Once a Lemon, always a Lemon


After his brilliantly unselfconscious pronouncement earlier this week (“We have to stop demonizing people and realize the biggest terror threat in this country is white men, most of them radicalized to the right, and we have to start doing something about them.”), CNN’s Don Lemon doubles down:

“Earlier this week, I made some comments about that in a conversation with Chris [Cuomo],” Lemon said. “I said that the biggest terror threat in this country comes from radicals on the far right, primarily white men. That angered some people. But let’s put emotion aside and look at the cold hard facts. The evidence is overwhelming.”
Lemon then referred to a Government Accountability Office report that says since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, right-wing extremists have killed 106 people in 62 different attacks in U.S., while Islamist extremists have killed 119 people in 23 different attacks.

Lemon cited another story that showed “that for every eight deadly attacks by right-wing extremists,” there was one by left-wing extremists.

“So people who were angered about what I said are missing the entire point,” Lemon said. “We don’t need to worry about people who are thousands of miles away. The biggest threats are homegrown. The facts prove that.”

Well, not quite.

The big problem with the GAO report (“Countering Violent Extremism”, April 2017), of course, is that it commences the count on September 12, 2001, the day after the deadliest terrorist attack on the US soil (it was actually deadlier than the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour). True, 9/11 was an outlier, both in terms of the scope of the attack and the casualty numbers, but it’s a bit like saying that if you count from 8 December 1941, Americans have had a much better chance to be bombed by one of their own. True, but misleading.

Putting that aside, if you do indeed count deadly extremist incidents from the day after 9/11, the figures as cited by Lemon are correct:

from September 12, 2001 through December 31, 2016, attacks by domestic or “homegrown” violent extremists in the United States resulted in 225 fatalities, according to the ECDB. Of these, 106 were killed by far right violent extremists in 62 separate incidents, and 119 were victims of radical Islamist violent extremists in 23 separate incidents.

The fact that there have been 62 deadly “far right” incidents is explained by the fact that an overwhelming majority of them are murders with one perpetrator (or at most two) and one victim (including a 2009 incident in California, where “White supremacist murdered his stepfather to gain ‘street cred'” – it can be a rather blurry line between an ideologically motivated crime and an “ordinary” act of violence). But the Islamist extremists, for a much fewer number of attacks, have still managed to kill more people (post-Pittsburgh the numbers are pretty even, but we’re talking about the GAO report that Lemon brought up) .

More importantly, when considering how dangerous a particular section of the community is, one has to look in perceptive. In the 2010 Census, non-Hispanic white Americans numbered just just under 200 million. Roughly half of them are males (of all ages), which constitute the pool of Lemon’s “white men”, from which the neo-Nazi, white supremacist or “far right” extremists are drawn. The number of Muslims in the United States is more of a guesswork, but it’s likely somewhere around 3.5 million, of which 1.75 million would be Muslim men (again, of all ages; as an overwhelming majority of American Muslims are non-white, there would be a minimal overlap between the two groups). This means that “Muslim men” are in fact 64 times deadlier than “white men”. Of course we shouldn’t be demonising whole groups based on the actions of a few; just because a black liberal does it to white men, it doesn’t make the practice any more respectable.

An overwhelming evidence? Only at CNN.