Accuracy in Media

Just days after a 19-year-old left-winger who hates Trump was accused of shooting one person to death and wounding two others at a synagogue in Poway, Calif., the New York Times published a story on the rise of right-wing extremism in California that ignored the strong presence of left-wing hate groups in the state.

The point of the story – “In California, Home to Many Hate Groups, Officials Struggle to Spot the Next Threat,” by Shaila Dewan and Ali Winston – was to point out the suspect in the Poway incident, John Earnest, did not belong to any of the right-wing hate groups law enforcement officials have identified.

“Lone actors who come out of the blue present a daunting challenge for law enforcement, even in a region where investigators have a solid grasp on extremist organizing networks,” Dewan and Winston wrote.

Earnest “claimed to have been inspired by last month’s massacre of Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, by a self-radicalized white supremacist and to have begun planning his attack just four weeks ago.” It is “frustratingly hard to know” if others are being inspired by those who perpetrate these crimes, according to the report.

The shooters in these incidents keep telling investigators they are against conservatives and President Trump in particular. The men responsible for the attacks in New Zealand, Poway and the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the man arrested before he could carry out attacks of “multiple targets” in the Los Angeles area, including “white nationalists, Jews, churches and military bases,” all made clear their opposition to the president.

But the Times’ reporting has focused relentlessly on supposed threats from the right.

“Federal agencies have come under criticism for not giving sufficient attention to the dangers of right-wing extremism,” the Times wrote without supplying any names to go with the criticism. It said the Trump administration created the Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention within the Department of Homeland Security in response to this criticism.

The story then meanders through a variety of what it deems right-wing hate groups. There’s the Ku Klux Klan, which held a rally in Anaheim within the last three years, the Aryan Nation, founded by a former San Diego County resident who had been a grand dragon of the Klan, and the Western Hammerskins, “a chapter of the largest skinhead gang in the United States” for which San Diego “has been the center of gravity.”

“The state’s diversity has increased tolerance among many people who live and work close to others who are different from themselves, but for others it has fueled a sense of alienation and threat, said Lawrence Rosenthal, the chairman of the Center for Right-Wing Studies at the University of California at Berkeley.”

It does not say why there is no Center for Left-Wing Studies, and there perhaps should be.

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