It’s kind of frustrating to see people make claims over and over again, to know they’re either mostly or total BS, and to ultimately be powerless to stop the nonsense from being spread. This is especially true in claims about right-wing extremism.
Over this past year, we’ve heard these claims over and over and over. Especially claims that military veterans are a big part of that extremism.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) in a Wednesday hearing called on the federal government to do more to protect veterans from manipulation by extremist groups.
Multiple witnesses — including me — testified about the growing and disproportionate danger of veteran engagement in violent extremism, and called on the federal government to do more to protect veterans from manipulation by extremist groups.
Although they represent only about 6 percent of the American population, veterans are responsible for 10 percent of all domestic terrorist attacks and plots since 2015. Veterans are demonstrably more vulnerable to recruitment and engagement in the extremist fringe, compared to the civilian population, and they are disproportionately involved in violence. Preliminary data from a new survey underway by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) shows that 30 percent of respondents have personally witnessed extremism in the military.
It is clear that we need more data to fully assess the scope and the scale of the problem; but there are multiple indications of a growing threat. In 2020, the number of domestic terrorist plots and attacks in the United States reached its highest level since 1994; two-thirds of those were attributable to white supremacists and other far-right extremists.
Violent extremist acts attributed to veterans have caused tremendous harm for decades. Veteran and white supremacist Timothy McVeigh was responsible for the worst domestic terrorism attack in U.S. history, for example, taking the lives of 168 people in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Last year, an Army reservist and two veterans were arrested in Las Vegas for plotting violence against a Black Lives Matter protest there, while an active-duty Air Force sergeant with ties to the “boogaloo” movement — a crusade of gun-rights activists and white supremacists who seek to start a civil war — went on an eight-day rampage of shootings and attacks, in which he murdered a federal security guard. Seventy-one of the 620 people facing federal charges for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol have military experience, representing 12 percent of those arrested so far.
Now, is any of this accurate?
Honestly, I’m far from an expert in this particular field. However, it has always seemed to me that the deck has been stacked to some degree so that the statistics will skew just that way.
For example, we saw countless riots last year destroy billions in private property, yet that was never labeled extremism. We saw a section of a major American city declared independent from all governmental entities, yet that wasn’t labeled extremism. Over and over again, we’ve seen the violence from the left deflected, defended, and downplayed while anything anyone on the right does is applied to be especially egregious.
So is there more extremism on the right than the left? I’m doubtful.
Further, veterans account for six percent of the population but 10 percent of the extremists? OK, I’ll accept that–mostly because I haven’t looked at the studies so I have no grounds to question the claim as of right now–but let me ask this: What’s the percentage of veterans that make up the political right?
See, veterans tend to lean right disproportionately. It seems that people who don’t actually like their country are less likely to serve it. So veterans are simply more likely to be part of any actual right-wing extremism because they’re more likely to be part of the right. That alone could account for the disparity the author noted.
Of course, that’s not really the issue. No, in her mind, veterans are the victims here. They’ve been targeted and are powerless to do anything. They couldn’t actually agree with the right on anything. They couldn’t potentially see our nation going down the toilet and feel desperate to live up to their oath and do something about it.
Nah. It’s got to be those evil Republicans getting in their heads and making them into domestic terrorists.
I’ll start taking any threat of right-wing extremism seriously when I see the left start to call down their own extremists. While I condemn any violent act of terrorism by any side, especially the right, I rarely see anyone do the same from the left. Instead, we see it being covered. We saw elected officials celebrate Antifa. We all remember the phrase “mostly peaceful protest” as a building burned behind the reporter saying it.
So call me skeptical. As things stand, I have no reason to believe this is actually much of an issue, but even if it is, until the left polices their own, I’m not going to lose much sleep over it.