— The Hill (@thehill) February 28, 2018
Going to be a good look if the House’s only action on guns this year is to protect themselves. https://t.co/clA5jBNrJ4
— Schooley (@Rschooley) March 1, 2018
This wasn't an easy one to write, but one I felt important for our field… pic.twitter.com/gSjwfRP3Dl
— Peter W. Singer (@peterwsinger) March 1, 2018
Ask any of us who works in national security what to do about ISIS, and we’d have no problem pitching you ideas. Even if we lack expertise in the topic or don’t work directly on it, we’d still have opinions and thoughts, because we’ve been swimming in a sea of articles, op-eds, books, hearings, programs, and overall research and debate for years. But ask us about right-wing extremism, a violent ideology that’s killed more Americans than ISIS in the last decade, and most of us would pause — either because we were unaware of the problem or, worse, we were afraid to speak openly about it…
Over the last decade, individuals and groups fueled by this virulent ideology have committed 71 percent of the known politically or religiously inspired killings in our country — that is, 274 of the 387 Americans murdered by extremists. Reports now indicate it was part of the recent murder of 17 school children and teachers in Florida, just as it was part of mass shootings that have happened everywhere from California to Charleston. It has not just hit inside the US, but has struck many of our closest allies, both causing near-tragedies and horrible massacres. It is not a new threat; it has killed hundreds of Americans in past decades. But it is growing in power and influence, worrisomely being stoked by foreign nations like Russia that wish our nation harm. It is a clear, present, and proven danger to the United States. Yet we find it awkward to talk about.
There are many reasons why we have a hard time acknowledging the deadly threat from the cluster of groups that gather inside our country under the hateful flags of white nationalism, white supremacy, anti-government militia, and Neo-Nazism. One reason is to avoid appearing too partisan, a desire to be even-handed. There is irony in that we seek to avoid appearing biased, even when the threat espouses bias to the point of justifying hating and even killing their fellow Americans. So, after each episode of right-wing violence, we avoid talking about it, even to the point of reaching in the opposite direction. For instance, after these groups united to march on Charlottesville, culminating in the killing of a young woman, major U.S. papers ran more op-eds condemning the counter-protesters, who have yet to commit a mass killing, than those who committed the crime…
We also have to admit that we are quiet about right-wing extremist violence out of calculation. The cost-vs.-gain equations that shape our choices are simply different from other topics. Compare the professional benefits to the potential risks of publishing an article, creating a college course, writing a book or dissertation, organizing a conference, hosting a speech, creating a university or thinktank project, funding a foundation program, etc., on right-wing extremism. It is not just that there is no great profit in it. It is that every one of these endeavors would be far more difficult, and would likely create far more headaches for us and our bosses, than a similar project on pretty much any other topic in our field.
This isn’t to say there aren’t fantastic researchers on this topic; there are many, who have valuably shaped much of what we know about the issue. But we in the rest of the field must acknowledge that they’ve chosen a more professionally risky path than most of us, even though the very object of their study has killed more Americans over the last few years than essentially any other problem we are working on…