Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
Fake extremism statistics are big business. Just like those shoddy research studies which warn that drinking a glass of wine can kill you or make you immortal, they exist to be broadcast by the media.
Last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center faked a three-fold increase in “hate groups” by switching from listing one organization it had been smearing to listing 45 of its chapters separately. This year, SAALT listed multiple Muslim hate crime hoaxes in its report claiming that such crimes had increased.
The media uncritically reported their claims. Now it’s pushing more bad numbers from the ADL.
"White supremacists responsible for most extremist killings in 2017, ADL says," CNN reports. "Murders By U.S. White Supremacists More Than Doubled In 2017, New Report Shows," the Huffington Post claims. "Murders by white supremacists in US more than doubled in 2017," The Independent details.
"White Supremacists Killed 18 People in 2017, Double the Number From 2016," Newsweek alleges.
“Unlike 2016, a year dominated by the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando, Florida, committed by an Islamic extremist, a majority of the 2017 murders were committed by right-wing extremists, primarily white supremacists,” the ADL report’s key findings section asserts.
Don’t worry about Islamic terrorism, focus on white supremacists is the message. While white supremacists are obviously terrible people, there’s really no comparison when it comes to terrorism.
And there’s a huge problem with the ADL’s numbers.
White supremacists are extremists. And the ADL does document killings by white supremacists. But here’s the catch, not all white supremacist murders are extremists killings. Most aren’t.
Last year, Frank Ancona, a KKK imperial wizard, was allegedly killed by his wife and stepson.
The ADL report claims that, “In total, extremists killed at least 34 people in 2017. The far-right accounted for 59% of these deaths, or 20 deaths.” Frank’s murder is one of those deaths.
Why is Frank’s wife allegedly shooting him over a possible divorce a white supremacist murder?
Well, his wife was also allegedly a Klan member (in addition to allegedly hoarding 70 cats), so it’s a killing by an extremist. It just isn’t a killing motivated by political extremism.
The ADL report admits as much, "Neither ideology nor hate seems to have played a part when Frank Ancona, the head of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, was murdered, allegedly by his wife and fellow Klan member, Malissa Ancona, and her son."
So why is it listed?
But the report is full of murders that happened to be committed by white supremacists
Randy Gene Baker was allegedly murdered by his wife, nephew and sister. His nephew has ties to a white supremacist prison gang. There’s no mention of the two women being white supremacists.
5 of the murders in the ADL’s report actually involve family violence by white supremacists. Three of them might have involved arguments over political beliefs, but the two above clearly don’t belong.
And it’s really hard to delineate how political the murder of a family member is.
The ADL report also lists, "Aryan Circle member Edward Blackburn" who "allegedly shot and killed another man who was reportedly dating his ex-girlfriend."
The victim was white.
White supremacist gangs have thousands of members. Like their black nationalist counterparts, they’re criminals. And they commit all sorts of crimes that have nothing to do with their politics.
In Indiana, John Byler was murdered by thugs demanding drugs. Or, as the ADL report puts it, “Wesley Andrew Hampton, a self-declared white supremacist, and another defendant allegedly robbed and murdered a man in a home invasion.” The report neglects to note that Aarron Christopher Vance, the other defendant, is a black man with dreadlocks.
The ADL report actually lists a murder by a black man and a white man as a white supremacist killing.
It’s one of four supposed white supremacist murders that were actually committed by a group of supremacists and non-supremacists.
In Texas, a dispute over a watch escalated to the murder of a Latino man committed by some people who may be white supremacists. But the woman on whose behalf the murder was allegedly committed has a Mexican last name.
Then there are the ambiguous prison murders.
In Georgia, a white supremacist gang member and another inmate killed two guards during a prison break. One of the guards was white and the other black. A white supremacist inmate in Florida stabbed a black inmate to death. But there’s no evidence of a racial motivation to the murder beyond that.
The ADL’s own report admits padding its list of murders with non-ideological killings. “Many extremist-related murders each year, as in 2017, are essentially non-ideological killings,” the report notes.
Then why include non-ideological murders in a list of ideological crimes? What is a non-ideological extremist killing anyway? If a crime isn’t ideological, how can it be extremist?
"Ideology seems to have played a primary or secondary role in 17 of the 34 murders (50%)," the report states. But those are the overall numbers. The right-wing specifics make the ADL look even sillier.
The ADL admits that 5 of the white supremacist murders it lists are non-ideological. 5 others have no proven racial motive. And 2 more deaths were actually caused by Islamic supremacism.
That’s the majority of the ADL’s list right there.
The ADL only lists 9 Islamic killings. But then there’s this truly confusing case.
“White supremacist Devon Arthurs allegedly shot to death two of his roommates for making fun of his recent conversion to Islam. All three, and a fourth roommate, were members of Atomwaffen, a neo-Nazi group.” Is this really a white supremacist murder or an Islamic supremacist killing?
The ADL doesn’t list it as an Islamic killing. Instead the full report describes it as a right-wing killing. More bizarrely, it claims that Devon “had recently converted to Islam (though apparently not a radical form of Islam)”. However the ADL defines “radical Islam”, it’s not a separate denomination. You don’t convert to “radical Islam”, just to Islam. But at least this was one of those non-radical ideological murders.
The ADL inappropriately misfiled the Devon Arthurs killings and while it correctly noted Kori Ali Muhammad, who shot three people in Fresno, was a black nationalist, he also shouted, "Allahu Akbar” and was linked to the Nation of Islam. The NOI, a hate group whose leader has met with Barack Obama and Congressional Black Caucus members, is a black nationalist neo-Islamic organization.
Even using the ADL’s numbers, an accurate count of Islamic ideological killings would be 15. Trim away the family arguments, personal vendettas and random crimes, and white supremacist killings fall below the number of Islamic ideological killings. That’s what the ADL tried to hide with its number games.
Islamic terrorism hasn’t gone anywhere. It remains a severe and ongoing threat.
The ADL claims to be a Jewish organization. In 2017, zero Jews were killed by white supremacists. But when Uzbeki Islamic terrorist Sayfullo Saipov ran over innocent people in Lower Manhattan, one of his eight victims, Ariel Erlij, was Jewish. He died alongside his four Christian school friends.
White supremacists have murdered Jews in America. This year the count already stands at one. But they pale compared to the hundreds of Americans Jews murdered by Islamic terrorists in the last two decades. And the ADL would rather talk about white supremacists because it’s safer.
Just mentioning Islamic terrorists can lead to accusations of Islamophobia. Jewish organizations have been placed on lists of hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center for even discussing the murder of Jews by Islamic terrorists. The media doesn’t want to report on Islamic supremacism and racism.
And the ADL gives the media the numbers that it wants. Even if, like the ADL, they’re worthless.