The Right Wing Extremist Lie

Back at the end of January, CNN announced a job opening for a Senior Writer dedicated to uncovering Fake News. So when on Feb. 4th an article by Reza Aslan entitled, “Facts still matter on US terror threat,” appeared on CNN’s website, I wondered if this article would be one of the first to be exposed by the nascent Fake News department.

In the article, Aslan makes the claim that “Americans are almost seven times as likely to be killed by a white extremist than by an Islamic one” and he links this stat to a New York Times article entitled, “The Growing Right-Wing Terror Threat.” First off, I’m not exactly sure how he got to this number. Here is what I think happened: The New York Times article Aslan links to references a few studies, two of which are important here. One is a 2013 study by Arie Perliger, published when he was with the Combating Terrorism Center, that tracks right wing violence in America. The other is a 2015 study by UNC’s Charles Kurzman that tracks Muslim-American violence. The former study claims American right wing extremism was responsible for 254 fatalities in the “decade after 9/11.” The latter study claims Muslims Americans have been responsible for 50 fatalities since 9/11, a stat which covers the time period from right after 9/11 to 2014. Then the average fatalities per year were calculated for each group: 254/10 years = 25.4 fatalities per year caused by right wing extremists and 50/13 years = 3.85 fatalities per year caused by Muslim Americans. 25.4/3.85 = 6.6. Thus, the stat offered by Aslan that “Americans are almost seven times as likely to be killed by a white extremist than by an Islamic one.”

This of course, is horrific statistics and completely dishonest. In statistics this is called “discarding unfavorable data,” and “data manipulation.” First, he uses selective time frames for each group. For right wing extremists, he chooses a study covering year 2002-2011 and for Muslims he chooses a study that covers post-9/11 to 2014. In both studies, the number of people killed is calculated starting after 9/11. Now it’s silly that we aren’t including 9/11. Can data not occur in clusters? This is not how stats work. If we include the victims of 9/11, deaths caused by right wing extremists are dwarfed when compared to deaths caused by jihadists.

Then, the New York Times article, and studies therein, that Aslan’s article links to is from 2015. More jihadist attacks have been perpetrated since the studies came out that the article references, such as the Orlando nightclub shooting and the San Bernardino attack.

The New America Foundation, a source behind some of Aslan’s information, actually now list the post-9/11 kill count at 94 perpetrated by jihadists to 50 by right wing extremists (the disparity in violence by right wing extremists between studies has to do with the liberal way in which Perliger’s study defines “right wing extremist”). So, Aslan’s information ignores at least 44 fatalities caused by Islamic jihadists. In all, Aslan gets his stat by starting his count after 9/11 and then eliminating any attacks that have happened after the beginning of 2015, despite his article coming out in February 2017.

By the way, what I think actually happened is this: after a quick Google search, whoever did Aslan’s research for him, or Aslan himself, found this article from Think Progress, also from 2015, which has the “7 times” statistic in its headline and references the same New York Times article Aslan references. Aslan then bypassed the Think Progress article and linked the “7 times” stat in his article directly to the New York Times article. Now you see how fake news is made.

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Let’s Discuss Walls

“The Great Wall of China, built 2,000 years ago, is 13,000 miles long, folks. … And they didn’t have … tractors, they didn’t have cranes, they didn’t have excavation equipment.” – Donald J. Trump

When the question arises, as it often does, “Was the Great Wall of China a success or failure?” one may answer one way or another, but undoubtedly any response to such an inquiry would have to contain something along the lines of “it’s complicated.” You’d have to compare Qin walls with Ming walls, you’d have to weigh the cost, in material dollars and human life, against the effectiveness of the Wall(s) in meeting its objectives, you’d have to consider variables such as strength of armies defending the wall at any given time, you’d have to take into account that when invaders evaded the wall they were still slowed on their path to potential conquest, and so on and so forth. It’s complicated, really complicated. Of course, it was all for naught when Ming general Wu Sangui just opened the gates for the invading Manchus, but alas, that’s not what this post is about.

See I have mixed feelings about the Trump wall, but, like many other things, regressive liberals have pushed the conversation to a point where I have to defend it. It’s not so much that there shouldn’t be a debate about the wall, it’s just that arguments against it have been simplified into: “wall, bad, no wall, good.”

Shouldn’t the conversation really surround the question “is the wall a good idea?” That’s the question I ask myself. It’s a legitimate question. Will the wall really stifle the cartels? Will the wall stop drugs from coming into the country? Will the wall have a national security application in the distant future (possible migrant crises?), Can the wall be built cost/time efficiently? If we believe the answers to those questions are “mostly yes,” then the wall is worth a try. After all, we’ve failed to secure our border for the three or four decades that border security has been a national issue.

And yet, if you support the wall today you are a hateful bigot according to leftists. This is despite the fact that ten years ago a wall was not seen as such a radical idea, despite that there is almost 700 miles of fence and wall along our southern border already, and despite the fact that Hillary Clinton once supported a border barrier and stated that she is “adamantly against illegal immigrants.”

Leftist rhetoric pertaining to the wall is derived from one thing: leftism… obviously, it has nothing to do with a rational debate about the wall. Few wall opponents stop to consider what they are arguing against. Though, many on the right don’t ask the critical questions about it that they should be asking either before shouting, “BUILD IT!”

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Why the Wall?

Let’s talk about the wall.

This article is written to accompany a fantastic article just written by my friend and colleague, Ben Sweetwood, which masterfully sifts through the hysteria over President Trump’s recent executive order on immigration. Here at Griffwood Post, we constantly seek to challenge the prevailing narrative of the day. We live by an important motto: if everyone seems to be in agreement about something, be skeptical.

Everyone, and I mean everyone seems to have a problem with President Trump’s idea of building a wall along the border shared between the United States and Mexico. This includes those who are left, right, libertarian, and everyone else in between. Some of the consternation has produced perfectly valid criticisms of the idea that should not be overlooked. But I write to contend that the idea to build the wall actually has its merits.

Those on the right, and those who abhor government spending, criticize the wall for its cost and complexity. The wall will indeed be expensive—and the proposed methodology of taxing a portion of the U.S.-Mexican trade deficit does eventually pass the cost of the wall on to the consumer. However, in context, the tax does have implicit benefits to the American consumer beyond the wall. The trade deficit exists because the U.S. exports to Mexico about $60 billion dollars in goods less than it imports from Mexico. However, the entirety of the U.S.’s annual imports from Mexico total around $300 billion. Now, 20 percent of $300 billion is enough to pay for three walls at Trump’s price-point of around $20 billion per year. So the cost, in context, is not outlandish. This is not to mention the benefit of protecting and encouraging American industries that directly compete with Mexican products. And if there is any American president who can spur the behemoth of the federal government to actually build something on time and under budget, it’s going to be Donald J. Trump.

But $20 billion is still $20 billion. That’s a costly project.

Another valid criticism is the complexity of building the wall. The Cato Institute has done a great job of illustrating just how complicated the process will be. Building a wall along this 2,000 mile stretch of the American southwest means overcoming geographical challenges, replacing existing walls and fences, equipping the wall with proper surveillance equipment and, of course, maintaining it. This is not to mention the inevitably long amount of time it will take the federal government to argue the hundreds if not thousands of eminent domain cases that will be necessary to gather the lands needed for the construction of the wall (much of the land abutting the U.S.-Mexican border is privately owned.) The wall may not be feasibly possible in Trump’s term.

But just because something is complex doesn’t mean it’s impossible[1]. We got to the moon, we can build a big wall.

And, yes, I’ve heard the argument that many if not most illegal immigrants come into the country by airplane, on lawful visas, and extend their stay indefinitely. Obviously, a comprehensive immigration reform package would need to address that. But the cartels, the drug runners, and criminals fleeing Latin America are not buying group ticket packages on commercial airliners. They’re the ones taking advantage of the porous border, and they’re certainly the ones we want to stop first.

I give criticisms from the left credence as well, but they are becoming a bit too ‘one-sized fits all’ to have retained their bite. I also abhor identity-politics and think the hysteria around Donald Trump is contributing to a dangerous narrowing of political discourse.

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Convenient Ogres

In a debate of ideas, it’s almost irresistible for the left to throw in “Sarah Palin” as a shining example of everything that is wrong with this country, the conservative movement, or the Republican Party. Six years into a new presidency, it’s still “George W. Bush’s fault” when the economy or U.S. foreign policy isn’t up to par, and America’s motivation for just about anything is “oil”.

I have a theorem called “the rule of 5”. On Facebook, any conservative post made usually only takes about 5 comments from liberals before Fox News is somehow roped into the argument—no matter how unrelated.

To the left, these straw man arguments are conveniently-made ogres.

They are used because they are banners that are easy for the left to rally behind. The left has characterized each of these with a narrative that is so pervasive and unquestionably held, that the truth becomes shrouded. Lobbing a reference to one of these entities into any conversation becomes a tactic of distraction that largely works because the right doesn’t spend enough time deconstructing these narratives.

Let’s consider them, briefly.

Ask anyone what the problem is with Sarah Palin, and the “tolerant” and “pro-woman” left will usually offer an argument that equates to ‘she’s dumb’. Consider Chris Matthew’s comments on MSNBC or Huff Post’s perpetuation of the insult.

In an interview with Katie Couric, Palin didn’t answer a condescending question about which news outlets she read. And why would she? When running for President, any side or brand you publicly favor will inevitably lead to those who favor another brand losing favor with you, which means fewer votes. I wouldn’t have answered that question either.

How about seeing Russia from her house? Fact check any leftist who tries to use this argument. According to Snopes, “interviewer Charles Gibson asked her what insight she had gained from living so close to Russia, and she responded: ‘They’re our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.’” The left’s version of Palin’s answer comes from their own mockery of her on Saturday Night Live, yet that distinction is conveniently forgotten.

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Profitable Alarmism

To U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, climate change is “the greatest challenge of our generation.”  And though he characterizes any who disagree as “a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues”, he spends a good amount of time  trying to shutter dissent. To former Secretary of State and potential 2016 Presidential contender Hillary Clinton, climate issues are “the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face.”

Without a doubt, smart consumerism and environmental protection are important issues. We must be responsible stewards of the planet we leave to our children. But the language of the left on this issue is of a passion more feverish than they show for all other pressing matters of our time, like the increasingly large size of government or the thugs such as ISIS running rampant in the Middle East.

Why is this so?

The more control the left attains, the more successful it is in its ambitions. Thus, the principal ambition of the left is control over our lives at the expense of our personal freedoms. This is not necessarily by desire, but by nature. For the “progressive” agenda to gain traction, it has to be accepted in full, because it requires a willful relinquishment of our individual abilities to self-regulate. Opposition can mean a derailment of the “progressive” agenda, because leftist objectives are focused on an assigned concept of the greater good projected upon the masses; an inherently unfair allotment of a finite pool of resources (money, land, solutions, etc.) determined by a handful of people in power. Conservatism, of course, is also concerned with the allotment of resources, but by the fair hand of the market and with a renewing pool of resources supplied by innovation and individual enterprise.

Alarmism is an insidious weapon of the left. Alarmism easily achieves two goals for those who employ it: it creates a reason for those in power to break the rules (i.e. politicians can take more individual freedoms away in the name of the ‘emergency’) and it marginalizes opposition. When the left sounds the alarm on an issue, there’s no time to think, just hand over the wheel and they will steer. Consider the Obama administration’s recent move to circumvent the President’s legal obligation to ratify treaties through Congress by seeking to ratify a climate ‘accord’ with the UN. Or, consider the pervasive dialogue of those in attendance at the 2014 People’s Climate March. According to posters, pamphlets, and stump speeches from many in the crowd, the enemy of the climate is capitalism. Street interview footage available on YouTube shows attendees, when pressed, admitting that they advocate for “a whole new society”… a “socialist” one.

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Stereotypes I Refuse to Accept

Bottom line, for me it is about people. I care about people living and succeeding. Everyone. Our lives are our right; our freedoms are our tools to our happiness and success. This is what I defend.

As a general principal, stereotypes exist about every demographic that should be deplored. I am not discounting their bite.

I am a conservative. There are stereotypes about the right that I can laugh at, accept, and even buy into. Does the Republican Party have a lot of ‘elderly white male’ representation? Sure. Are conservatives wealthy? Some are. Are there outlandish and in some cases deplorable stances taken by a fringe that associate themselves with my same ideology? Of course.

However, I am absolutely and unequivocally rejecting the vitriolic stereotypes of conservatism that are regularly assigned all too often by the left. The legitimacy of those labels end here and now.

As one of few openly conservative students at Columbia University, I sometimes have one of these stereotypes lobbed my way. I can take it, but I won’t accept it.

I will deconstruct these stereotypes one by one.

“Conservatives are anti-minority”

No statement could be further from the truth. Conservatism as an ideology is based upon the notion of the importance of the individual and a government that is limited in its capacity to infringe upon individual liberties. As government becomes larger, it must increasingly rely upon the categorization of citizens to dispense public benefits and collect taxes for the public good. To the government, a system of bureaucracies, you are not the smart, good, hardworking, and capable individual that you, your friends, and your family knows you to be. Instead, you are a white/black/Latino/Asian male/female of the Christian/Jewish/Islamic faith in a certain age group and a certain tax bracket, etc. If you don’t believe this reconsider the information you are required to submit every year on your taxes or the questions asked of you by the U.S. Census.

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