Vocabulary Test

So, quick: What do you call someone who cobbles together a homemade explosive device that he will then plant in a public building in order to make a political point and to achieve certain ends by striking fear into the targeted group?

A terrorist?

Silly you. They’re only terrorists now if they’re Muslim. Good Christian Amurricans who make their own IED’s are plain old … well, the one who made the bomb in this story isn’t called anything but a “25-year-old” in this story from MSNBC, filed under the heading “Crime and Punishment”:

RIVERDALE, Md. – A man who told police he made a pipe bomb to attack an abortion clinic was arrested Thursday, shortly before the device went off in a friend’s home while authorities tried to disable it, according to court documents.

No one was injured by the explosion, which started a fire that burned the top floor of the Riverdale home, officials said.

Some friends of Robert F. Weiler Jr. had tipped off police about the 25-year-old’s plans Wednesday night.

. . .

According to an ATF affidavit, Weiler planned to bomb an abortion clinic in Greenbelt and use a .40-caliber handgun he had stolen from a friend to “shoot doctors who provided abortions.”

How much do you want to bet that his church, his friends and his family will not be put under surveillance to watch for “fiery sermons” and incitement to terror?

How much do you want to bet that if his name was Salim Ibrahim and he lived in Dearborn and attended a mosque, this would be a story about terrorism?

H/T Thomas, who got it from AmericaBlog.

UPDATE: Shakespeare’s Sister argues that this kind of thing is the direct result of a culture that tolerates eliminationist rhetoric from the likes of Ann Coulter. I’m not so sure I agree, given that abortion-clinic bombings were a lot more frequent in the pre-O’Reilly era. But go read, and see what you think.


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24 comments for “Vocabulary Test

  1. June 9, 2006 at 3:41 pm

    I would go one further and suggest that had this person intended to damage a fur farm or a logging company they too would be labeled a terrorist.

    The ALF and ELF have been demonized to the point where the right portrays them as terrorists, and the left villifies them by likening them to these anti-choice extremists, all the while forgetting the fact that no one has ever been killed by either group.

    Sorry, I’m not trying to hijack your post and change the subject. And I believe you’re absolutely right about this.

  2. zuzu
    June 9, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    Actually, that’s an excellent point.

  3. June 9, 2006 at 4:10 pm

    I would be interested in seeing what kind of church he attends…

    Your right, they should call a spade a spade.

  4. johnieb
    June 9, 2006 at 4:16 pm

    Sillly persons! It’s only terrorism when they do it. They? Aren’t us. QED.

  5. johnieb
    June 9, 2006 at 4:16 pm

    Silly persons! It’s only terrorism when they do it. They? Aren’t us. QED.

  6. June 9, 2006 at 4:25 pm

    I have been WAITING and WAITING for the AMerican Puiblic to realize that
    1) Abortion clinic bombers/shooters ARE TERRORISTS and
    2) That it is FUNDAMENTALISM that is dangerous, FUNDAMENTALISM of ALL TYPES, not just Islamic fundamentalists.

    But I grew up in the seventies, when there was a free press and being “Progressive” was considered a GOOD thing.

    Can we, somehow, by “public outcry”, get this man TREATED as a terrorist, and the congregation he attends? What would be the first step?

  7. June 9, 2006 at 4:26 pm

    Isn’t RIVERDALE where NANCY DREW lives? SHE can tell us what to do !!

  8. June 9, 2006 at 4:35 pm

    Jake, you said exactly what I was thinking. Great post, zuzu.

  9. StacyM
    June 9, 2006 at 5:18 pm

    Oh sh*t, I know where that clinic is. I used to volunteer as an escort at that clinic a number of years ago (that’s were you escort women into a clinic that’s surrounded by protestors).

    It’s situated right between two gas stations and has a private residence attached to the back of the clinic.

    That could have been amazingly disastrous in any number of ways.

  10. June 9, 2006 at 5:50 pm

    Not that i condone the guantanamo treatment in any way,or torture for that matter,AT ALL.
    but just thinking… is not there were the terrorist go? or the treatment they get to “save” the rest of the people of new attacks.

    maybe they’ll fly him to europe’s secret torture chambers…..

    well, what the hell!! he’s abercrombie-american and hates on “the right people” maybe he’ll get an scholarship from liberty university instead…

    i know is not a new thing,this hipocrisy,but still makes me maaad!!

  11. June 9, 2006 at 6:04 pm

    I agree with this post and with Jake’s comment. This man is a terrorist, someone who spraypaints a wall of a facility that has animal testing isn’t (and I’ve worked in one, and have very low tolerance for “animal rights” kooks). Language is important, a spade is a spade.

    However, it does seem to slightly contradict Zuzu’s earlier statement on this thread (#9):

    The “common denominator” in terrorism is that it’s a tactic used by the weak (actual or self-styled) against the strong. Period. Terror is a tactic.

    Of course, the “self-styled” bit allows for some interpretational leeway, but one could hardly argue, with South Dakota and all, that “abortionists” are strong in America.

    Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the strong define terrorism as “political violence I do not like”.

  12. June 9, 2006 at 7:44 pm

    However, it does seem to slightly contradict Zuzu’s earlier statement

    I dunno, it seems pretty clear that the religious far right in this country feels as though they are under attack and quite vulnerable…see the “War on Christmas,” and such. They seem to feel the gay athiest abortion doctor darwinists are coming ot get them or something.

    While those higher in the ranks probably know for a fact they’re not in any kind of danger, those at the ‘foot-soldier’ level (ugh, couldn’t think of another way to phrase that, sorry) may feel more urgent about it.

  13. Daniel@nyu
    June 9, 2006 at 7:58 pm

    The word “terrorist” is a loaded word heavy with connotations and implicitly editorial and use, and many newspapers and other outlets have longstanding policies going back well before Sept. 11 to not use it.

    I took most of the skills-based j-school classes before 2001, so the discussion of terrorism was more related to Israel at the time, but most papers responded to that by describing members of Palestinian terror organizations “militants” and describing terrorists by their acts, for example “gunman” or “suicide bomber.” My understanding is that the style manuals and editorial policies continue to avoid using the word “terrorism” to describe Palestinian violence against Israelis.

    However, there’s been a movement in the press to refer to Al Qaeda and its members as “terrorists”. Both MSNBC and NYT both described Zarqawi as a “terrorist.” I expect the term was discussed by editors at various outlets, and I agree with their determination that it is accurately descriptive of people like Bin Ladin, Al-Zawahiri, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Zarqawi, as well as the 9-11 hijackers. However, fighters in Iraq are still generally called “insurgents” and Afghan captives are still “detainees.”

    Osama and his homeboys are the only ones to earn the tag, outside of the editorial page, and the fuckers flew airplanes into buildings and killed thousands, so they deserve it. My feeling is that the press is comfortable using it because they feel that it’s unambiguously accurate in these cases and completely uncontroversial

    So what’s your beef?

  14. Daniel@nyu
    June 9, 2006 at 8:05 pm

    In addition to Palestine, word “terrorist” is also avoided when describing Northern Ireland and Chechnya.

    I would be extremely surprised if vandalism by the Earth Liberation Front was described as “terrorism” by mainstream press like the wire services, the NY Times, the LA Times or the Washington Post (and it used to be network news and CNN. I use the internet now instead of television, so I’m not sure if their standards have slipped in response to the rise of Fox). Editorial boards may use a term like “eco-terrorism” if they find it to be widely understood and accurately descriptive, but I would be very surprised to see a member of these organizations described as a “terrorist” in the mainstream press.

  15. zuzu
    June 9, 2006 at 8:18 pm

    Daniel, my “beef” is that this kind of terrorism gets a pass because it’s Christians — white, American Christians — targeting abortion clinics. And the mainstream press certainly does use the term “ecoterrorist.”. Not a big stretch, when you consider that several state legislatures were looking at labeling vandalism by animal-rights or environmental activists as “ecoterrorism.” Oklahoma, in fact, did.

    I don’t know where you get the idea that the IRA was never known as a terrorist organization. They don’t get that label much now because they haven’t been committing any acts of terror for several years. Same with the other groups that were active in Europe in the 80s and 90s.

    And there’s good reason to call the people in Iraq “insurgent” — they’re trying to expel an occupying military. Which is a bit different than shooting up an abortion clinic or a subway in unoccupied territory, wot?

  16. Dianne
    June 9, 2006 at 8:31 pm

    Daniel: I don’t know about j-school standards, but the US State Department describes a number of organizations other than al Qaida, including the IRA, HAMAS and several other Palastinian organizations, ETA, and at least one Chechnyan group as terrorists. Needless to say, no anti-abortion group makes the list.

  17. Daniel@nyu
    June 9, 2006 at 9:06 pm

    Well, an SF Trib feature/interview that was, to some extent, about the treatment of environmental extremists as terrorists using the word isn’t really the same thing as a straight news story describing environmentalist vandalism as terrorism without elaboration.

    The activities of many groups considered terrorist groups by the US state department are usually not described as “terrorist” though it may be noted that State has designated the group as such. The explanation is strictly pragmatic; someone can argue with you over whether a Palestinian suicide bomber is a terrorist, but if you just call him a suicide bomber, they can’t dispute the accuracy of the description.

    I don’t think antiabortion groups get a pass on this stuff. The killers seem to be lone nuts, and any group that was implicated would probably be gutted by criminal conspiracy charges. I don’t think there’s a serious argument that people are getting wrist-slap sentences for shooting doctors. The newspaper here just practiced reasonable editorial judgment in following the general rule of describing what somebody did in a factual manner without sticking any labels on it.

  18. June 9, 2006 at 11:45 pm

    plucky punk:

    I dunno, it seems pretty clear that the religious far right in this country feels as though they are under attack and quite vulnerable…see the “War on Christmas,” and such. They seem to feel the gay athiest abortion doctor darwinists are coming ot get them or something.

    Indeed, but it does raise doubt about zuzu’s assertation that terrorism is used against the strong. Seems to me that terrorism can be used equally well by the strong to keep the weak down.

  19. June 10, 2006 at 1:17 am

    Well, an SF Trib feature/interview…

    Ah, that explains it. You’re posting from a different space-time continuum.

  20. Daniel@nyu
    June 10, 2006 at 11:24 am

    Well, an SF Trib feature/interview…

    Ah, that explains it. You’re posting from a different space-time continuum.

    The east coast. I I’m not that familiar with the SF papers. That article was actually from the Chronicle, which I think is a pretty good paper. I just got mixed up.

  21. Daniel@nyu
    June 10, 2006 at 12:04 pm

    I dunno, it seems pretty clear that the religious far right in this country feels as though they are under attack and quite vulnerable…see the “War on Christmas,” and such. They seem to feel the gay athiest abortion doctor darwinists are coming ot get them or something.

    They think it’s Satan. They think all this stuff is a vast conspiracy run by the actual, literal Devil. And everything sexual, secular, or in any way contradictory to their dogma is a calculated ploy by Satan and his minions to exterminate the faith and bring about Hell on Earth.

    They unabashedly view themselves as a persecuted minority.

    Of course, they’re not entirely wrong. Their rhetoric is horrifying to people who take them seriously, most notably lefties who view them as part of a different monstrous conspiracy. But, seen in their proper context, it’s pretty clear that the Christian Right are a bunch of sideshow freaks. The fear they arouse in the Left can only be matched by the contempt they arouse in the Republican elites.

    The same thing happens every election cycle. The Republican party fabricates some totally superfluous “social,” “values” or “moral” issue, bait some lefty kooks to make statements that get the fundies all wound up, and then the fundies start sending checks to the Republicans, who build up steam behind some meaningless symbolic gesture, get re-elected, do nothing, and ignore the Christians until they need their votes and money again.

    That’s what they did with gay marriage, that’s what they did with Terry Schiavo, and that’s what they’ve been doing with abortion for longer than most of us have been alive. Bush winds up these people’s anxieties, but doesn’t actually deliver on any of their social agenda.

    If you look at the domestic agenda, there’s been a lot of movement on tax cuts, like the removal of the estate tax for the wealthiest 10th of a percent, and broad income tax cuts.

    There has also been a continuing policy of deficit spending, which is a conservative assault on social programs. They call it “starving the beast.” The goal is to drive the budget so deep into the red that they have to cut out the programs to right the ship.

    And finally, there was the big, failed push to privatize Social Security (which I support. Social Security looks like a pyramid scheme to me).

    Meanwhile, 12 years of Republican control of Congress, and almost 7 years of control over the entire US government, and Roe v. Wade is still there. Right-wing abortion politics is like a soap opera. They give them enough to keep watching, but they never really tie up the loose ends, because the show has to keep going.

    The push for an amendment against gay marriage is also an issue engineered by the Republicans to motivate the Christians without actually having to do anything for them. Massachusetts is the only state that’s marrying same-sex couples, and it’s only for Massachusetts residents. No other states have legalized gay marriage and 45 states have banned it. Civil unions and legal recognition is more widespread, but it’s a lot easier to stand at a podium and say “marriage is for a man and a woman” than it is to discuss joint-filing of taxes and health-care decisionmaking.

    The Christian Right is the Republican counterpoint to the Democrats’ Progressive Left. However, the Republicans have the Christians completely under control and marching in lockstep, while the Democrats lose the Left to things like Nader if they try to court the middle. This is the primary reason that the Republicans are currently the majority party.

  22. June 10, 2006 at 9:56 pm

    I’ve been saying it for years. Christian fundos and Muslim fundos are two sides of the same damn coin.

  23. Loosely Twisted
    June 12, 2006 at 8:01 am

    Daniel, my “beef” is that this kind of terrorism gets a pass because it’s Christians — white, American Christians — targeting abortion clinics. And the mainstream press certainly does use the term “ecoterrorist.”. Not a big stretch, when you consider that several state legislatures were looking at labeling vandalism by animal-rights or environmental activists as “ecoterrorism.” Oklahoma, in fact, did.

    I totally get what your saying zuzu, and I absolutely agree, a spade is a spade.

    But I had another Idea, because of all the fear the government has instilled into the American Sheeple, maybe they thought it prudent not to use it so as not to cause a “panic” such as an incident in a crowded theater and someone screams “fire”. Surely the panic that is caused will get someone hurt.

    I think the press has to be careful as well to not create a panic in which people will fight back. Watching their words as well as shaping the fear from the government to control us. (Or attempt to) Those of us who are above that kind of crap of course see it for what it is.

    But those people who are completely wrapped up in the political landscape (ie. SHEEPLE) will not see it for what it is, and of course not even question. But should they label this dude what he is, it could cause a huge out cry across the nation. A panic that would not be prudent.

    Just my observation. I could be wrong.

  24. June 13, 2006 at 1:38 pm

    “Osama and his homeboys are the only ones to earn the tag, outside of the editorial page, and the fuckers flew airplanes into buildings and killed thousands, so they deserve it. My feeling is that the press is comfortable using it because they feel that it’s unambiguously accurate in these cases and completely uncontroversial”

    IIRC, Timothy McVeigh was repeatedly referred to as a “terrorist”, and rightly so.

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