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

Antimicrobial resistance is a growing threat to good health and well-being

Antimicrobial resistance is growing worldwide, rendering many "work horse" medicines ineffective. Without intervention, drug-resistant pathogens could lead to millions of deaths by 2050. Thankfully, companies like Pfizer are taking action.

Image courtesy of Pfizer.
  • Antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are one of the largest threats to global health today.
  • As we get older, our immune systems age, increasing our risk of life threatening infections. Without reliable antibiotics, life expectancy could decline for the first time in modern history.
  • If antibiotics become ineffective, common infections could result in hospitalization or even death. Life-saving interventions like cancer treatments and organ transplantation would become more difficult, more often resulting in death. Routine procedures would become hard to perform.
  • Without intervention, resistant pathogens could result in 10 million annual deaths by 2050.
  • By taking a multi-faceted approach—inclusive of adherence to good stewardship, surveillance and responsible manufacturing practices, as well as an emphasis on prevention and treatment—companies like Pfizer are fighting to help curb the spread.
Keep reading Show less
Sponsored

22 months of war - condensed in a 1-minute video

No, the Syrian civil war is not over. But it might be soon. Time for a recap

Strange Maps
  • The War in Syria has dropped off the radar, but it's not over (yet)
  • This 1-minute video shows how the fronts have moved – and stabilised – over the past 22 months
  • Watching this video may leave you both better informed, and slightly queasy: does war need a generic rock soundtrack?
Keep reading Show less

Bespoke suicide pods now available for death in style

Sarco assisted suicide pods come in three different styles, and allow you to die quickly and painlessly. They're even quite beautiful to look at.

The Sarco assisted suicide pod
Technology & Innovation

Death: it happens to everyone (except, apparently, Keanu Reeves). But while the impoverished and lower-class people of the world die in the same ol' ways—cancer, heart disease, and so forth—the upper classes can choose hip and cool new ways to die. Now, there's an assisted-suicide pod so chic and so stylin' that peeps (young people still say peeps, right?) are calling it the "Tesla" of death... it's called... the Sarco! 

Keep reading Show less

How to bring more confidence to your conversations

Entrepreneur and author Andrew Horn shares his rules for becoming an assured conversationalist.

content.jwplatform.com
Videos
  • To avoid basing action on external validation, you need to find your "authentic voice" and use it.
  • Finding your voice requires asking the right questions of yourself.
  • There are 3-5 questions that you would generally want to ask people you are talking to.
Keep reading Show less