Trump Ignores Right-Wing Terrorism While Whining About Media Ignoring Terrorism
In a recent speech to Central Command (CENTCOM,) President Trump claimed the media covers up and underreports terror attacks, hinting that they had political reasons for downplaying attacks committed by Islamic extremists in the U.S. as well as Europe. To back up this accusation, the White House later issued a list of terrorist attacks that the administration believes the media has not given adequate coverage.
Unfortunately for the Trump administration, all of the 78 attacks listed had at least 100 media hits.
But the White House’s own list left out a number of recent terror attacks, perhaps because they were committed by white, right-wing extremists rather than Muslims.
The most recent was Alexandre Bissonette’s mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec on January 29. He killed six people. The BBC reported that Bissonette seemed to be radicalized by the rising right-wing nationalist sentiment around the world and the “alt-right,” in addition to more local issues in Quebec. Classmates have also said that Bissonette was a white nationalist and a big fan of Trump.
The Trump administration also did not list the mass shooting carried out by Dylann Roof at a historical black church in South Carolina, in which he killed nine people, or Robert Lewis Dear’s attack on a Colorado Planned Parenthood, to name just a few.
White, right-wing attackers like Bissonette, Roof, and Dear are often described as “lone-wolf” attackers. Their actions are portrayed as aberrant, one-off, or perhaps even caused by mental illness. This is a sharp contrast to non-white and/or Muslims who commit acts of terror and are often quickly linked to larger networks and plots. Talking about right-wing attacks as isolated incidents makes it possible for people like Fox News’s Eric Bolling to downplay these incidents in comparison to attacks by Islamic extremists. It’s a more extreme version of longstanding Republican practice: Republican lawmakers pressured the Department of Homeland Security to close an office focused on right-wing extremism in 2009, despite the fact that these movements were growing rapidly in response to former president Barack Obama’s election.
The reality is that since 9/11, white supremacists, anti-government extremists, and other right-wing terrorists have become a bigger threat than Islamic extremists in the U.S. Despite this, members of the administration have instead sometimes invented terrorist attacks by Muslims to try to justify their immigration ban, as seen with Kellyanne Conway’s repeated references to an imaginary “Bowling Green Massacre” and Sean Spicer’s invented Islamist attack in Atlanta.
Trump has always argued that his ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries is necessary to protect the national security of the United States. The Executive Order is literally titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” Yet at a time when white supremacist and other right-wing hate groups are gaining new members and becoming more militant, he has tried to cut back on programs to study and counter their extremism.
This contrast illustrates the fact that Trump’s policies are less about keeping Americans safe and more about scapegoating Muslims to maintain popularity with his white nationalist and far-right supporters.