ADL Report: ‘Right-Wing Extremism’ Responsible for Almost All 2018 Hate-Related Murders

January 23, 2019
Police officers guard the Tree of Life synagogue following Saturday’s shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

The Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) latest report on murder and extremism found that “right-wing extremism” was responsible for almost all hate-related murders in 2018.

According to the report, at least 50 people were killed in 2018 as a result of violent extremism, putting 2018 behind only 1995 (184), 2016 (72) and 2015 (70) in terms of extremist killings.

“On a scale of all murders in the United States, it’s pretty small,” Mark Pitcavage, senior research fellow for the ADL’s Center on Extremism, told the Journal in a phone interview. “But extremist-related murders have the potential to affect far more than the most proximate victims, and the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh is a tragic but noteworthy example of just that, where it affected the Jewish community around the world and many non-Jews as well.”

The report also notes that the 50 recorded extremist-related murders are “merely the tip of a pyramid.”

“For each person killed by an extremist, many more are wounded or injured in attempted murders and assaults,” the report states. “Extremists engage in a wide variety of other crimes related to their causes, from threats and harassment to white collar crime.  Every year, police uncover and prevent a wide range of extremist plots and conspiracies with lethal intentions.”

The ADL concluded that most of the extremist-related murders were due to “right-wing extremism,” as 78 percent of the murders were perpetrated by white supremacists, 16 percent were perpetrated by anti-government extremism, 4 percent were perpetrated by Incel [involuntarily celibate] extremism and 2 percent were the result of Islamic extremism.

The 50 deaths included the Tree of Life shooting, the death of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein in Orange County, who was allegedly murdered by white supremacist Samuel Woodward; and Nikolas Cruz, who allegedly shot 17 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High Schools students to death in February 2018. While there may have some evidence that Cruz had white supremacist leanings, the evidence has not been conclusive that Cruz conducted the shooting as a result of white supremacist ideology, according to the report.

Pitcavage told the Journal that the one Islamic extremist-related death in the United States was the result of 17-year-old Corey Johnson, who allegedly stabbed a 13-year-old to death in Florida. Johnson reportedly converted from being a white supremacist to a radical Islamist.

“This is not to suggest that the threat from Islamist extremism has gone away or necessarily is even receding,” Pitcavage said. “By other measures such as terrorist plots or conspiracies or people arrested for attempting to provide material support for terrorism, there is a substantial amount of activity going on. So it’s not as if that threat is disappearing.”

“But thankfully, the amount of people that such extremists were able to kill in the U.S. this past year was very low,” he added.

One of the relatively new extremist movements that has surfaced was the Incel movement, which began as a forum for people who have trouble forming romantic relationship to vent their frustration. The Incel movement then morphed into “anger misogyny” against women, according to Pitcavage.

“They have egged each other on to the point where there have been several episodes of known violence associated with them, the most noteworthy being a 2014 shooting spree in California by a young man named Elliot Rodger,” Pitcavage said, “and then more recently we had a deadly incident in Canada, we had a deadly incident in Jacksonville and just this past week we had someone who was arrested for making violent threats who seems to have been part of that circle as well.”

Pitcavage added, “People need to be made aware of this going forward.”

The policy prescriptions recommended by the ADL include establishing a federal law focusing on domestic terrorism and having states adopt strong hate crime laws.

“At the federal level, the United States does not have a domestic terrorism law,” Pitcavage said. “[Alleged Pittsburgh shooter] Robert Bowers… whose act clearly was a terrorist act as well as a hate crime, cannot be prosecuted for terrorism simply because there is no domestic terrorism in the United States. Seems like we need one.”

Pitcavage hopes that the main takeaway people get from reading the ADL report is the issue of right-wing extremism.

“We’ve had a lot of right-wing extremist-related murders this past year, and that we actually have had a lot of right-wing extremist murders most years and not enough attention in this country is being devoted to that, even though some of these movements right now are clearly growing and becoming more dangerous,” Pitcavage said. “This is not to say that we need to do that at the expense of ignoring other threats. Islamist extremism is still a very genuine threat, and it’s not a horse race between right-wing extremism and Islamist extremism either. If we ignore either threat, we ignore it at our own peril.”

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