When Information is Used as an Ideological Weapon

Or: “So Apparently I’m a White-Supremacist Now”

I came across an article today (via an email newsletter) from Mother Jones: a news site that I have described in the past and will continue to describe in the future as a steaming pile of shit. Every time I have visited the site it is filled with blatantly biased, snobbish, and manipulative articles. You want to have some real fun? Search Mother Jones for articles and comments about Fox News and how biased and terrible it is. The irony could power a small city. For years.

So, the article I found, titled “Charts: How much Danger do we Face from Homegrown Jihadist Terrorists?” is actually not that bad. The point of the article is how ineffective terrorists have been in the U.S. But the article links to a “study” (that informs most of its Charts) that is so bad I must indict Mother Jones for even linking to it, much less using it.

The “study” (“Homegrown Terrorism Cases, 2001-2012”) argues that “Deadly Right-WingChart 1 Terrorist Attacks” outnumber “Deadly Jihadist Terrorist Attacks” 29 to 17 using two specific charts. 

Now, the problem with this study is that first of all the terms terrorist and Right-Wing are fairly fluid terms, which it makes no attempt to define; and as a result it displays it’s own bias by lumping all sorts of lunatics, most notably white supremacists and Neo-Nazis, into the Right-Wing category. And it lists crimes like murdering a girlfriend or shooting a security guard while robbing a bank as terrorism. 

Chart 2

Obviously, with such fluid definitions, it is possible to make a chart that supports virtually any conclusion.



I don’t really mind the thrust of the argument: that Islamic terrorists are not our greatest threat. Nor do I mind the implication that right-wing terrorism is real and possibly more dangerous. I do mind the incredibly shoddy thinking that equates obviously racially motivated crimes with conservatism (for conservatism is the obvious and common definition of Right-Wing). I also mind it when an already ambiguous term like terrorism is used in an irresponsible manner to foster an ideological argument. Some of the people on the list are truly terrorists, like David Pedersen and Holly Grigsby who went on a killing spree to “‘purify’ and ‘preserve’ the white race”. Right-Wing is hardly an accurate term for the perpetrators: even if you add “Extremists”. But I think terrorism can describe those actions.

Others, however, are debatable, like Wade and Christopher Lay who robbed a bank so that they could finance their plot to overthrow the government. They killed a security guard while robbing the bank. This act hardly seems to qualify as terrorism–death was not the intention, nor was the spreading of fear–though I will admit that one could easily label these men as “Right-Wing Extremists”. I think “Right-Wing Terrorists” would overstep the bounds of linguistic honesty.

There is one example that is legitimate. Scott Roeder murdered a doctor who performed abortions with the express intent of killing him and inspiring fear in others. His actions were also clearly motivated by extreme right-wing thinking. He fits the bill.

This is the pattern of the whole list. I won’t go through googling every name on the list. You can do that yourself, but when I did it, it was pretty obvious to me that no more than half of the names on the list were legitimate cases of “Deadly Right-Wing Terrorist Attacks” using the standard definitions of the terms Right-Wing and Terrorism. 

This is shoddy thinking. It makes the strange and hardly justified assumption that racism is Right-Wing. And that Terrorism is a murder for any motivation that might possibly tied to an ideology or political view. If the authors want to make their case well, they need to define their terms. If they want to argue that domestic terrorism is more of a threat that Jihadist terrorism that’s fine, but I’ll not stand for this sneaking one argument in under the guise of another.

I’ll not stand for this sort of shoddy thinking that demands we separate Jihadists from Muslims (and rightly so) but is comfortably fine with making no distinction between White Supremacists and the Right-Wing. I’ll tell you what that is.

That’s a steaming pile of shit.


About Derrick

Derrick lives and works in South Carolina where he teaches English at a technical college and raises his two small children with his wife, Danielle.
This entry was posted in Conservatism, Ideology, Political Science and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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