Charlottesville

Terrorism Deaths and Injuries by Ideology: Excluding the Outlier Attacks

My recent blog post on the deaths and injuries caused by terrorists according to their motivating ideologies sheds some light on how frequent attacks like Charlottesville occur. I found that there were 3,342 total murders on U.S. soil caused by terrorists from 1992 through August 12, 2017. Of those, Islamists were responsible for 92 percent, Nationalist and Right Wing terrorists for about 7 percent, and Left Wing terrorists for less than one percent. The most common query after reading my post was: “What happens if you exclude deaths from the outlier attacks of 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing?” 

I originally did not exclude the deaths in these outlier attacks in my first post because I merely sought to describe who was killed and by whom. In response to that common question, I decided to post the results that exclude the outlier 9/11 and Oklahoma City attacks. Doing so changes the ratio of murders by ideology but it does not change which terrorism-inspired ideologies are the deadliest.

Table 1 subtracts the 2,983 deaths and 14,842 injuries caused by Islamist terrorists on 9/11 and the 168 deaths and 650 injuries caused by a Nationalist/Right Wing terrorist in the Oklahoma City bombing. Excluding the outliers reduces the total number of deaths by 94 percent from 3,342 to 191. The number of injuries also falls by 91 percent. Just two attacks account for nearly all of the deaths and injuries, though 9/11 was the bigger contributor. After removing the outlier deaths and injuries, Islamist-inspired terrorists are responsible for 53 percent of the murders and 77 percent of the injuries. That is a decline from my original post where I included 9/11 and found that Islamists are responsible for 92 percent of deaths and 94 percent of injuries. The relative percentage of murders committed by Nationalist and Right Wing terrorists rises from about 7 percent in my original post to 27 percent when the 9/11 and the Oklahoma City attacks are excluded. The deaths by Left Wing terrorists also grow in importance from less than 1 percent to 8 percent. 

Terrorism Deaths by Ideology: Is Charlottesville an Anomaly?

One person was murdered in a likely terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia this Saturday when a suspected white nationalist named Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a group of protesters. Prominent people on both sides of the political spectrum have condemned the politically motivated violence. However, some commentators have pointed out that left wing terrorists and rioters have also committed violence in recent years, though they have not provided any data with which to compare the relative scale of the violence. This blog fills that void by describing terrorist murders and injuries by the political ideology of the perpetrators. Also, though the chance of being murdered or injured in a terrorist attack is minor, there is wide variation in the ideology of terrorists. 

Data and Methodology

This post examines 25 years of terrorism on U.S. soil from 1992 through August 12, 2017. Fatalities and injuries in terrorist attacks are the most important measures of the cost of terrorism. The information sources are the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland and the RAND Corporation. Other organizations seem to count many religiously or racially motivated crimes as terrorist offenses, an overcounting that I attempted to avoid. I estimate the number of murders committed by terrorists in 2017 from online sources although they may be incomplete. As much as possible, I excluded terrorists who died or were injured in their attacks as they are not victims.

I grouped the ideology of the attackers into four broad groups: Islamists, Nationalists and Right Wingers, Left Wingers, and Unknown/Other. Global Terrorism Database descriptions of the attackers and news stories were my guide in organizing the groups by ideology. Islamists and unknown/other straightforward. Left Wing terrorists include Communists, Socialists, animal rights activists, anti-white racists, LGBT extremists, attackers inspired by Black Lives Matter, and ethnic or national separatists who also embrace Socialism. Nationalist and Right Wing terrorists include white nationalists, Neo-Confederates, non-socialist secessionists, nationalists, anti-Communists, fascists, anti-Muslim attackers, anti-immigration extremists, Sovereign Citizens, bombers who targeted the IRS, militia movements, and abortion clinic bombers. Some of the marginal attacks are open to reinterpretation but the ideology of the attackers by death and injury are straightforward in virtually all cases.

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