Monday, October 31, 2005

Putting Things In Perspective

I’ve long maintained that while there are a few truly dangerous people involved in American extremist groups, the vast majority are basically harmless jokers who will never actually try to enact their violent fantasies. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and other watchdog groups will naturally try to exaggerate the threat posed by extremists as a way to terrify their supporters into donating more money to their already swollen bank accounts. For instance, consider this piece from the SPLC’s latest Intelligence Report. It details the deaths of fifteen law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty by extremists over the last ten years. Of course, fifteen murders are fifteen too many, but consider a couple of points. First, of the fifteen dead cops, one was killed by a white power skinhead, and one by a black separatist (the famous H Rap Brown, to be precise). Persons associated with the militia movement murdered the other thirteen. This does not indicate that most branches of extremism (such as white supremacy) are particularly dangerous, but it does make clear that among extremists, militia associated individuals are more likely to commit violent acts. Second, consider these figures, which show that throughout the same period 1,649 officers were killed in the line of duty. That means that extremists murdered les than 1% of all cops killed during this period. If you consider only police officers killed by non-militia associated extremists, the number drops to one cop out of every 800 killed while on duty. Just something to consider the next time you’re thinking of cutting the SPLC a check.


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