Sunday, June 25, 2017

Reveal, Revealed: New Terrorism Study Uses Data from Terrorist Organization

You may have expected left-leaning journalists to reflect on the Alexandria, Virginia, terrorist attack. Perhaps you anticipated calls for level-headed contemplation. Or, maybe you thought it appropriate for left-leaning journalists to deescalate the war-of-words that helped bring us to this point. Nope. Instead, various left-leaning media outlets instinctively began pointing to new "studies" that purport to show that right-wing terrorism poses the greatest threat to American society. This blog post will provide a brief examination of one of those studies -- a joint project by the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, a nonprofit media center, and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

The Investigative Fund/Reveal "study" -- "Home is where the hate is" -- reads more like a frothy-mouthed polemic against Trump's immigration orders than a detached, scholarly investigation. This study examines a nine-year span (January 2008 to the end of 2016) and pushes the same premises as the Kurzman and Schanzer study -- right-wing extremism poses the greatest threat to American society; Islamic extremism receives a disproportionate amount of attention and resources relative to the threat, while far right-wing extremists go under-investigated and under-prosecuted. The study's splash claims are that foreign-born residents only accounted for 13% of terror attacks, and only 1% of terrorists came from the countries on Trump's travel ban list. Predictable methodological flaws are present, including a heavy analytical emphasis on the total number of incidents (for background on how the number of "hate incidents" were inflated over the last decade, see here), rather than fatalities. Among the many glaring methodological short-comings, sourcing for the "Homegrown Terror" database is the most concerning. According to the website:
To build our Homegrown Terror database, we obtained data from a variety of sources: the Congressional Research Service, the FBI, DT Analytics, The Heritage Foundation, the Investigative Project on Terrorism, New America, Mother Jones, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Abortion Federation and the Animal Liberation Front’s own website. In addition, we set up news filters and searched journalism databases to scoop up missing incidents, using search terms such as “Islamist,” “sovereign citizen,” “Oath Keeper,” “ecoterrorism” and so on.
In other words, Reveal's "study" is built on data gleaned from left-leaning think tanks, which are supplemented by data taken from far-left online publications (some of which rely on unverified, self-reported "hate incidents") and key-word algorithms. To say that this study is fraught with methodological flaws would be a tragic understatement. Mother Jones, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Southern Poverty Law Center (more on SPLC here), the National Abortion Federation?

The Animal Liberation Front?

There's predictable left-wing bias, and then there's including an FBI-designated terrorist (ALF) organization's data in a study on terrorism -- sometimes fact is indeed stranger than fiction. Despite the obvious red-flag (pun intended), this study has been cited by numerous "respectable" media outlets in the feverish post-Alexandria push to convince Americans that the greatest threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is a right-wing terrorist. The Investigative Fund/Reveal study was uncritically parroted by Newsweek, the Huffington Post, The Independent, the Digital Journal, Hot Air, Alternet, and Good.

Seek truth.

- The Cowboy Historian

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