Rethinking right-wing extremism

The Jewish Community Center in Suburban Kansas City. (Facebook)

The Jewish Community Center in Suburban Kansas City. (Facebook)

The Boston Marathon bombing, a year ago last week, took three lives, created an uproar and reignited fears about the threat of Islamist-inspired terrorism in this country. The response after what police say was white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller’s murder of three people outside two Jewish institutions in suburban Kansas City was decidedly different. True, he was arrested in a parking lot without a deadly car chase. But the shootings haven’t sparked a call for re-evaluating the relative lack of attention given to the danger posed by right-wing extremists. It should.

Until 9/11, the most deadly terror attack on American soil was the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing masterminded by Timothy McVeigh, a right-wing extremist. His attack led to the deaths of 168 people. Since 9/11, right-wing extremists have killed more people in this country than “extremists motivated by al Qaeda’s ideology” — 34 deaths to 23, write Peter Bergen and David Sterman of CNN. That includes “white supremacists, anti-abortion extremists and anti-government militants.” And while it isn’t a contest, it does suggest the need for a shift away from what appears to be Homeland Security’s single-minded focus on the threat of jihadist terrorists.

It is troubling to learn that law enforcement didn’t have Miller on its radar, even though he has been an outspoken white supremacist and anti-Semite for decades, having founded and led the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party. He served time in prison on weapons charges and for plotting to assassinate Morris Dees, the head of the Southern Poverty Law Center. As part of a plea bargain in another case, he testified against other Klan leaders. But when he decided to take his gun to the Kansas City JCC, no one had an eye on him. The connection between white supremacism and domestic terrorism seems to have been lost on the watchers. We hope this tragic event serves as a wake-up call.

The shootings outside Kansas City also illustrate how hate-fueled violence can affect even those who are not the focus of the hater. The three people who Miller murdered were not Jews but white Christians. Their tragic deaths are a testament to the nihilism of hate and a call for greater vigilance of those who would perpetuate it.

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