On “Terrorism”

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By Puja

Well. I have no fucking clue where to start.

Do you know how frustrating it is to be a minority woman in 2017? Do you know how draining it is to have the same level-setting conversations all the time? Here is an example of something that saps my energy and will to live: the noticeable difference in the way perpetrators of mass violence are covered by the media.

Las Vegas – Not a lone wolf. A terrorist. Always a terrorist. I absolutely have 0 fucks to give, in fact the world owes me several fucks as it is, that the definition of “terrorist” requires a political or religious motivation for violence. Let’s unpack this.

What about Shakespeare? You know what I am talking about, that quote from Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2? You know that one –

“What is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Or what about the “Duck Test?” You know the oft used example of abductive reasoning that essentially says

“If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”

Have you heard of Occam’s Razor? It’s is a philosophical principle that posits, when there are multiple explanations for something, the simpler one is usually better. The more assumptions you have to make, the more unlikely an explanation is.

All of this to say, the man was a terrorist. The only thing missing is the political motive right? We ruled out religious right away; the first piece of this story to be confirmed was that the Las Vegas terrorist had no ties to ISIS. Well we can’t find a way to blame Muslims for this so let’s stick a pin in calling him a terrorist until then.  So far all the investigation has found is that they can’t figure out the motive.

What if the point was the need for more gun control? Any type of gun control measure proposed has only been stymied at every turn by the gun lobby (AKA the NRA). What if  the need for gun control was the statement?

I have no hope that the Las Vegas terrorist will be labeled as such by anyone anytime soon. Why? Dylann Roof wasn’t labeled a terrorist and he clearly had a political motive; His manifesto stated he wanted to start a race war. I don’t know what is more political than war…

What am I missing here?

Oh right.

Terrorism color

To sum up: If a Muslim person commits ANY ACT OF VIOLENCE, by virtue of just being Muslim, they will be labeled as a terrorist (449% more likely according to the study cited below). If you are a Christian white man, who keeps upping the ante on what domestic terror looks like, you probably will not be.

Even though the Inquisitions, the advent of the Protestant faith, European colonialism, the sex abuse in the church scandals are all acts of violence carried out in the name of Christianity…

Oh you don’t want my anecdotes and metaphors? Well here is a receipt for you – Erin Kearns with the University of Georgia published a study “Why Do Some Terrorist Attacks Receive More Media Attention Than Others?” in 2017:

“Whether the disproportionate coverage is a conscious decision on the part of
journalists or not, this stereotyping reinforces cultural narratives about what and who should be feared. By covering terrorist attacks by Muslims dramatically more than other incidents, media frame this type of event as more prevalent. Based on these findings, it is no wonder that Americans are so fearful of radical Islamic terrorism. Reality shows, however, that these fears are misplaced.”

Must be nice.

What isn’t nice is continuing to perpetuate a system in which Muslims (and other people of color) are labeled using inflammatory and biased language to paint them / us / we as terrorists or dangerous.

What isn’t nice is seeing the disproportionate negative coverage focused on already marginalized groups when any national tragedy happens but having to watch specials and read think pieces about a “mass murder’s” potential motive before he will get the label.

What isn’t nice is the anxiety you feel in public while Brown or Black in 2017.

What isn’t nice is that when a white supremacist kills someone based on the color of their skin, it isn’t considered terrorism because there is “not” a political or religious component to the attack.

What isn’t nice is that one group of victims is offered more protection and justice than another.

What isn’t nice is the damage this is causing. 

Is America Great Again Yet?


Additional Resources:

NPR’s “Is He Muslim?”

Huffington Post’s “Most of America’s Terrorist are White and Not Muslim”

Episode 37 of Crooked Media’s “With Friends Like These” podcast

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