One year after 10 Black people were murdered in Buffalo by a killer influenced by the racist “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory and just over a week after eight people were murdered in Allen, Texas, by a killer steeped in neo-Nazism, Republicans on the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability are holding a hearing on May 16 into “increasing” left-wing violence. Chairman Dan Bishop (R-NC) announcing the hearing wrote, “The left-wing lawlessness Americans experienced during the summer of 2020 was, unfortunately, only the beginning of a long season of political violence and intimidation… This increasing political violence cannot remain unchecked.”
Bishop’s assertions fly in the face of facts. All relevant federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, DHS, and the National Counterterrorism Center have stated that the major threat of extremist violence and domestic terrorism comes from the far right – that white supremacy and antigovernment ideations are the main threats to our nation. In June 2020, the State Department also announced that white supremacist terrorism is “a serious challenge for the global community.”
Other analyses of terrorist data concur. In 2020, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) made the following conclusions: far-right terrorism has significantly outpaced other terrorism from the far left or Islamic extremists, right-wing attacks and plots have been the majority of terrorist incidents since 1994, and right-wing attacks and plots have grown significantly. CSIS found that right-wing extremists perpetrated over 90 percent of these incidents between January 1 and May 8, 2020. Of the 30 fatalities from terrorism in 2021, 28 resulted from far-right attacks. A Washington Post analysis of CSIS data found, “The surge [of terrorist violence] reflects a growing threat from homegrown terrorism not seen in a quarter-century, with right-wing extremist attacks and plots greatly eclipsing those from the far left and causing more deaths.”
The subcommittee’s hearing seems to be more of a disinformation and propaganda exercise than a good faith effort to protect Americans from political violence. Just as former President Trump falsely portrayed racial justice protestors in 2020 as left-wing radicals, and many Republicans are downplaying the seriousness of the January 6 insurrection, we’re again seeing a determination to negate the very existence of violence coming from the far right.
No one is denying that far-left violence occurs and should be stopped, that in prior eras it was a dominant form of domestic terrorism, or that there have been violent far-left attacks during racial justice protests and other incidents. A police officer’s life was tragically taken in 2020, a police station burned down, and other property destroyed. There is no situation in which violence is acceptable to create political change in a democracy. But the idea that there is any equivalency between the threats to our nation and democracy from far-left extremists and far-right extremists is simply false.
The cost of thinking otherwise is too high. Focusing on a phantom left-wing menace and ignoring the far-right threat means more danger to Americans and our institutions. Just this year, we’ve seen violent attacks and threats from far-right actors on LGBTQ+ people at harmless Drag Queen story hours, threats by neo-Nazis to kill journalists, a “White Lives Matter”member arrested for attempting to burn down a church hosting an LGBTQ+ event, a founder of the neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division arrested in a plot to destroy Baltimore’s power grid, and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul viciously attacked by a man steeped in far-right conspiracy theories who believed that the 2020 election had been stolen. And we’ve had a series of mass murders in recent years on Jews, Muslims, Latinos, and others, many in their houses of worship, inspired by white supremacy. Of critical importance, we cannot forget that far-right extremists targeted the fundamental elements of our democracy with the January 6 insurrection, which killed five people and injured 140 police officers. These instances are not coming from, to use Bishop’s words, “left-wing organized violence.”
Accurately and honestly assessing terrorist threats is of vital importance to protecting the safety of our communities, our national security, and our democracy. Perhaps this subcommittee’s Republicans aren’t bothered by engaging in pure political theater, but if they cared about keeping Americans safe from extremist violence, this hearing would address the significant threat from the far right. Hearings designed to fuel disinformation are unworthy of our elected leaders, a waste of taxpayer resources, and dangerous. We deserve better.