When I write about the threat of white supremacist terrorism, I often receive complaints from readers that I am focusing on the wrong problem and that my articles are ill-informed and misleading (I’m putting the complaints politely). Instead of focusing on white supremacists, they argue, I should instead write about the “real” terrorists like antifa and Black Lives Matter.
Their opinions are backed up by statements from the police and Trump administration officials and images of burning cities. The terrorism label, for them, is a way of distinguishing who is in the wrong. Brian Jenkins, a leading scholar of terrorism, observed in 1981: “Terrorism is what the bad guys do.”
When it comes to Black Lives Matter, there’s no credible case for labeling it a terrorist organization. One analysis of the Black Lives Matter protests found that 93 percent were peaceful, and some of the violent incidents at the rallies were simply opportunistic vandalism.
Most of the protest leaders have tried to stop looting and other violence, recognizing this is counterproductive as well as wrong. Moreover, Black Lives Matter is an open movement with a host of organizations participating along with self-proclaimed supporters rather than a tight group with a defined membership. Thus, labeling the movement as a whole as violent is false.
But not all violence is terrorism, either. In many instances, even those who do actively promote and use violence don’t merit the label “terrorist.”
So what about individuals and groups that have been credibly linked to violence in Kenosha, Minneapolis, Portland, and other cities? Where does antifa fit in? Or right-wing militia-type groups like Patriot Prayer? How about individuals such as the shooter at the Kenosha, Wisconsin,
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