Trump Defunded Research Showing the Rise of Far-Right TerrorismPhoto by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Politics News Domestic Terrorism
Despite what the right will say with hands over eyes, white supremacists commit more domestic acts of terror than Jihadists. That’s an empirical fact. We know that thanks to the work of the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database, or GTD. Using this data, adjunct instructor for American University Erin Kearns told a classroom of students in May 2017 that 35 percent of terrorist attacks on American soil are committed by white supremacists, a figure that’s increased six percent from where it was in the 2000s. Jihadist acts of terror only totaled up to 12 percent. Conservative sites like the Daily Caller caught wind of the lecture and ran attack pieces on Kearns, claiming she was brainwashing students by showing them facts, per New Republic.
Those facts were, importantly, funded by the federal government. Since 2002, the GTD was funded by homeland security and compiled statistics on terror attacks all the way back to 1970. Its 180,000 entries have all been used to find and examine trends in attacks and develop counterterrorism strategies. Oddly, the summer following Kearns’ lecture and its online scrutiny, the federal government pulled the GTD’s funding. Operator of the GTD and criminologist Erin Miller learned the State Department was giving the contract away to a Bethesda, Md., firm called Development Services Group Inc. The University of Maryland would proceed to file an official protest with the Government Accountability Office on the grounds that the State Department held a bias against the GTD, but was unsuccessful. Trump and his administration said they made the move because it was cheaper.
That’s not the only “fiscally responsible” move Trump’s made that affected organizations finding violence in the alt-right, though. When Trump came into office, he cut off the arm of the Department of Homeland Security that was meant to stop violent extremism in its tracks, the Office of Community Partnership. It was an entirely new entity, literally, after Trump changed the office’s name, cut its staff in half and reallocated 87 percent of its budget. Before the fact, the Office of Community Partnership also gave out grants of $400,000 and $867,000, respectively, to two groups: Life After Hate and a research group at the University of North Carolina developing programs that would stop young people from joining extremist groups like Jihadism and white supremacy. Trump took that money back.
But Republicans are famously afraid of facts. In 2009, when Janet Napolitano released a brief describing white supremacists’, radical anti-abortionists’ and veterans’ susceptibility to extremist messages, she was attacked by the right and forced to apologize, simply because she reported her findings. Yet,as New Republic points out, a pro-life extremist murdered a doctor working at an abortion clinic and 10 days after that, a Holocaust museum security guard was killed by a neo-Nazi. But people continue to die because the statistics hurt. The facts are swept under the rug and the problem persists.
Like a virus, the strategy to hamper the facts develops over time. Now, instead of crying the facts away, Trump is contracting his own. There’s no outright proof yet that Miller lost GTD funding because of what she found, but here’s what we know. Miller says the data found by this Development Services Group will almost assuredly be incompatible with previous findings. A Trump-funded research endeavor will use different quantifiers and look for different outcomes, anything so that it doesn’t point to its source as a problem. Once that happens, the database will be tainted. With new methodologies, the GTD will conveniently only be able to compare data points to the ones it collects moving forward and determining trends will be nearly impossible. Now that’s fake news.