, they are nearly always of the same ethnicity because terrorism is defined as being ideologically driven. Nearly all the terrorists are men and when women were involved, men are also involved.
The NY Times article would have us believe that:
“Law enforcement agencies around the country have told us the threat from Muslim extremists is not as great as the threat from right-wing extremists,” said Dr. Kurzman, whose study is to be published by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security and the Police Executive Research Forum.
“There’s an acceptance now of the idea that the threat from jihadi terrorism in the United States has been overblown,” Dr. Horgan said. “And there’s a belief that the threat of right-wing, antigovernment violence has been underestimated.”
The best way to test this is to look at the data. Our full list of terrorist acts, a comparison to New America’s list and an analysis of the New America database can be downloaded here.
Table 2 breaks it into three parts, white, Muslim and black. In this table black terrorist incidents motivated by radical Islamic beliefs are included in the Muslim total. Black incidents motivated by racial hatred are labeled simply “Black.”
Table 2, Terrorist acts, divided into white, Black (non-Muslim) and Muslim
So, using our list, more terrorist acts and more people are killed by Muslims than white men. In fact, almost half of the acts (38 of 77) were committed by Muslims. Six of the 77 are unknown. It is also clear that Muslims were responsible for more deaths than white men, even excluding 9/11.
Given this compilation of the terrorist acts in this century, how can we figure out what Vox, the New York Times and the “New America” organization are doing to reach their conclusions. On the face of it, they are plain wrong. They state:
“But the breakdown of extremist ideologies behind those attacks may come as a surprise. Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: 48 have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, including the recent mass killing in Charleston, S.C., compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists, according to a count by New America, a Washington research center.”
Our data clearly shows that Muslims committed more terrorist murders than white people even including white environmental terrorists and white left-wing terrorists. How do they arrive at their numbers? We went to the New America link in the quote and downloaded their database. The database now contains data from 2016 and 2017, so it is not the same database as the one used for the 2015 NY Times article. However, even using the data between 2001 and 2015 the results are similar, in that there are still more Muslim terrorist acts than white acts.
The New America case
The New America database has a different set of terrorist acts. Table 3 lists the terrorist acts that we counted that were not in the New America list.
There are several interesting aspects to this list. First, for some reason they excluded all black Muslim terrorist acts, even though in each case they were inspired by radical Islamic groups or propaganda. They excluded one incident by Christopher Dorner that appears to have been motivated by a bias against the police and there is some justification to exclude it. They also excluded one attack by a radical environmentalist and a number of white attacks, including the recent terrible assault by Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas. The Paddock incident has not been added to the New America database yet. So, if we total the number killed by Muslims and whites we see that the New America database excluded 23 Muslim killings and 80 white killings. This does not help us determine the difference between our statistics and theirs, it makes the difference larger.
At this point, it was clear I needed to analyze the New America database itself. The database contains a total of 246 terrorist incidents and 241 of these are domestic. The database is divided into three groups, “Black separatist,” “Far Right Wing,” and “Jihadist.” They exclude white environmentalists, left-wing radicals (like the Republican baseball shooter, James Hodgkinson), and all black Muslim attacks (for example John Muhammad or Usaama Rahim). These exclusions are not explained. The unmodified New America Database is summarized in table 4.
As table 4 shows, using the latest New America database, unmodified, there are 173 more Muslim terrorist acts than white (“Far Right Wing”) acts. Further, 103 people were killed (victims only) in the Muslim attacks versus 68 in the white attacks. This does not consider that Muslims represent only 1% of the population of the U.S. and whites account for 61%. These numbers exclude the 23 Muslim murders and 80 white murders listed in table 3. With those included, Muslims accounted for 126 terrorist murders domestically and whites accounted for 148, including the 58 killed by Stephen Paddock. Please note that my statistics include any terrorists killed in the attacks, whereas the New America table excludes terrorists killed.
The current New America database, unmodified, has Muslims committing more domestic terror attacks and killing more Americans than any other group. We do not know Stephen Paddock’s motivation, but if his attack is added to their list it suggests whites have killed more people since 9/11 than Muslims. Our list includes Stephen Paddock’s attack, and still suggests that Muslims have killed more people than whites in terrorist attacks.
Either way, statistically Muslims are far more dangerous than white men, since they comprise only 1% of the population. Including Stephen Paddock, Muslims and whites have killed about the same number of people, and Muslims have committed more terrorist acts, 38 versus 30 for whites using my list. Using the New America list, unmodified, Muslims have committed 206, versus 33 for whites. Since there are 60 times more white people than Muslims, then Muslims are at least 60 times as likely to commit a terrorist act or kill someone in a terrorist act. The NY Times article tried to suggest that the threat from Muslim terrorists is overblown, both databases suggest the opposite is true.
I see no justification in either database for the claim made by Vox and the NY Times that domestic white terrorism is a greater threat than Muslim terrorism. Their claims that white men have killed more people in terrorist acts than Muslims is only justified if the Stephen Paddock murder spree is included in the New America statistics. Yet, the motive for this horrific crime isn’t even known at this time. In any case, both databases show that Muslims have committed many more terrorist acts than whites. New America, the NY Times and Vox never show how they computed the numbers in their articles and I cannot duplicate them, even using their own data. At best they made some serious mistakes analyzing their own data, at worst they simply made the numbers up.
This sort of sloppy and misleading reporting is harmful in our politically and racially charged times. Accuracy and objectivity are of paramount importance today. Bigotry and prejudice against white men is more open and blatant than ever. White men in North Carolina and Berkeley were recently severely beaten by radical left-wing thugs. Much of this violence is by Antifa (brief history here) and apparently when Antifa beats up on white guys it is OK with the Democrats and the media. As an article in the National Review article puts it:
“… some portion of the left-wing intelligentsia actually decided to embrace their own thugs. They supported Antifa. They decided to lionize some of the worst people in American life. And in so doing, they actually compared them to the American heroes who stormed Omaha Beach.”
The media news-people that lionized the Antifa thugs include Jeffery Goldberg (The Atlantic), Christopher Cuomo (CNN), and The Washington Post, according to the National Review article. One is not supporting right-wing extremist violence, if they denounce left-wing extremist violence. According to the San Francisco Chronicle:
“But shortly after the scheduled 1 p.m. start time of an anti-Marxism rally, hundreds of black-masked agitators arrived at the scene. Rather than trying to take on the horde, the clearly overwhelmed police force allowed hundreds of people to pass barriers and enter the park unchecked. … Once in, the masked agitators beat and pepper-sprayed right-wing demonstrators, who were far outnumbered in the crowd. Mobs chased some of the right-wingers — a few dressed to show their support for President Trump — into the streets.”
In all, six protesters were injured, two of them were hospitalized, and one police officer was injured. Thirteen of the hooded anarchists were arrested, one for possession of a deadly weapon. The assaults were witnessed by an Associated Press reporter. While it may be true that the beaten men held political views that were abhorrent to most of us, in this country they certainly have the right to express their beliefs and protest without being sent to the hospital.
Having the NY Times and Vox make up statistics demonizing white men in this sort of climate is appalling.
The supplementary materials (here) contain three spreadsheets. They contain my terrorist act database, the New America terrorist database unmodified with analysis, and a comparison of the two databases. If you want to download the New America database directly, it is here.