It was an unusual exchange even by cable news standards: When CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota asked Wisconsin Republican Rep. Sean Duffy why his party’s leader, Donald Trump, says a lot about Muslim terrorists but nothing about white terrorists, Duffy said that there just haven’t been that many white terrorists recently — and the ones that have existed didn’t represent a broader problem.
Here’s part of the exchange, taken from Slate:
CAMEROTA: Why isn’t the president talking about the white terrorists who mowed down six Muslims praying at their mosque?
DUFFY: I don’t know. But I would just tell you there’s a difference, again, death and murder on both sides is wrong, but if you want to take the dozens of scenarios where ISIS-inspired attacks have taken innocents, and you give me one example of what’s happened, I think that was in Canada, I’m going to condemn them all. But you don’t have a group like ISIS or al-Qaeda that is inspiring around the world to take up arms and kill innocents. That was a one-off. That was a one-off, Alisyn, and you have a movement on the other side.
The argument that this was a one-off incident is just false. These attacks have popped up time and time again throughout the West. It’s not just the Quebec mosque attack that occurred last month or the 2015 Charleston mass shooting at a black church. They have occurred so frequently that Ben Mathis-Lilley managed to compile a list of 32 fatal white extremist attacks since Timothy McVeigh carried out the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, including attacks by Ku Klux Klan leader Frazier Glenn Miller in 2014, neo-Nazi Keith Luke in 2009, and white supremacist James von Brunn in 2009. (And it doesn’t even include attacks outside the US, like the 2011 Norway attacks by far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik.)
And the statistics, in fact, show that right-wing extremist attacks, often carried out by white supremacists and nationalists, have typically killed more Americans in most years than Muslim jihadist terrorist attacks since 9/11. (Although deaths from terrorism are very rare in the US: As my colleague Zack Beauchamp noted, deaths from terrorism by Muslims, as one example, make up one-third of 1 percent of all murders in the US.)
White nationalist terrorism deaths vs. jihadi terrorism deaths in America after 9/11. https://t.co/cvd8VYM28J pic.twitter.com/aUMyIp7UiX— Dan Murphy (@bungdan) February 7, 2017
These attacks aren’t happening in a vacuum; there are organized groups encouraging these kinds of atrocities in America. Consider, for example, that the KKK is the US’s original terrorist group, inspiring the first federal antiterrorism law — the Ku Klux Act — ever. The Southern Poverty Law Center has a frightening map of hate groups, ranging from neo-Nazis to other white nationalists, that number in the hundreds in the US. And some of these groups have grown in the past few years — such as the alt-right, a fringe far-right movement with racist, anti-immigrant, and anti-Semitic views.
We also can’t ignore the rise of right-wing nationalist political parties in the West over the past few years — driven largely, according to the empirical research, by hateful attitudes toward immigrants and Muslims. After all, Alexandre Bissonnette, the 27-year-old who attacked a mosque in Quebec last month, was reportedly a fan of far-right-wing politicians like France’s Marine Le Pen and President Donald Trump.
Many of these groups’ leaders will say they don’t advocate for violence. Alt-right leader Richard Spencer, for example, has said he wants a “peaceful ethnic cleansing” of America — an obviously absurd and extremely hateful proposition. And Le Pen’s party called the Quebec mosque attack “deplorable.” (Trump, however, has not addressed the attack publicly.)
But when you trade in rhetoric that’s explicitly hateful toward minorities, it’s not really surprising that some members will take that message to an extreme, as has happened time and time again in America and other Western nations.