It usually doesn’t mean much to tell people not to be afraid of airplane travel because it is so much safer than automobile travel. Similarly, it doesn’t mean much to tell people not to worry about terrorist acts because they are far more likely to be crushed by their refrigerator. So on that level, I don’t think it much matters that New America released a report that found that right wing terrorists were responsible for just under twice as many American deaths as jihadists were.
Of course, most Americans are not worried about terrorism. It is something far removed from their lives. It is just something that they worry about now and then because the media get them worked up about it. And for those poor people who have Fox News on all day, we must have great sympathy. They are fed a constant diet of hate and fear to the point where they actually think that the Islamic State poses a threat to them in the suburbs of Kansas City.
But I think the New America report ought to be very important from a policy standpoint: that we aren’t using our resources effectively. After Dylann Roof committed his heinous murders and we found out about his online “manifesto” and his well known attitudes and threats, I wondered where the FBI had been. It seems that a couple of times per year, we hear about some big terrorist plot that was stopped by the FBI. And in each case, it is the same: the FBI found a mentally unstable person, whipped him up into a jihadist frenzy, and then arrested him for it. It’s like clockwork.
And the coverage is always the same. The mainstream media report on the big “terror plot.” There are congratulations all around. And then, we read in The Guardian or The Intercept that it was just another FBI plot foiled by the FBI. We seem to spend a whole lot of time and energy on this kind of thing. And just imagine how many people the FBI tries to set up who won’t go along with the deal. Regardless, these resources could be used to scan all the new domain name purchases. One called The Last Rhodesian should stand out. Or it would if the FBI were interested in real threats to Americans rather than creating finely scripted “terror plots” for the mainstream media to eat up and the government to keep funding.
But look at the chart above. It’s from an article by Glenn Greenwald and Josh Begley, The Greatest Obstacle to Anti-Muslim Fear-Mongering and Bigotry: Reality. It is a nice reminder. It brings back memories of Fahrenheit 9/11, where people in a Virginia suburb can only come up with Walmart as a possible terrorist target. But the truth is that the people in the FBI and all the other parts of the “homeland security” apparatus know all this stuff. But apparently, there is little money in reducing real threats like cars and environmental hazards.
So we will continue on getting a constant focus on the jihadists, even as they seem more occupied far away killing peaceful Muslims. And we will only occasionally be reminded of right wing extremists when people like Roof pop up to kill people. There will be no more resources put on it. We won’t be allowed to talk about easy access to guns. Even racism will be largely off limits. But if we are very, very lucky, the South Carolina capital grounds will stop flying the Confederate flag. I guess that’s something. But there is still the state flag of Mississippi. And, you know, everything else.