Why Does the Media Refuse to Call White Murderers Terrorists?
Robert Dear's murders at a Planned Parenthood are only the latest in a long string of terrorist attacks by Americans.
In the aftermath of the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting, one thing absent from the media was any mention of 57-year-old shooter Robert Dear being labeled a terrorist. Same goes for the Charleston Church shooting. This is in stark contrast to the Paris shootings, in which, before any information whatsoever was available, media (and social media) streams were preemptively deluged with the term.
America has long suffered from fear of the "other," even though, as explained in this insightful piece on the supposed "happy native" origins of Thanksgiving, Europeans were quite the terrorists:
This is not revisionist history. ... This is history that’s just been overlooked because people have become very, very comfortable with the story of happy Pilgrims and friendly Indians. They’re very content with that — even to the point where no one really questioned how is it that Squanto knew how to speak perfect English when they came.
We don’t have to look back centuries to discover examples. Contemplating the current Syrian refugee crisis and America’s role in accepting any, I’ve seen more than a few people conjure Japanese internment camps. That horrific chapter in our history was part of a larger wave that began with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Asiatic Barred Zone Act of 1917, and the Emergency Quota Act of 1921. Slowly our government closed our doors in fear of anything dangerous entering.
The Chinese Exclusion Act was overturned in 1943, but it took until 1965 to lift restrictions on the rest of Asia with the Immigration and Nationality Act. Pressure from human rights groups forced the government to overturn long-standing prejudices — decisions that could potentially be overturned yet again if a Republican were to win the presidency next year.
But our prejudices are not necessarily wiped clean through legislation; in fact, sometimes those fires are stoked when politicians enact anything progressive. Still, this feels like a fringe, although one with a voice, as much of the current hard right (and, in universities, hard left) banter proves. On one side, we’d return to excluding all immigrants; on the other, the mere mention of anything not politically perfect is assaulted in the most ironic free speech attack of our era.
Thus our current target: Islam. There is warrant for this. The more liberal of liberals are agitated when Sam Harris and Bill Maher recommend taking a serious look at what the religion is preaching while championing well-meaning, although shortsighted apologists like Reza Aslan. Nuance abounds on both sides. A predominant number of Muslims are not to blame, although that does not give the religion a free pass from criticism.
Likewise, neither does Christianity. This seems to be something not even forgotten, but never even entertained. The Bible is a murderous, vengeful book fueled by an impenetrable deity. Unlike the gods of Greece and India with their all-too-human characteristics, relationships, and follies, this God admits so little of himself and lays on so much criticism of humans it’s hard to imagine developing any sort of camaraderie with him. The biblical God is a lonely, self-ostracized crank. Perhaps our tribal inclinations should not surprise given this.
We separate through language. Killing for Allah will immediately (and rightly) award you the term terrorist. Killing for God — which, honestly, is the harbinger to Islam’s invisible friend — credits you with crazy, lonely, depressed, neurological; just never the "T" word. Take religion out of the picture: Killing for an idea is, at root, an act of terror. Killing for the sake of it, rare although possible, is also terrorism. You’ve committed an act of terror on others.
As long as our media refuses to label homegrown terrorism what it is, our language gulf remains wide. This functions to not let us see the "other" in ourselves. Thus we debate the shooter's psychological problems and whatever prescriptions he was taking, which has the added inevitable benefit of distracting us from actual gun legislation. Loopholes would have to immediately be addressed if we started labeling Americans terrorists, as would investigating our sordid centuries-old history of excluding anyone not "us."
None of that changes the fact that these are terrorists in our midst. I’m much more likely to die from the idiot on the road who feels that texting while driving is acceptable than from a dirty bomb, but that story is not sexy or fear-inducing. Perhaps it will take, as actor Wendell Pierce recently mentioned on Twitter, a different perspective on how we go about business as usual in America:
If every Black male 18-35 applied for a conceal & carry permit, and then joined NRA in one day; there would be gun control laws in a second.
Whatever Dear and Dylann Roof's motives, they committed acts of terrorism. Killing for nationalism or religious beliefs is to terrorize those who you harm. Calling it by any other name is ludicrous. If we refuse to acknowledge the other in ourselves, we’ll always be scared at the slightest glimpse of our shadow.
Image: PYMCA / Getty
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
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If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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