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New Right-Wing Fringe Conspiracies Are Behind Increase in Extremist Killings

New Right-Wing Fringe Conspiracies Are Behind Increase in Extremist Killings

Newer factions of far-right movements fueled by conspiracy theories, misogyny, and anti-vaccine views contributed to a rise in killings by domestic extremists in the United States last year, according to a report released Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League.

Killings by domestic extremists increased from 23 in 2020 to at least 29 last year, with right-wing extremists killing 26 of those people in 2021, the Anti-Defamation League said in a report first provided to The Associated Press by the Jewish civil rights group.


The QAnon conspiracy theory has been linked to other acts of real-world violence, including last year’s riot at the U.S. Capitol. In June, a federal intelligence report warned that QAnon adherents could target Democrats and other political opponents for more violence. A core idea QAnon promotes is that Trump was secretly fighting a Satan-worshipping, child sex trafficking cabal of “deep state” enemies, prominent Democrats, and Hollywood elites.

The ADL distinguishes between killings that it considers to be driven by ideology and those that it found to be non-ideological or lacking a clear motive. Its report says the numbers for each category have been close to even over the past 10 years. The ADL concluded that 14 of the 29 extremist killings in 2021 were apparently motivated at least in part by ideology.

The ADL attributed 13 killings last year to white supremacists, three to anti-government extremists, two to Black nationalists, and one to an Islamist extremist. But the report says that white supremacists, antigovernment sovereign citizens, and other adherents of long-standing movements were responsible for most of the 19 deadly attacks it counted in 2021. The New York City-based organization’s list also included killings linked to newer right-wing movements that spread online during the coronavirus pandemic and Trump’s time in office.

The ADL concluded that roughly half of the 2021 killings didn’t have a clear ideological motive, fitting a pattern that stretches back at least a decade. The group’s tally included a shooting rampage in Denver by Lyndon James McLeod, who killed five people in December before a police officer fatally shot him. McLeod was involved in the “manosphere,” a toxic masculinity subculture, and harbored revenge fantasies against most of his victims, the ADL report notes.

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Right-wing conspiracy theorists killed five people last year in two incidents, both involving “troubled perpetrators,” the ADL report says. In August, California surfing school owner Matthew Taylor Coleman was charged with killing his two young children with a spear gun in Mexico. Coleman told an FBI agent that he was “enlightened” by conspiracy theories, including QAnon, and believed his wife had passed “serpent DNA” on to his children, according to a court affidavit. A Maryland man, Jeffrey Allen Burnham, was charged with killing his brother, his sister-in-law, and a family friend in September. Charging documents said Burnham confronted his brother, who worked as a pharmacist, because he believed he was “poisoning people” with COVID-19 vaccines.

Read the full report on the ADL’s website.

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