Media Watch

ADL Letter to the Washington Post Regarding Recent Column Attacking ADL Methodology

The following letter was submitted to the Washington Post in response to "Beware the data on American right-wing violence" (May 23)

To the Editor:

In “Beware the data on American right-wing violence,” Megan McArdle admits that far right violence is a problem, but insinuates it isn’t necessarily a bigger problem than other kinds of ideological violence. She offers no evidence but tries to make her case by second-guessing ADL’s annual reports on extremist-connected murders, noting that we count murders committed not only for ideological reasons but also intra- and inter-group murders, non-ideological killings, and killings for which the motive is unknown.

This demonstrates the danger and folly of cherry-picking some findings while not discussing others to measure something as complicated as extremism. Over the last decade, ADL has tracked almost equal numbers of ideological and other types of murders by extremists: 231 vs. 212. Even if one eliminates non-ideological killings, ideological murders by right-wing extremists vastly outnumber those of left-wing extremists, 122 to 18, and are almost one and a half times those of domestic Islamist murders (122 to 87). Moreover, most of the non-right-wing killings took place from 2012-2016, so the recent disparity is even greater. 

But extremist-related murders are only one measure of extremist violence. ADL also tracks extremist-related terrorist attacks, attempted attacks, and plots. Over the last decade ADL has identified 207 domestic terrorist incidents. Of these, the majority (111) were connected to right-wing extremism, while domestic Islamist extremists were responsible for 72 and left-wing extremists for 22. Again, right-wing extremists account for far more terror incidents than any other type of extremist.

It's important to stress that this is not a race. Extremist violence from any source causes suffering. Government and law enforcement must responsibly investigate and combat all sources of violent extremism. 


Mark Pitcavage
Senior Fellow, Center on Extremism
ADL (Anti-Defamation League)
605 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10158