As Donald Trump ends his first year in office, an uncomfortable – and unsurprising – truth has emerged. As the Anti-Defamation League detailed in their newest report, the rate of fatalities attributed to white nationalists and far-right extremists surged over the past year, in comparison to the year prior.
The growth, as the ADL found, was stark. “The number of white supremacist murders in the United States more than doubled in 2017 compared to the previous year,” the ADL wrote, “far surpassing murders committed by domestic Islamic extremists and making 2017 the fifth deadliest year on record for extremist violence since 1970.” All told, white supremacists and far-right extremists were responsible for nearly 60 percent of extremist-related deaths in the U.S. last year, a spike from 20 percent the year prior.
The number of total extremist-related fatalities, thankfully, actually declined from the prior two years – due in large part to the dearth of large-scale killings, as seen in years prior in the Orlando and San Bernardino shootings. Last year, the deadliest extremist attack came in New York, when Sayfullo Saipov killed eight in a vehicle attack in Manhattan. All told, the U.S. saw 34 extremist-related murders, a drop from 2016 (69 deaths) and 2015 (65 deaths), and a far cry from 1995, when 184 were killed, including those who died in the Oklahoma City bombing.
That said, the ADL report notes that the number of deadly incidents, if not necessarily fatalities, actually rose in 2017, with 19 instances of extremists murdering others, as opposed to only 13 instances in 2016. This comes in addition to the fact that 2017 saw some of the deadliest mass shootings the U.S. has ever known – including, in Las Vegas, the single deadliest mass shooting the U.S. has seen in modern history.
And while there were no incidents of double-digit killings in extremist-related attacks over the past year, it’s not for lack of trying. In Charlottesville, for instance, far-right extremist James Fields killed one when he sped his car into a crowd of protesters, but injured some 19 others. Another, white supremacist James Harris Jackson, had planned on a mass attack in Times Square before his arrest – but after he’d already murdered a black man, all “in order to stop white women from engaging in interracial relationships.” (The ADL report wrote that black nationalist-related attacks also spiked over the past few years, with the most significant violence on that front since the early 1980s.)
While the sample size remains relatively small, the ADL added that over the past decade the stark majority of extremist-related fatalities have come from right-wing figures. Since 2008, “a total of 71 percent of all fatalities have been linked to domestic right-wing extremists, while 26 percent of the killings were committed by Islamic extremists.”
And there’s little reason to think that trend will shift anytime soon. As the ADL report described, certain of the murders – including the attack in Charlottesville – stemmed directly from those affiliated with the so-called “alt-right.” “It’s quite likely that the future will see yet more violent acts stemming” from their ranks in the future, the ADL continued, especially “as more … adherents move their activities into the real world.”
There’s little likelihood the report will generate much noise from the Trump administration – all the more as the Department of Justice, earlier this week, went out of its way to paint terror-related threats as stemming largely from foreign individuals and groups, rather than those from the U.S. And given that any number of the far-right extremists guilty in some of the attacks the ADL detailed have publicly supported the president – and that we’re only one year into the Trump presidency – the first year of the current administration is likely a good barometer of where things are heading.