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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Terrorism in the EU from 2006-2019 - the myth of the "danger" of the "far right"

In Terrorism in the EU in 2017, I analysed statistics from Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, on the motivations of failed, foiled and completed terrorist attacks in the EU, and showed that the moral panic about the "far right" was unwarranted, since they accounted for very few terrorist attacks in the EU.

After almost 2 years, I thought it was time for an update: I have dug up the 2018 and 2019 statistics, published by Europol in June (European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend report (TE-SAT) 2020), and they continue to show that right wing terrorism is much, much less significant than left wing and jihadist terrorism, which begs the question of why we continue to obsess so much about it:

In 2019, only 6 out of 119 attacks (5%) had a right wing motivation. This compares to jihadists at 21 (18%) and left wingers at 26 (22%).
(note that the relative magnitudes of the 3 motivations in 2017 and 2018 were similar to 2019, so the data appear to be quite stable)

One can't even claim that right wing terrorists are more dangerous because they are greater in number; if you look at conviction and acquittal data, the disparity becomes even more stark:

In 2019, there were 5 convictions and acquittals in the EU for right wing terrorism, out of a total of 520. This was under 1% of all convictions and acquittals. This contrasts with 362 jihadist (70%), 98 separatist (19%) and 48 left wing (9%) convictions and acquittals.

TE-SAT 2018 and TE-SAT 2019 don't provide a breakdown of convictions and acquittals for 2017 and 2018 respectively, but the texts suggest that the relative magnitudes of jihadist, left and right wing terrorism are the same as for 2019.

Of course, you'd have no idea about this if you only read the mainstream media.

For example, a April 3 2019 article in the New York Times Attacks by White Extremists Are Growing. So Are Their Connections (published, incidentally, just after my original analysis) tries to make it sound like Europe has a very bad white extremist problem.

The Washington Post beats the same drum, with a June 5 2020 article, As Trump vows crackdown on ‘antifa,’ growth of right-wing extremism frustrates Europeans, claiming pretty much the same thing.

We can't even excuse the media by saying that right wingers were a bigger threat in previous years and the journalists were just using older data.

Europol data on attacks from 2006-2012 and 2015-2016 also reflect that right wingers were a distant fourth behind separatist, jihadist/religious/islamist (the terminology isn't consistent) and left wing terrorism (though the ranking of the other 3 changes, in 2009 and 2011 there were marginally more right wing attacks than religious/islamist ones and in 2006 right wingers and islamists tied). There were even years with 0 right wing attacks.

And no, it's not that right winger were a bigger threat in 2013 and 2014 - data on attacks from 2013-2014 doesn't break them down properly, but from the arrest data we can clearly see that separatist, left wing and religiously inspired terrorists were a much bigger threat, which is consistent with attack data in every other year.

Presumably, it is more important to be morally right than factually correct, and since the "right wing" is bad, demonising them with fake news is a good thing.

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