Pittsburgh Shooting And Other Cases Point To Rise In Domestic Extremism The U.S. endured three bouts of domestic extremism last week. American-born men with far-right beliefs have been charged in all of them, in keeping with a long-standing pattern.

Pittsburgh Shooting And Other Cases Point To Rise In Domestic Extremism

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/662233666/662253658" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


In just the past week, we've seen three high-profile cases of domestic extremism; two were deadly shootings, one at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, the other at a grocery store in Louisville, Ky. The third was the explosives sent through the mail to a prominent Democrats. All three of the suspects now in custody are men born here in the U.S. NPR's Greg Myre joins us now to talk about the common threads between these incidents. Hey, Greg.


SHAPIRO: We hear so much about international terrorism and efforts to stop people from other countries. These incidents are all homegrown. How common is that?

MYRE: Absolutely. You know, 9/11 really concentrated the mind on radical Islam from abroad. But the numbers since then tell a very different story. Deadly attacks by the far-right white supremacists outnumber those by Muslim extremists by a ratio of 3 to 1, about 70 attacks versus 23. The death toll in the past 17 years - about the same - about 125 on both sides here. The far right tends to target small minorities in smaller numbers than the indiscriminate attacks that many of the radical Muslims have carried out.

SHAPIRO: And when you look at the three people who are accused of these attacks in the last week, they all look similar to each other - men born in the U.S. Should we read something into that? Is this the new face of extremism?

MYRE: It's sort of been the face of extremism. These are American men acting on their own and they account for a solid majority of extremist attacks - really started picking up about a decade ago. The man accused in Pittsburgh made anti-Semitic remarks on social media. The Louisville suspect had a reputation for racist comments and the mail bomb suspect in Florida always told worker co-workers that he admired Hitler and thought that gays and Jews and blacks should be eliminated. I spoke to Bill Braniff, the director of the START consortium at the University of Maryland. They study terrorism, and his research points to this far-right obsession that white Americans are at risk.

WILLIAM BRANIFF: What are the characteristics of an individual that sort of allow them to go from nonviolence in support of one of these ideologies to violence? And we find that believing in this collective sense of victimhood is a near-necessary condition.

SHAPIRO: Greg, we've seen so much in the way of government efforts to fight Islamic extremism. Is there the same effort to stop this kind of domestic far-right extremism?

MYRE: Probably not the same level. Christopher Wray, the FBI director, was before Congress just a couple weeks ago. He said Islamist extremism - he still sees that as the greatest threat. But then he noted very quickly there are a thousand active investigations inside the U.S. And he said this covers everything from right to left and everything in between. He didn't break it down further than that, but he specifically said this was not Islamic extremists he was talking about here. And the challenge, of course, is how do you find people? There are - is the social media trail. But there are so many American men expressing the thoughts these days, it's hard to tell who will act and who's just ranting.

SHAPIRO: We're going to hear more in a moment about one social media site that's become a platform for these rants. But first, the FBI is describing the scope of the problem. What is it and the Trump administration more broadly doing about it?

MYRE: The Trump administration hasn't shown a lot of interest. The Obama administration created a program, Countering Violent Extremism, giving grants to local groups to prevent radicalization. The Trump administration has cut that way back and hasn't really focused on far-right threats despite the growing numbers of attacks.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre. Thanks, Greg.

MYRE: Thanks, Ari.

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.