Are Domestic Terrorists More Aligned With the Political Left Or the Right?



The term “domestic terrorist” has become more or less synonymous with “radical right-winger” in the media.

At least, that is usually what people like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are referring to when they talk about “someone who doesn’t like the health care bill or somethin’.” There were people who didn’t even mind saying that they hoped the terrorist bombing in Boston would turn out to have been conducted by some lone white guy that they are sure is glowing somewhere in the shadows. They always point to the example of Timothy McVeigh. As a radical rightist, this example is fair enough, but he was also an outlier. In truth, domestic terrorists are as likely to come from the left as they are from the right.

A couple of days ago, PolicyMic published an article which stated that domestic terrorists “hid among us — in plain sight — all the time.” True enough, but they aren't attending Tea Party meetings. Instead, they are probably attending faculty meetings universities. One of them is named Bill Ayers and another one (who just got an adjunct professorship at Columbia University after her release from prison for her part in a 1981 armored car heist that killed a police officer) is named Kathy Boudin.

Of course, tenured terrorists had nothing on the Symbionese Liberation Army, a group of disillusioned radical students (all but one of whom was white) who decided to they were the self-appointed leaders of the Black Power movement and immediately carried out this vocation by ... murdering a popular African American school superintendent. A few months later, most of them died in a shootout with the police in Hibernia, California.

Though the ideology of the Weather Underground or the Symbionese Liberation Army was no less destructive than that of Timothy McVeigh, he was much more successful than they were at wreaking havoc. They had as much desire to kill as he did, but lesser competency at doing so. Nonetheless, even McVeigh was not as successful as the Marxist cult leader Jim Jones, the ‘60s radical who became a leftist hero through the patronage of Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone, among others. That is, before he killed more than 900 people in Guyana. 303 of those were children. Timothy McVeigh was probably jealous that he only managed to kill about half as many people as Jones did children.

Does this mean that the radical Left continues to be an extreme threat to domestic peace? Probably not. But that is a two ended street, and so far there is precious little evidence that the extreme right poses more of a threat. The point is that those who go to Tea Party rallies looking for racial slurs or feel the need to write odious commentary on the Right’s “climate of hate” might be able to see the specks in their intellectual adversaries’ eyes better if they removed the rather large I-beams from their own.

No one on the right writes paeans to Timothy McVeigh. They know what that legacy and ideology represents. But radical leftists of the 1960s also left behind a legacy of ashes and when a tenured professor can write a book in praise of a man who murdered more than 300 children or a man whose organization bombed the Pentagon can serve as an education adviser to Chicago’s Democratic mayor, it suggests that the left has not done enough to distance itself from its violent past yet. 

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James Banks

is a Rochester-based writer. He is a former contributor to "The American Interest" Online and has written for "The Weekly Standard," "The Intercollegiate Review" and other publications. He works in web communications and is a doctoral student at the University of Rochester.

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