Last year, a white-nationalist army veteran was charged with second-degree murder after he drove a car into a group of nonviolent protesters in Charlottesville, Va., killing one and injuring 19. Earlier this month, a far-right-wing army veteran shot and killed two people at a Tallahassee, Fla. yoga studio.
According to a new report posted Sunday by the Washington Post, the yoga studio victims were among at least 20 people who have been killed this year in the United States in suspected right-wing attacks (compared to “just one fatal attack in 2018 that may have been motivated by left-wing ideologies.”) This comes amid an “uptick in right-wing terrorism,” as the report puts it. The FBI has documented this phenomenon as an increase in hate crimes.
Some of the blame for the rise in right-wing terrorism has been assigned to President Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric and his “both sides” excuses for white nationalism. Some of it may go to his administration’s decision not to fund Countering Violent Extremism programs. But some of it precedes Trump and goes back nearly a decade.
In April 2009, the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security released a report warning that this would happen. “Rightwing Extremism:
Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” warned that “rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues.” It also predicted that the possibility of new gun restrictions and the return of “military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities” might mean “emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.” The report called this convergence of factors the “most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.”
Conservatives went ballistic.
Michelle Malkin blasted it as “one of the most embarrassingly shoddy pieces of propaganda I’d ever read out of DHS.” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) said the administration was “awfully willing to paint law-abiding Americans, including war veterans, as ‘extremists.’” Then-Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) — the top Republican on the House Veterans’ Affairs committee at the time — called it “inconceivable” that some veterans could pose a threat.
Most notably, then-Republican Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) attacked Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano for releasing the report at all. “[T]he Secretary of Homeland Security owes the American people an explanation for why… her own Department is using [‘terrorist’] to describe American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats are taking our nation,” he demanded.
“Not only was [the report] buried, the actual unit which created it was disemboweled,” said Brian Levin, a professor of criminal justice and the director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino to the Center for Public Integrity in 2011.
In the time since, it has become clear that the warnings in the report were indeed warranted. Still, the Trump administration continues to describe terrorism not as Americans with easy access to guns and a poor network of support for mental health challenges, but almost exclusively the work of foreigners, immigrants, and Muslims.
This post has been updated to make clear that the 2017 Charlottesville attack was not part of the 2018 total.