Conor Friedersdorf | The Atlantic | June 10th 2014 | [Original Article]
If a 22-year-old Muslim man stabbed his roommates to death in their
sleep, embarked on a killing spree, and claimed in written and video
manifestos that he acted to teach hated women a lesson, there's little
doubt that many would label him a terrorist. That label was scarcely
appended to the Santa Barbara killer after his murders.
And if a Muslim couple stormed into a fast-food restaurant armed with
a duffel bag full of military gear, shouted, "This is the beginning of
the revolution!" and pinned a flag associated with their political
movement to the dead bodies of the police officers they executed at
point-blank range—then killed another innocent person and carried out a
suicide pact rather than being taken alive—there is no doubt that many
media outlets would refer to the premeditated attack as an act of
terrorism. With a few exceptions, that's not how this week's news from
Las Vegas played out.
When mass killers are native-born whites, their motivations are
treated like a mystery to unraveled rather than a foregone conclusion.
And that is as it ought to be. Hesitating to dub the Santa Barbara and
Las Vegas murder sprees "terrorist attacks" is likely the right call.
The label casts more heat than light on breaking-news events. Americans
typically respond more soberly and rationally to mass killings than to
"terrorist attacks." And while both sprees obviously targeted civilians,
the varying degrees to which they sought to influence politics is
That said, the pervasive double-standard that prevails is nevertheless objectionable. As Glenn Greenwald once observed,
"terrorism" is "simultaneously the single most meaningless and most
manipulated word in the American political lexicon. The term now has
virtually nothing to do with the act itself and everything to do with
the identity of the actor, especially his or her religious identity."... [Read Full Article]