Most domestic terrorism comes from white supremacists, FBI tells lawmakers

When politicians use terrorism as a tool for swaying voters, they usually mean a specific kind of terrorism. This became clear in the 2016 election season when then-candidate Trump falsely accused President Obama and Hillary Clinton of refusing to use specific words to describe it.

Say it with me, everyone: "Radical Islamic terrorism."

But there's another face of terrorism in the U.S. that often gets overlooked—one that looks, on the surface, like more than half of the U.S. population.


FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress this week that most of the domestic terrorism arrests made so far this fiscal year have been associated with white supremacy. He pointed to about 100 arrests of "homegrown violent extremist terrorists" (these are generally the "radical Islamic terrorists") and about the same number of "domestic terrorists" (violent Americans with some kind of domestic beef), clarifying that the latter were mostly white supremacists.

In other words, there appear to be just as many all-American terrorists as there are "radical Islamic terrorists" in the U.S., and most American terrorists are white supremacists.

FBI Director Christopher Wray: 'Majority' Of Domestic Terrorism Cases Are White Supremacy | NBC News www.youtube.com

This is nothing new. A database compiled in 2017 by The Investigative Fund (now Type Investigations) found that between 2008 and 2016, plots and attacks by right-wing terrorists—which includes white supremacists, militias, and sovereign citizens movements—actually outnumbered Islamist plots and attacks by a ratio of 2 to 1.

And it's not like the government is unaware of the fact that white supremacists pose a major threat to American citizens. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security has warned of the threat of white supremacist terrorism since early in Trump's presidency. Wray referred to white nationalist extremist violence a "persistent, pervasive threat" in April of this year.

And yet, how often have we heard the president warn Americans about the threat of right-wing or white supremacist terrorism? Why has he never harped on "white supremacist terrorism" with the same fervor as "radical Islamic terrorism"?

One could try to argue that perhaps the president is tackling this issue quietly, behind the scenes, but that argument wouldn't hold water.

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Despite his intelligence agencies warnings, Trump slashed the office that housed the task force for Countering Violent Extremism and canceled Obama-era grants that funded programs to help fight violent extremism of all kinds, including religious extremism and white supremacy. One organization that lost its funding was Life After Hate, a non-profit founded by a former skinhead that helps people leave Neo-Nazi and white supremacist movements.

This administration has also taken an extreme hard line on immigration and refugee resettlement, citing the risk of terrorism as part of its reasoning. Indeed, a new study from a researcher at Columbia University shows that terrorism does increase as immigration increases—but only domestic, right-wing terrorism.

"There is little evidence to support the common claim that letting in more immigrants means letting in more terrorists," wrote study author Richard J. Alexander in the Washington Post. "Immigrants don't pose a security risk. Rather, right-wing extremists who hate immigrants increase the threat of terrorism."

(This is where one could make the argument that by curtailing immigration Trump is stopping white supremacist terror attacks, because violent racists get less pissed off when there are fewer brown and black people entering the country. One could make that argument—but seriously?)

Interestingly, Wray told Congress he still feels that homegrown violent extremist terrorism is the bigger threat to the homeland. Perhaps this is due to the more organized nature of Jihadist groups or their access to funding. Or perhaps—just perhaps—it's because people like Wray are not the target of white supremacist violence.

I have to wonder: Are my fellow white Americans simply so accustomed to white supremacist violence, which has been happening in our country a lot longer than "radical Islamic terrorism," that we see it as not as big of a deal? Or do we ignore it because we are not the targets? Is a person of color in the U.S. in more danger from a "radical Islamic terrorist" or a white supremacist American? Are terrorists who commit violence against their fellow citizens while claiming to be American patriots really less of a "threat to the homeland" than the violent religious extremists who make it clear that they hate America? If it were discovered that the majority of domestic terrorism arrests were associated with "black supremacy" groups, how would America respond?

So many questions, but the fact remains that white supremacists are a significant threat to our nation's safety.

To be clear, I'm not suggesting we start banning white people from traveling to the U.S. like we did with the Muslim travel ban, or set up a hotline for victims of white supremacist crimes like the one the administration created for immigrant-perpetrated crimes. I'm suggesting we take the tack that Adam Serwer suggested in the Atlantic:

"The correct response to the rise in right-wing terrorism is not a nationwide panic that mirrors those that accompany terrorist attacks by religious or ethnic minorities. It is to extend the same benefit of the doubt, the same proportionate, measured response with which Americans meet attacks from right-wing extremists, to attacks of all sorts. It is to recognize that the constitutional rights of minorities are no less inviolable than the constitutional rights of white Americans, and that anyone who would run on a platform of disregarding those rights is not fit to hold public office."

We need to take the threat of white supremacist violence as seriously as we do other terrorism. We need to recognize that stereotyping any group of people based on the violent actions of a radical minority is wrong. And we need to challenge this administration to put its money where its mouth is when it talks about protecting Americans and reinvest in programs to counter violent extremisms of all stripes.

Democracy
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Today, I'm a 35-year-old man with a flame shaved into my beard. If the '80s movies I love so much are any indication, this is a sure sign I'm going through some kind of existential crisis. Next week, when the semester starts and I begin teaching again, it will not be strange if my colleagues start to worry about me just a little. A sports car or a neck-jerking pivot to physical fitness — that's an understandable response to the realization that life is fleeting. But a large meticulous flame carved out of facial hair? What does one do with that?

At this moment, though, I'm showing my face proudly to a woman wearing a swimsuit with a taco cat on it. We have only recently met, but she's telling me that she's so into my "fade" that she wants to kiss it. Then she does, blowing a raspberry into my cheek so hard that her hat falls off. Neither of us can stop laughing.

"Live Mas!" she yells with the excitement of someone who's never had trouble fully seizing the moment.

"Live Mas!" I shout back without any irony. There is no irony here in Palm Springs, where, for four days only, hundreds of people celebrate their love for Taco Bell.

Here, there's only swimming and hot sauce-themed leisure wear, and the warm pleasant feeling that comes from eating too much and knowing that you're with your own people. Even if the only thing that connects you is a love for a fast food giant that feeds you when you're hammered and shameless at 2 a.m.

We drank the Baja Blast! My Taco Bell fade and my friend's specialty manicure!Mark Shrayber

What does it mean to Live Mas? This is a question I am forced to ask myself over and over during my 24-hour stay at "The Bell," where I have stowed away as a friend's plus-one. We are, of course, both politely pretending that I'm a full-on guest with all the perks that entails, but we also both know that I wouldn't be here eating unlimited quesadillas poolside without her.

So maybe that's the first thing Live Mas means: To build strong lifelong connections which you can, with some luck, exploit to your benefit. :) :) :)

But this is too cynical an interpretation, because everyone here is so happy. Happy that they've gotten a reservation; happy that they can cool off in a room themed after an iconic Mountain Dew Drink, and happy that they can share their own personal story of what Taco Bell means to them. (Though there's no formal essay contest — I've checked.)

Me: This room won't be that cool. Also me: OH MY GOD, THIS IS THE COOLEST ROOM I'VE EVER BEEN IN!!!Mark Shrayber

Snatches of this story float around the "Fire" pool, where all the entertainment is concentrated: One couple canceled their trip to Prague because "Prague will always be there" — a brave stance considering climate change; another met last year on Tinder after the girlfriend's Taco Bell senior photos went viral; at the opening ceremony on Thursday, where sauce packets were cut instead of a ribbon, a city official brought others to tears with both her Taco Bell fashion and a memory of how her parents would feed an entire family with 19-cent-tacos from the first-ever Taco Bell in Downey, California.

Oh, I forgot one: The guy who skipped out on Prague? He got a giant bell shaved into the side of his head, so he might have to miss out on a black-tie event happening later this week. But it's all good. Bring on the nacho fries.

I make fast friends with four women who are here for a bachelorette party, the bride overwhelmed with good vibes and prosecco. This year, for her 30th, she rented a party bus. Inside? $100 worth of Taco Bell that her fiancee was worried might not be consumed.

"But little did he know," she shouts in the hot tub where we're "cooling off" after a long day of 108-degree sunning, "we ate it all!"

A bachelorette party and a birthday! We're really living it up (but also staying hydrated.)Mark Shrayber

Others whoop it up at the twist, but we all get it. Though there's no essay contest, I don't mind telling you that when my first boyfriend dumped me 14 years ago, I stuffed my face with chalupas. When I lost a job I really loved four years ago, I once ordered so much Taco Bell that the delivery app of my choice informed me I'd exceeded the maximum number of items they could comfortably fill in one order. We get it — though none of us can truly explain it.

There are, if you look at the The Bell from a literary perspective, many other writers who deserve this experience more than me. They could talk about the blue of the pool. Or the insouciance of youth. Draw parallels between marketing stunts such as this and the end-stage capitalism. Or envision a "Demolition Man" future where Taco Bell is fine dining and none of us know how to use the three shells in the bathroom to get ourselves clean.

And I wish these writers could be here to paint you these landscapes, but what you've got is me, a literal Taco Bell super-fan, and what I'm doing is eating and getting sunburned and taking a synchronized swimming class with the Aqualillies, who refer to themselves as "the world's most glamorous water ballet entertainment," but have very little idea of what to do with 10 eager recruits who can't stay afloat or on beat.


G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S!!Photo courtesy of Taco Bell.

"It's okay," one of the instructors comforts me just before the Tacolilies (the name of our "team") are invited to perform our watery version of "Senorita" — which was supposed to be two minutes long, then 1:15, and has now been judiciously cut down, due to talent, to about 45 seconds — in the bigger pool. "We regularly teach five-year-olds. And you're doing much better."

Usually, I would take offense at such blatant reads, but today I'm unbothered. I'll continue to be so right until I get home and discover that I've left all my electronics on United Flight 5223 (if anyone wants to get them back to me). And even then, I rage at myself for all of five seconds before checking that I've still got what's important: A certificate that says I did not drown while doing water ballet.

It's still there. As is my phone, which is blowing up with messages from people who took pictures of me in what Taco Bell calls its "power suit," and which is best described as "cult outfit, but kinda make it fashion." I bought my husband one, too, and I look forward to the argument we're going to have about holiday cards later.

This is "Live Mas."

I've never been so happy to match with someone else in my life. MaMark Shrayber

Or maybe it's the moment another stranger tells me that we'll be friends forever. Such friendships are forged quickly when you've got less than 24 hours to make lifelong connections and I'm pleased to get the full experience.

"We may never meet again," he says while we're swimming, "but we'll always have this time together."

Then we establish that he lives just across the park from me in San Francisco.

"Aw, man," he says, floating away to take pictures of the people he came with, "I've got lots of close friends I never see because they live across that damn park."

But the sentiment holds.

We Live Mas it on.

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