One of the 21st century’s greatest misdirections has been the word “terror.” Like dupes playing three-card monte, we were told to follow the ace of spades into Afghanistan, into Iraq, around the world and back again. Our political dealers fleeced us for trillions, all in the name of betting on a war against Islamist terror we didn’t need to fight, and couldn’t win against when we did anyway.
In North America, as I’ve pointed out before, you are more likely to be killed by a moose than by an Islamist terrorist. Nonetheless, it remains one of the greatest fears of the public—a so-called existential threat, one that has inflamed Islamaphobia at home and sparked new wars abroad.
Undaunted by these facts, the least honourable among our politicians and journalists keep up the patter, demanding harder borders, more police, fewer civil rights. The great irony of this hucksterism is that the crooked dealers are typically on the right wing of the political spectrum, and the most dangerous terror threat is also on the right.
This week in the U.K., four British soldiers and a civilian were arrested under the Terrorism Act. All were members of the far-right group National Action, which calls for jailing homosexuals and for white-only immigration.
In the U.S., the majority of designated terrorist groups are right-wing extremists. Why? Because they have been behind twice as many domestic terror acts as those identified as Islamist. Earlier this summer, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued a joint intelligence statement that documented many of these attacks and identified far-right groups as a serious and growing threat.
Right-wing extremists have killed 30 people in Canada since 1980. During that same period, Islamist terrorists murdered two. Criminologists at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology have estimated that there are at least 100 of these far-right extremist groups operating in our country. So why do we remain so focused on the Islamic bogeyman? The most obvious answer is that far-right extremists dress like white Canadians, talk like us and may even play goalie in our rec league. The guys in the keffiyehs on the back of a Hilux as it tears across the desert just look scarier.
Don’t feel bad. That’s the official judgment of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, too. A spokeswoman recently explained, “Right-wing extremist circles appear to be fragmented and primarily pose a threat to public order and not to national security.” Thirty dead: public order problem. Unpronounceable name: national security threat.
The rise of the alt-right in the U.S. is adding interesting new dynamics to this analysis. For the first time in decades, Nazis, heavily armed right-wing militias and white nationalists are openly marching in support of President Donald Trump, or in opposition to African Americans, immigrants or even feminism.
The new administration is reacting softly, to say the least. Trump officials have cut funding to programs that de-radicalize right-wing extremists; and the president’s motley circle of advisors like the gone-but-not-foresaken Steve Bannon have argued that there is no such thing as white supremacists, and that all terror threats can be traced back to the Islamic State and al Qaeda. Follow the ace of spades.
The National Rifle Association is playing a similar game. A curious fact about American gun sales is that they spiked dramatically each time Barack Obama was elected. Why? Everyone knows that crypto-Muslim Kenyans will take your guns. This provided the NRA with the perfect conditions to whip up fear among the Republican base, raise record amounts of money, and spend it on politicians willing to roll back or block gun control legislation. With Obama gone, the NRA lost its greatest fundraiser ever. Where do you find new fear? Pivot to focus on the threat of left-wing extremists, like the black-masked Antifa protesters. The NRA’s recently launched ad campaign argues America is being torn apart by godless, lawless lefties—coming for your daughters.
But keep all of this in perspective. Right-wing extremists may be a bigger threat than their Islamist counterpart, but neither they nor the Antifa are going to get you. Thirty dead over 37 years is not a clear and present danger. Remember that the next time a Member of Parliament goes blue in the face screaming about our unsecured borders, or you see another NRA ad warning of the coming race wars. Don’t play their card game.