New research from the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism shows that all of the 25 extremism-related murders in the United States last year were linked to right-wing extremists. The annual report, released Thursday by the organization that tracks hate groups, also finds that 15 of the 25 extremist-related murder victims were killed in one of two mass shooting sprees. Ten were murdered in the May 2022 massacre at a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, N.Y., and the other five were killed in the November mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo.
In the case of Club Q, largely patronized by the LGBTQ community, prosecutors in the murder trial of the shooting suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, said he was motivated by “aversion to the LGBTQ community.” Aldrich ran a neo-Nazi website and used antigay and racist slurs online, according to police. In the case of the Buffalo shooting, the 18-year-old suspect said he “had to commit this attack” because he cared for “the future of the White race,” according to court documents.
“There are no hypotheticals here,” Mark Pitcavage, senior research fellow with the ADL's Center on Extremism and author of the report, told Yahoo News. “The report really starkly lays out the human cost of extremism, and we have to pay attention to that. Those numbers are telling us something, and those numbers should be a red flag. They're a warning, and especially the numbers for the mass killings. It should be a wake-up call.”
The report, which has tracked extremist-related killings since 2015, explains and analyzes these types of murders. For 2022, Pitcavage said, the researchers were committed to taking a deeper dive into extremist-related mass killings, because of how the category has “dominated the casualty totals.” The report defines mass killings as incidents that include four or more deaths, as well as attempts to kill large numbers of people that succeed in killing at least one.
Extremist-related murders are defined as any murder committed by an extremist, not necessarily those with a political motive. Only 18 of the 25 extremist-related murders were apparently committed for ideological motives, according to the ADL.
“I think the most surprising thing was from the 1970s through the 2000s, so that's like 40 years, there were about five extremist-related mass killing incidents a decade. That’s what the average is,” Pitcavage said. “But in just the past 12 years, we've had 26 more. We had 21 in the 2010s, and already just in 2021 and 2022 we've had five more. So the increase in these numbers has just been alarming.”
The report found that right-wing extremists had committed 335 domestic extremist-related murders over the past 10 years, accounting for 73% of all such murders. That represents 76% of the total 444 murders by domestic-related extremists during the past 10 years.
According to the report, 21 of the 25 murders in 2022 were linked to white supremacists, with the most victims dying in mass shootings. The report highlights a new set of beliefs arising in the ranks of some segments of the white supremacy movement, called the “accelerationist propaganda,” as contributing to some of the extreme acts of violence.
“What they argue is, and what they try to tell other white supremacists or other people is, ‘You're never gonna be able to reform society to turn it into a white supremacist society. You're never gonna be able to use the normal political and social processes to change society to the way we want it,’" Pitcavage explained. “So the only thing left to do is to actually destroy society and build a new white-supremacist-oriented society from the ashes.
“So for accelerationist white supremacists, anything that will hasten the end of society or destabilize it is actually a good thing,” he continued. “This includes mass acts of violence against innocent civilians. So they actually openly encourage those sorts of attacks and provide guidance on how to commit them.
“When people do commit those acts, like Buffalo or the El Paso shooter, they glorify them and promote them, hoping that those people will inspire even more people to follow in their footsteps and also be glorified,” Pitcavage added, referring to the 2019 shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, that left 23 dead. Patrick Crusius, who pleaded guilty, allegedly posted a manifesto with white nationalist and anti-immigrant rhetoric on the online platform 8chan about 20 minutes before the attack. (Many of the victims of his shooting were Latino.)
Domestic extremists are defined in the report as “extremists who are U.S. citizens or longtime permanent residents” determined to “commit murders to further their causes, using deadly force against perceived enemies.” Right-wing extremists include white supremacists, antigovernment extremists and right-wing conspiracy theorists, like the man who shot up a Washington, D.C., pizzeria because he believed a false online rumor that it was being used by Democratic politicians to abuse children. Murders by extremists in the U.S. have also been committed by people on the political left, such as Black nationalists, anarchists and domestic Islamist extremists.
The report also revealed that almost all the mass killings in 2022 (93%) were committed with firearms.
“The lack of adequate gun control is also playing a role,” Pitcavage said. “The vast majority of all of the recent mass killing incidents, all but around three, have been with firearms. You also had the Boston Marathon bombing and a couple of vehicular attacks, but a lot of them have done so with assault-style weapons like AR-15s. In the 1970s and 1980s, an extremist, if they wanted to kill a bunch of people, would think about constructing a bomb. Well, that's difficult and dangerous. But now if you want to commit mass carnage, it's easy to kill someone with an AR-15, and it doesn't require any expertise. So you have people like accelerationist white supremacists urging people to kill, and at the same time you have very deadly weapons easily available.”
“It is frankly too easy,” said Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL's Center on Extremism, “for an individual motivated by hate to purchase a weapon and enter a house of worship, an LBGTQ+ bar, a supermarket or any other public place and wreak havoc on so many lives. We cannot stand idly by and accept this as the new norm.”