Wednesday, November 18, 2015

GOP Uses The Politics Of Fear (And Ignores The Facts)

(This image is from the flickr page of user EN2008.)

The Republican candidates for president, and their elected cohorts in Congress, have been quick to jump on the tragedy in Paris and try to turn it to their own benefit. This is nothing new. They know their domestic policies, especially their economic policy (trickle-down) has failed, so they are using the politics of fear to enhance their electoral chances. They believe if they can scare the American voters enough, and convince them that their party will provide a safer country, then they can win the next election -- in spite of the fact that their domestic policies have nearly destroyed our economy (and they have no intention of changing them, since they benefit their rich buddies).

Terrorism is a real issue, but not as the Republicans would have us believe. They want Americans to believe that the only terrorist threat we face is from radical muslims. This is not new either. For the last decade and a half, the GOP has gone out of their way to demonize muslims and paint their religion as violent. The problem is that ignores the facts about terrorism in the United States.

The truth is that a significant majority of terrorism in the U.S. is not carried out by muslims, but by right-wing extremists (most of which claim to be christian and patriotic). These groups (militia's, white supremacists, soveriegnists, etc.) pose a significantly greater threat to the safety of Americans. But the Republicans don't want you to know that -- and have gone so far as to have that threat removed from government reports. They don't want you to know it because those extremists are in their own base.

This shows their scare tactics are purely political. If they truly worried about terrorism in this country, then they would be talking about all of the terrorism -- including the threat posed by the ultra-right-wingers. But that would anger some in their own party's base, and they don't want that. Their tactic is to win votes through fear -- not expose the extremists in their own party.

Here are the real facts on terrorism in the United States (from a June 2015 article in the New York Times). I post here a part of that article:

If you keep up with the news, you know that a small but steady stream of American Muslims, radicalized by overseas extremists, are engaging in violence here in the United States.

But headlines can mislead. The main terrorist threat in the United States is not from violent Muslim extremists, but from right-wing extremists. Just ask the police.

In a survey we conducted with the Police Executive Research Forum last year of 382 law enforcement agencies, 74 percent reported anti-government extremism as one of the top three terrorist threats in their jurisdiction; 39 percent listed extremism connected with Al Qaeda or like-minded terrorist organizations. And only 3 percent identified the threat from Muslim extremists as severe, compared with 7 percent for anti-government and other forms of extremism. . . .

Despite public anxiety about extremists inspired by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, the number of violent plots by such individuals has remained very low. Since 9/11, an average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots against targets in the United States. Most were disrupted, but the 20 plots that were carried out accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.

In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities, according to a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. The toll has increased since the study was released in 2012.

Other data sets, using different definitions of political violence, tell comparable stories. The Global Terrorism Database maintained by the Start Center at the University of Maryland includes 65 attacks in the United States associated with right-wing ideologies and 24 by Muslim extremists since 9/11. The International Security Program at the New America Foundation identifies 39 fatalities from “non-jihadist” homegrown extremists and 26 fatalities from “jihadist” extremists.

Meanwhile, terrorism of all forms has accounted for a tiny proportion of violence in America. There have been more than 215,000 murders in the United States since 9/11. For every person killed by Muslim extremists, there have been 4,300 homicides from other threats.

Public debates on terrorism focus intensely on Muslims. But this focus does not square with the low number of plots in the United States by Muslims, and it does a disservice to a minority group that suffers from increasingly hostile public opinion. As state and local police agencies remind us, right-wing, anti-government extremism is the leading source of ideological violence in America.

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