A Short History Lesson for the Media on American Domestic Terrorism

| April 19 2013
Christopher Cook

When I read that Chris Matthews had graciously informed us all that domestic terrorists “tend to be on the far right,” I just about blew a gasket. The actual truth is rather different from Matthews’ characterization.*

First, it must be noted that if one ascribes a political alignment to a terrorist, it must be because the act was committed in order to advance the aims of that political ideology. Insane people (whatever their ideology may be) don’t count. For someone to be called a “right-wing terrorist” or a “left-wing terrorist,” the acts of terror he or she perpetrates must be intended to bring about a result he or she believes will advance certain political goals. A nutjob who went off his meds is not a political terrorist even if he happens to be a Democrat or Republican. A nutjob is a nutjob.

Broadly speaking, there have been three periods of increased domestic terrorism in the U.S.:

Democrat terrorism

Just because the Civil War ended in April of 1865 doesn’t mean the South gave up right away. That year, a new group was created: The Ku Klux Klan. Their goals were these: to drive Republican control from the South; to end Reconstruction; and to keep blacks from involvement in electoral politics (as candidates, voters, delegates, etc.). Their method of choice was to storm Republican meetings and kill everyone. They slaughtered white Republicans. They slaughtered black Republicans. They burned people alive in their homes. To this day, their record makes them the most murderous force in U.S. domestic-terrorism history, rivaled only by the attacks of September 11th in terms of sheer number killed.

It is a matter of congressional record that the KKK was “the terrorist wing of the Democratic Party.” They were certainly not on the far right.

And there was a lot of other Democrat/Southern terror as well, including, of course, the assassination of Lincoln. Even the fight at the OK Corral in far-flung Tombstone, Arizona was a part of it. (It wasn’t until I took a trip to Tombstone that I learned that the Clantons were Democrats, the Earps were Republicans, and the whole mess was actually a proxy fight of the ongoing effort to help the South “rise again.”)

Left-wing terrorism

The 1960s and early 70s were rife with domestic terrorism. The perpetrators of that terrorism were on the far-left. Anyone who doesn’t know those two facts has either been

A) living under a rock;

B) living in a bomb shelter for the last 50 years, like Brandon Fraser in Blast from the Past; or

C) thoroughly addled by the revisionist fog with which the left cloaks all of its past sins.

Here is Jonah Goldberg in Liberal Fascism:

Many of us forget that the Weather Underground bombing campaign was not a matter of a few isolated incidents. From September 1969 to May 1970, Rudd and his co-revolutionaries on the white radical left committed about 250 attacks, or almost one terrorist bombing a day (government estimates put that number much higher). During the summer of 1970, there were twenty bombings a week in California. The bombings were the backbeat to the symphony of violence, much of it rhetorical, that set the score for the New Left in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Rudd captured the tone perfectly: “It’s a wonderful feeling to hit a pig. It must be a really wonderful feeling to kill a pig or blow up a building.”  “The real division is not between people who support bombings and people who don’t,” explained a secret member of a “bombing collective,” but “between people who will do them and people who are too hung up on their own privileges and security to take those risks.”

There, Goldberg is mostly just talking about the Weather Underground. There were numerous other groups and incidents. The 1960s wasn’t about terrorism from the right, or the far-right. There were no disgruntled Republicans in plaid pants coming off a day at the country club to go bomb a ROTC building or stick a fork in some pigs. These were far-left radicals seeking to advance an agenda.

And it has to be noted that those same radicals spent the subsequent four decades purging all moderate elements from the Democratic Party, and are now firmly in charge.

Islamist terrorism

In this section, we expand beyond America to look at domestic terrorism worldwide. Terrorism perpetrated by people with an Islamist agenda is now a fact of life across many nations of the world.* The specific goal may be to expand the Caliphate and the Dar al Islam; to expand the use of and eventually impose sharia law; to drive the infidel from Muslim lands; to extract concessions from national governments; or to flex a little muscle on behalf of Allah. Whatever the specifics, the general fact is always the same: Not all Muslims are terrorists, but nearly all terrorists are Muslims.

Except for the hideously successful attack on September 11th, 2001, the United States has actually suffered comparatively little in the way of such attacks. But for much of the rest of the world, it is a daily or weekly event. In some places, it is less frequent, but few places are immune. In March alone, nearly 100o were killed and over 2000 critically injured in 189 attacks. March was not an outlier—it was a typical month. Islamist terrorism is now a fact of life.

The left would like to create an alternate reality in which they were not the perpetrators of most of the domestic terrorism in United States’ history, but they cannot. So they do the next best thing: they lie. People like Chris Matthews—who has a megaphone far louder than the man deserves—regularly regurgitate “facts” that suit this agenda, and he will even get people to believe him. But that doesn’t make the facts any more true, or Matthews any less of a hack.



Tony Katz has a great piece on some recent examples of Matthews-esque projection:

 . . . Right on schedule, since per Rahm Emanuel, one should “never let a serious crisis go to waste,” CNN’s National Security Analyst Peter Bergen and Esquire blogger Charles J. Pierce suggested the bomber could have been a “right wing extremist” since, after all, it happened on April 15th – tax day across the country and Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts. MSNBC’s resident hater, Chris Matthews, pronounced that domestic terrorists, “tend to be on the far right.” Their common goal, as always, is to tie violence to small government activists and the Tea Party.

It was Cenk Uygur, a Progressive liberal host on Current TV, who opined that the bombing would have had less coverage if someone had shot people in the crowd:

If shooter killed 17 people in Boston Marathon w/ assault rifle it wouldn’t get near the reaction it would if a terrorist kills 3 w/ a bomb.

Mass shootings don’t get media coverage? Since when is the mainstream media controlled by the pro-Second Amendment crowd?

On Piers Morgan’s program, Mark Botok of the Southern Poverty Law Center commented that the bomber was probably not part of the political right. Why? Because the target, “…was not a government building, it was not the IRS, although it was Tax Day on Monday. It was not a minority group. It wasn’t black people or Jewish people or gay people or Muslims.”

This is more than bias; it’s bloodlust. They look at the scene and say, “3 dead and 176 injured in a bombing? That’s a great time to connect it to the political right!”

Actor and radio host Jay Mohr blamed the bombing on gun owners, saying that the 2nd Amendment “must go”:

“What bothers me most about today is that we’re getting used 2 it. ENOUGH. 2nd amendment must go. Violence has 2 stop. Culture MUST change”.

Read the whole thing. And weep for the fabric of truth itself.


*Edited to improve clarity.


This is just dumb and lazy. I'm sorry if it hurts your feelings or pride but in recent history acts of terror by native Americans have been overwhelmingly from right wing idealogues.  


I'm a Liberal and I have the maturity to admit that in the last century there was lots of left wing terrorism: one might characterize the great strikes of the union movement this way, and of course there were left wing terror groups in the 60's, and even today there are left wing environmentalists who commit acts of terror, against loggers, for example. 


Grow up


Discussing the KKK as a group comprised primarily as Democrats then connecting that to the modern day "left" is intellectually dishonest. It's fairly common knowledge that party labels then weren't what they are now. It's also common sense, as the KKK's moral indignation at immigrants and minorities, alcoholics, homosexuals, etc represent a militant (and much more extreme) form of today's conservatism. As such, I wonder what you were thinking when you wrote that - are you really not aware of the history behind it all, or were you just being intellectually dishonest?


I'm also not sure where radical Islam fits in your argument on the left-leaning nature of American domestic terrorism. The notion that most terrorists are Muslim is false. Information on the FBI website isn't the easiest to navigate, but they do have a database with each instance of terrorism stretching rather far back. A huge majority, probably almost 85-90%, occur in Puerto Rico - not carried out by Muslims. Acts of Islamic terrorism occurred as frequently as acts of Jewish terrorism (perpetrated, as I discovered through research, primarily by the Jewish Defense League).


The left is not creating an alternate reality where Islamic extremists have not been the biggest offenders of domestic terrorism because they don't have to - that is actually reality. This isn't some sort of mainstream media list of attacks - this is an FBI database. I would assume you find statistics derived from it to be acceptable?


The Oklahoma City bombing (1995), Centennial Olympic Park bombing (1996), 2001 anthrax attacks, Knoxville Unitarian Chuch shooting (2008), George Tiller murder (2009), Holocaust Memorial Museum shooting (2009), and Wisconsin Sikh Temple Shooting (2012) are all prominent examples of domestic terrorism that were carried out by right-wing militant types.