Intentionally flying planes into buildings because you don’t like a particular government: Terrorism or no? Let’s debate.

Newsweek editors and reporters discuss the use of the word “terrorist” and essentially conclude that it’s mostly applicable to foreigners with beards. The conversation is an off-shoot of the story of the IRS “protestor” (as the Wall Street Journal designated him) who flew his plane into an IRS building because he didn’t like paying taxes. That guy’s daughter got a spot on Good Morning America to laud her “hero” father — although she admitted that his decision to fly a plane into a building was “inappropriate,” but “Now maybe people will have to listen” when it comes to the whole taxes-are-bad thing. (Smirky sidenote: She lives in Norway). Newly-elected Republican goldenboy Scott Brown commented that, yeah, flying planes into buildings isn’t very nice, but “people are frustrated” and “no one likes paying taxes” — plane-man just wanted greater political accountability! He was frustrated with the U.S. government’s unjust infringement on what he believed to be rightfully his. Unlike the brown people who fly planes into buildings. They’re just mad at our freedoms.

Some folks at Newsweek point out that the Underpants Bomber is more of a terrorist because he’s affiliated with a foreign terror network; the Fort Hood shooter is a terrorist too because, although he wasn’t formally affiliated with any network, he may have talked to a guy who was affiliated with terrorists. But I find Devin Gordon’s take on the media’s hesitance to use the t-word for IRS Guy to be the most convincing:

I continue to be fascinated by the divergent reactions between Austin Wacko and Underpants Man, and I think it goes much deeper than the taxonomy of what is a “terrorist.” (One simple reason: Tiger Woods didn’t step on the Underpants saga the very next day. Sigh.)

Fundamentally, I’m with Dan: a Texan white guy named Joe Stack isn’t as interesting / enraging / anxiety-inducing as a Nigerian Muslim named Abdulmutallab. I’m also with Eve: Stack’s philosophy, unlike Abdulmutallab’s, is pretty kosher with many — maybe even most — Americans. We’re basically with him right up to the burn-down-your-house-and-fly-a-plane-into-a-building part of the story. Other than that part, right on, Joe Stack! (Heck, newly minted Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown all but said as much in a very clumsy TV appearance about this story the day after it happened.)

But I’m most intrigued by a couple of things Mike suggested. First, that Abdulmutallab’s actions fit into a much larger terrorism narrative that has stretched out for years, resulted in ongoing wars and decided presidential elections. Isolated, Underpants Man’s actions are surely milder than Stack’s — it still amazes me that a man flying a plane into a building doesn’t make us flinch much more — but Stack’s actions are just that: isolated.

Then again, what if they aren’t? That’s the other thing that intrigued me about what Mike wrote: “The FBI gets skittish when you ask what they do about domestic terrorist groups because they clearly realize that the line between domestic terrorist and political dissident can sometimes be a blurry one.” One thing that could’ve stretched out this Austin Wacko story out quite a bit longer is if the mainstream media had been bolder about connecting it to the larger anti-tax political phenomenon in this country today: the Tea Party. But most of us weren’t willing to go there. Why? Because we are perceived as being dismissive and condescending toward the movement — OK, we *are* dismissive and condescending toward the movement. In short, we tend to treat them like wackos and we are gun-shy about going the full Monty and suggesting they are this close to being *violent* wackos. The FBI is skittish about that blurry line, and so is the media. Better to leave it alone and move onto Tiger Woods. Hey, how about THAT guy, huh?

We see the same thing with anti-abortion violence. Anti-choicers bomb and set fire to clinics, harass patients, and kill doctors as part of an organized movement, but most mainstream media outlets hesitate to qualify those actions as terrorism. Because, you know, those people are just frustrated and I suppose they sometimes act inappropriately in response. Plus they don’t have beards.

To recap: Flying planes into buildings = mostly bad, but maybe a little bit ok if you hate taxes. Definitely all bad if you’re Muslim.

And here I thought “Don’t fly planes into buildings, that is really bad” could be a place where we all found common ground, like Obama has been talking about.


Similar Posts (automatically generated):

About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Politics, Terrorism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to Intentionally flying planes into buildings because you don’t like a particular government: Terrorism or no? Let’s debate.

  1. auditorydamage says:

    Tim McVeigh = Eric Rudolph = Andrew Joseph Stack.

  2. Slug says:

    Thank you. That was a very incisive and satisfying post.

  3. Manju says:

    “To recap: Flying planes into buildings = mostly bad, but maybe a little bit ok if you hate taxes. Definitely all bad if you’re Muslim.”

    I think he’s a terrorist, but the mode of attack isn’t all that important. There was akid who flew a plane into a building a few years back, and he had a note with bin ladens name on it and everything, but many media oulets didn’t label it terrorism.

  4. Manju says:

    “We see the same thing with anti-abortion violence. Anti-choicers bomb and set fire to clinics, harass patients, and kill doctors as part of an organized movement, but most mainstream media outlets hesitate to qualify those actions as terrorism.”

    I this true? I googled newsed “terrorist scott roeder” and got 200 hits:

    http://news.google.com/archivesearch?q=terrorist+scott+roeder&scoring=a

    As a control, I tired the SUV terrorist (Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar) (and I recall reluctance/debate to call him a terrorist) and got 70 hits:

    http://news.google.com/archivesearch?q=Mohammed+Reza+Taheri-azar+terrorist&num=10&hl=en&scoring=a

    • Jill says:

      “We see the same thing with anti-abortion violence. Anti-choicers bomb and set fire to clinics, harass patients, and kill doctors as part of an organized movement, but most mainstream media outlets hesitate to qualify those actions as terrorism.”

      I this true? I googled newsed “terrorist scott roeder” and got 200 hits

      …ok? Not sure how that proves that most mainstream media outlets define those actions as terrorism.

  5. preying mantis says:

    Oh, well. I suppose we can wait until there are enough Muslims in the general population for them to start flying planes into IRS buildings because they object to not being recognized as tax-exempt churches to call it terrorism.

  6. PrettyAmiable says:

    I liked this article because I partially wanted to say, “He was just depressed because his life was hard, etc etc excuses” before I realized A) his life was FABULOUS compared to most people we in the US call terrorists and B) having a tough life doesn’t excuse you from crimes against humanity, especially those that aim to manipulate people’s actions through fear.

    Thank you for revealing my own prejudice. I hope individuals with more influence than me read this and learn something about themselves too.

  7. melancholia says:

    As an Austinite, I feel compelled to point out that Joe Stack wasn’t a Texan. He was from Pennsylvania and came to Austin via L.A.

    Also, it’s true Norway has an average personal income tax burden of 38%, but they get REALLY nice social services for it. We get a massive military machine that slaughters Muslims, a shit infrastructure, and a huge prison system to facilitate our war on drugs. So I don’t quite see the irony in his daughter’s statement (reprehensible though it was).

  8. Manju says:

    “…ok? Not sure how that proves that most mainstream media outlets define those actions as terrorism.”

    True, buts its not only enough to show most mainstream oulets declined the terrorist label for Roeder, we then have to show those very same outlets labled a similar incident, perpetrated by a Muslim, an act of terrorism.

    which is why i referenced Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar. He was a lone-wolf and there were immediate reports of politcal motivation, yet many in the media ( ithink most) didn’t lable it terrorism. For example:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11660817/

  9. latinist says:

    “The FBI gets skittish when you ask what they do about domestic terrorist groups because they clearly realize that the line between domestic terrorist and political dissident can sometimes be a blurry one.”

    This seems to me to be a very good reason for the FBI to get skittish; they have, in the past, certainly used the “this person holds some radical beliefs, and other people with those beliefs have acted violently, so. . . .” excuse to harass various legitimate dissidents, and I want them being very careful not to do it in the future.

    The point I’d like to see made is actually that we should ALSO be worried about this in a foreign-policy context[1]; if preventing violence isn’t a good reason for arresting and spying on peaceful people at home who don’t like taxes or reproductive rights, neither is it a good reason for abducting or bombing anyone abroad who wants U.S. troops out of the Middle East, or thinks Christians and Jews are infidels, or whatever.

    [1] or, for that matter, a domestic-policy-but-the-guy-has-a-Muslim-name context.

  10. preying mantis says:

    “they have, in the past, certainly used the “this person holds some radical beliefs, and other people with those beliefs have acted violently, so. . . .” excuse to harass various legitimate dissidents, and I want them being very careful not to do it in the future.”

    Except that they were still doing that as recently as two years ago, so they’re being skittish of calling a plane-crashing terrorist a plane-crashing terrorist while also still planting agents to spy on vegan cooking groups.

  11. joe says:

    i could have said it better myself

  12. dylan says:

    Actually, the FBI is harassing many activists for dubious reasons all the time, as we speak. This website has a lot of good information if anyone is curious: (also has a brief but link-rich article about this Joseph Stack business)

  13. Cee says:

    most definitely terrorism

  14. Uzza says:

    Say what you like about this latest episode, can someone explain to me why the Amish School Shooting wasn’t terrorism? Or the Pittsburgh Health Spa shooting? or the Montreal Massacre? etc etc etc

  15. La Lubu says:

    Absolutely it is terrorism. It should be spoken of that way and the prosecuted that way (when the perp remains alive, that is). And as for this:

    We’re basically with him right up to the burn-down-your-house-and-fly-a-plane-into-a-building part of the story.

    Bullshit.

  16. Beylita says:

    The FBI doesn’t have that same hesitation about labeling domestic organizations as “terror groups” when it comes to animal rights activists as they do when it comes to people who murder doctors.

    I ain’t saying. I’m just saying.

  17. preying mantis says:

    “Say what you like about this latest episode, can someone explain to me why the Amish School Shooting wasn’t terrorism? Or the Pittsburgh Health Spa shooting? or the Montreal Massacre? etc etc etc”

    Because those targeted girls and women, designed by an all-loving god to be nature’s punching bags?

    Though I think the more frequently-asked question there is “Why aren’t they called hate crimes like it would be if the same perp had targeted any group other than women?” rather than “When do hate crimes fit the bill for terrorism?”.

  18. leedevious says:

    @Beylita, I think people who murder doctors AND activists who bomb laboratories are terrorists. :)

    But yeah, this is terrorism. I don’t see why the media is having difficulty coming to this conclusion. As far as I’m concerned, butt-hurt white guys and butt-hurt middle eastern guys who fly planes into buildings are both terrorists.

    The only thing the seems silly to me is calling him a terrorist after he’s dead, and there is no organized group to carry on after him. But this only occurred to me while typing up this comment.

  19. William says:

    I’m more than a little disappointed that here we are, 18 posts in, and no one seems to have much problem with the term “wacko” being continually used to describe someone who did something violent to make a political statement. I’m pretty sure everyone would be flush with outrage if someone decided to call him the “Austin Muslim” or something equally ridiculous, but hey, its not like mad folk are actually people, right?

  20. KarmaLily says:

    It’s super interesting to me that he’s not being called a terrorist. The government is so quick to label non-violent animal rights and environmental activist as terrorists – even going so far to say their the “#1 domestic terrorist threat.” Yet when someone is mad about paying taxes, burns down his house, and flies a plane into a building, that’s not terrorism?

  21. I have a problem with “wacko.” It bothers me greatly. It means people like Mr. Stack are bad because they’re like me. I don’t harm anyone but me. Ever. People with mental illnesses do not commit violent crimes at a greater rate than the population as a whole. We are victims of violent crime at a rate two and a half times greater than the population as a whole.

    Also: Stack is a terrorist. He was not isolated. He says himself that he worked with others. Anti-tax extremists have been part of militia, white supremacist, and men’s rights activist networks for a long time. They call themselves patriots. True Americans. And they are willing to commit violence to achieve their end of not having to pay into the maintenance of the society they benefit so very greatly from.

  22. Kate AuH2O says:

    “And here I thought “Don’t fly planes into buildings, that is really bad” could be a place where we all found common ground, like Obama has been talking about.”

    SO true! There’s nothing we can ever find common ground about.

    Also, glad you’re back, missed your posts!

  23. Uzza says:

    It seems the difference between a domestic terrorist/political dissident and a sorry-ass criminal is that the former is in service of some particular ideology. If anti-tax extremists qualify, how does patriarchy not? Is there a rule that your victims have to be men?

  24. Hannah marie says:

    when i first heard about this on NPR, and they said at the end of the soundbite that “authorities are not calling this an act of terrorism”, I turned to my radio, probably with an interesting look on my face, and asked it what the fuck it was talking about.

    I agree with Uzza…i mean, personal bias is never going to be completely removed from any equation when it comes to dealing with people, but come on!!

  25. victoria says:

    Thank you, William and kaninchenzero for calling out the really inappropriate use of the term “wacko.” Yes, yes, the term is part of a block quote from Devin Gordon that has some good points and technically isn’t something written by a Feministe contributor, but it’s still really disappointing that words like this are still glossed over as if it’s No Big Deal to use them so flippantly.

  26. NOW Action VP Erin Matson recently wrote about this, too.

    Not only is the refusal to call him a terrorist bullshit racist inaccurate nonsense, but WTF is with all of these right-wing talk show hosts getting away with repeating, over and over again, how they “don’t condone this behavior,” but they UNDERSTAND it? Uh. Yeah. Lots of people said that they could understand why terrorists hated America, but of course did not approve of 9/11, and they got chewed out.

  27. That Girl says:

    I absolutely agree that this was an act of terrorism. It targeted a non-combatant and there was no warning.

    I’ve been wondering why the label makes it worse. If I kill 200 people because I’m a serial killer, or because I have a violence problem coupled with a lack of respect for people who don’t ____ (insert whatever the terrorist of the day is upset about) like me, is there a difference?

    There is the serial killer in Georgia right now preying on black women. A whole community is living at a higher level of fear than is normal within (an extremely violent) U.S. society. What’s the difference?

    I don’t approve of murdering people, clearly. But I’m not sure I agree that murder by terror is worse than murder by torture or murder by other means.

  28. Tom Foolery says:

    The rubric of whether people get called terrorists is pretty simple. If the state wants to use the attack to increase how afraid we are of potential external threats to further contract our civil rights, it is classified as terrorism.

    If, on the other hand, the reason for the attack might resonate with some domestic minority (or, heaven forfend, some disenfranchised majority), the perpetrator is painted as a lone, isolated actor, to further marginalize the movement he might be associated with.

  29. It makes a difference because acts of terrorism — and I include bigotry-motivated hate crimes as a specific form of terrorism — are committed with the intent of having effects far beyond the context of the act itself. Men who kill women as in the École Polytechnique massacre and the Amish School shootings and as George Sodini did do it because they are targeting, at least symbolically, all women, and they want us all to change our behavior. Hate-motivated attacks carry the message of “I don’t want people like you to exist. Failing that I want you to fear being in public so I don’t have to see you.” Other terrorists have other behaviors they want to see changed but it’s essentially the same thing.

    A person who kills a store clerk in an armed robbery may have the incidental effect of making store clerks afraid to go to work but that generally isn’t the desired effect: the robbery is.

    This is one of the cases where intent does matter. Especially since people who commit acts of terrorism are almost never alone. They’re usually members of groups dedicated to the same end. That individual terrorist may be dead or captured but the threat persists.

  30. Uzza says:

    That Girl is exactly right, but jurisdiction matters. When it’s a lone criminal local law enforcement handles things, but if it’s terrorism the FBI and other agencies can get called in. More resources, taken more seriously.

    Tom Foolery is also right, the people who apply the label have their own interests, and to keep certain groups living in fear is one of them.
    As long as your Georgia serial killer is merely terrorizing women, it’s a trivial matter for the local sheriff. OTOH if he was preying on oil executives, the entire nation would be mobilized, there’d be a Great War On Terror, etc.

  31. Uzza says:

    ..and kaninchenzero is exactly right too. :-)

  32. That Girl says:

    The resources devoted to however the crime is labeled is definitely important, especially because the Material Witness Statute and other sections of the code dramatically alter the human rights of one suspected. President Obama’s administration has absolutely utilized these tools effectively and stopped a number of terror plots. (read up on Zazi)

    Do people actually find it scarier when there is an organized group that wants X people to live in terror? I am personally more worried about the lone gunman/pilot/military-trained rogue, in part, because organizations are easier to detect and combat than an individual, but also because a person acting on their own has so much less to lose and even lacks the restraint of an organized philosophy.

  33. Manju says:

    “Not only is the refusal to call him a terrorist bullshit racist inaccurate nonsense, but WTF is with all of these right-wing talk show hosts getting away with repeating, over and over again, how they “don’t condone this behavior,” but they UNDERSTAND it? Uh. Yeah. Lots of people said that they could understand why terrorists hated America, but of course did not approve of 9/11, and they got chewed out.”

    Let me just use this comment to make a general point that’s applicable to this whole thread: Partsian’s have an odd tenancy to erase their own voices. April is right, many (on the left) understood and sympathize with islamic terrorism b/c they see it as blowblack from US foreign policy: michael mooore, noam chonsky, etc. And they got chewed out.

    But now the shoe is on the other foot. Some right-wingers, like scott Brown, apparently sympathize with terrorists. But according to April they are not getting chewed out. There’s a double-standard. The only problem with this thesis is that its only maintainable if you erase this:

    http://blog.seattlepi.com/hottopics/archives/195075.asp

    http://rawstory.com/2010/02/scott-brown-sympathizes-austin-bomber-no-likes-paying-taxes-obviously/

    http://www.thenation.com/blogs/notion/533056/glenn_beck_dodges_incoming_plane_at_cpac

    http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/letters/articles/2010/02/23/senator_brown_reacts_and_raises_eyebrows/

    So the right-wing is getting chewed out, only its coming from the other side.

    Indeed, this entire post suffers from the above logical flaw. While it is true that many outlets did not call this guy a terrorist, it is also true that many outlets don’t call islamic terrorist such either. Indeed that happened after the fort-hood shooting. the paper of record did not label Nidal a terrorist (or even call his act political violence), even when it was known he posted comments on the Internet about suicide bombings, yelled “”Allahu akbar!”, and held anti-American and anti-war views. See here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/06/us/06forthood.html

    Army Doctor Held in Ft. Hood Rampage: General Cone said that terrorism was not being ruled out, but that preliminary evidence did not suggest that the rampage had been an act of terrorism.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/07/us/07forthood.html

    Army Tests Sole-Killer Theory as Details Emerge: In Washington, a law enforcement official said an early search of Major Hasan’s computer did not indicate any direct exchanges with known terrorists.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/08/us/08investigate.html?fta=y

    Little Evidence of Terror Plot in Base Killings: After two days of inquiry into the mass shooting at Fort Hood, investigators have tentatively concluded that it was not part of a terrorist plot.

    The white house was similarly cautious:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/06/fort-hood-shootings

    Indeed, it was not until ties emerged between him and a …well…terrorist that the tide turned (and even then I don’t believe he is yet charged with a terrorist plot and I don’t recall the white hose referring to him as such) in fact even the NYtimes continued to hedge its bet:

    “Was Major Hasan a terrorist, driven by religious extremism to attack fellow soldiers he had come to see as the enemy? Was he a troubled loner, a misfit who cracked when ordered sent to a war zone whose gruesome casualties he had spent the last six years caring for? ”

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9903EED8153BF936A25752C1A96F9C8B63

    In fact, even the neocon TNR had this reaction:

    “We don’t know yet whether Nidal Hassan had any connection to al Qaeda or a similar terrorist movement, or even whether, like the Oklahoma City bombers or Scott Roeder, he imagined that he was acting on behalf of such a movement…I am reluctant to call him a terrorist, particularly because doing so arouses fears of a Jihadist conspiracy in our midst that may not exist, or that may be containable by the same means we are presently using.”

    http://www.tnr.com/blog/fort-hood-and-terrorism-continued

    But strangely left-winger erase their own voice and put forth a false narrative that this guy is not being called a terrorist while muslim guys are. In fact, I’m sure if you go back to the fort hood killing you’ll find loads of right-winger complaining of a double -standard and demanding to know why Nidal Hasan is not labeled a terrorist by the media

    But they are making the same mistake you are, erasing their own voices. (sorry for the long post but I wanted to provide data).

  34. William says:

    The thing that gets me about the whole terrorism discussion is the lack of comprehension.

    I can sympathize with the tax resister position, I believe the government takes too much money from people and spends it badly, I have a lot of problems with what tax money is spent on (I’d have much less issue with the system if we had the kinds of social services you see in the Scandinavian countries rather than a herd of unskilled teenagers with guns), I see the government as basically a group of thugs, I view most taxes as outright theft at the point of a gun. I get it. I can even understand (not condone, but intellectually grasp) the use of violence for political aims. Hell, my father ran with the Weathermen in the 60s and my grandfather was a labor organizer in Chicago before that.

    The thing is, if you’re using violence in order to make your political opponents afraid and in the hopes that said fear will impact policy in a given way you’re either a terrorist or a revolutionary (and the only real difference between the two is that the revolutionary is successful enough to get to write the history). Maybe all terrorism isn’t bad, I can certainly think of a few situations in which I’d nullify were I on a jury, but sympathy for the party making the attack doesn’t justify obscuring the facts of a case through language. People like the Austin guy are terrorists, so are the people who flew planes into the tower, so are the likes of Scott Roeder, so was Washington.

    For me, if you’re going to advocate violent action you have to make a pretty compelling argument. Refusing to call it terrorism isn’t even trying to make a compelling argument, its white washing, which implies that the people making the revisions aren’t so sure of their cause.

  35. Sailorman says:

    April (formerly cacophonies) 2.22.2010 at 9:55 pm

    NOW Action VP Erin Matson recently wrote about this, too.

    Not only is the refusal to call him a terrorist bullshit racist inaccurate nonsense, but WTF is with all of these right-wing talk show hosts getting away with repeating, over and over again, how they “don’t condone this behavior,” but they UNDERSTAND it? Uh. Yeah. Lots of people said that they could understand why terrorists hated America, but of course did not approve of 9/11, and they got chewed out.

    I know this may surprise you, but there were some pretty prominent people who have discussed 9/11 and said pretty much the same thing. It’s not as if Ward Churchill lacked defenders.

  36. cacophonies says:

    Sailerman- No, it doesn’t surprise me. That’s why I mentioned them as having been chewed out much more so than the outspoken people on the right who symathize with the IRS Guy, so far. Then again, I haven’t been paying as much attention as I could in regards to how much flak the current sympathizers are getting.

  37. @Manju We are hypocrites, of course. All humans are. But not here.

    (For the record, I’m opposed to using violence in nearly every circumstance, including the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. I just spend too much time reading and thinking about it. Preventing terrorist attacks is a counterintelligence and law enforcement task the military isn’t meant to do. Imagine what we could have accomplished if we’d spent a fraction of the money on getting better intelligence and some on, say, rebuilding the parts of New Orleans that poor non-white people lived in.)

    The shootings at Fort Hood — also in my state! it is an embarrassment of riches — don’t qualify as terrorism because MAJ Nidal attacked a military target. It doesn’t matter whether or not he had a political agenda or was part of a network (or, forex, was reacting to racism, Islamophobia, and his healing skills being used to harm people). Attacks against military targets are acts of war, whatever form they take.

    One might argue that well, at a US Army base in the middle of Texas one isn’t generally expecting to get shot at and doesn’t go about armed and armored — those people were defenseless, right? The people the US is killing with missile-equipped uncrewed aircraft have no defenses against that either. Nor against GPS-guided bombs dropped from B-52s. Or any number of weapons and tactics we’re fond of. We don’t warn them we’re coming either.

    If MAJ Nidal was a terrorist, then we — by proxy; USians share a moral responsibility for what our government does — are also terrorists.

    (Actually we are but that’s another longer uglier story. Ask anyone from a country who’s had the CIA muck about in their government, removing high-level civilian officials from orrice or assassinating them, because it wasn’t run to our liking. I learned recently it’s very likely Australia is on that list also. I’m so proud.)

  38. @William You do the people in the US military an enormous disservice calling them a “herd of unskilled teenagers with guns.” Sneer at a group of less exploited persons, please.

  39. Manju says:

    “The shootings at Fort Hood — also in my state! it is an embarrassment of riches — don’t qualify as terrorism because MAJ Nidal attacked a military target.”

    kaninchenzero:

    1. Yes, most definitions of terrorism specify civilian targets, but legally you can be charged with terrorist related crimes even if you target individuals in the milarry (especially if they are not in the theatre of war). for example, the little rock killer/terrorist has been charged with terror realted crimes and the FBI is still considering whether or not to charge the ft hood shooter.

    2. Even if you don’t want to call it terrorism, you can still label it political violence, which many on the left were unwilling to do while simultaneously jumping to the terrorist charge in the case of Joe stack. For example, take David Neiwert of the popular crooks and liars blog and often refereceed as an expert on domestic terrorism. Here he is on ft hood:

    “Indeed, most of the evidence so far seems to indicate this was a militarized case of “going postal” — which is always a horrific thing, but lacks the political/ideological component that always defines real acts of terrorism.”

    http://crooksandliars.com/david-neiwert/foxs-bill-sammon-pushes-rights-favor

    “It is in fact still not clear, however, whether the description fits Nidal Hasan’s motives in shooting 13 people to death. It is true that all kinds of evidence is emerging showing that Hasan was increasingly becoming politically radicalized. What that evidence doesn’t establish, though, is that he engaged in this horrendous act on behalf of those radical beliefs, or whether those beliefs simply formed part of the context in which he acted. There certainly haven’t been any organizational ties established. We probably won’t have any idea until Hasan himself starts talking, or at least his attorneys begin preparing his defense”

    http://crooksandliars.com/david-neiwert/foxs-mass-leap-label-ft-hood-shootin

    Notice the carefulness and nuance. Now here he is when the Stack news broke:

    “All the initial reports are downplaying this as an act of domestic terrorism…”

    http://crooksandliars.com/blog/250

    3. Indeed, even if you don’t thnk ft hood is terrorism, its was an act of political violence against our military personal. add to that little rock and Fort Dix, NJ and thats at least 3 plots in the last yr or so. Yet while numerous people here make connections between stack and the extremist rhetoric coming out of say talk radio and teabagger rallies–even though there’s no evidence linking hm to either– has anyone chimed in with concern over unhinged rhetoric coming from the anti-war movement?

    double-standards are all around us.

  40. james says:

    “Fundamentally, I’m with Dan: a Texan white guy named Joe Stack isn’t as interesting / enraging / anxiety-inducing as a Nigerian Muslim named Abdulmutallab.”

    I don’t think this is true. It’s all very contextual. If you think back 1995-2001 (post-Oklahoma City bombing) the main media focus on terrorism was on domestic right-wing anti-government activists. Islamic terrorism was happening at the same time, but the ‘scary Muslims’ weren’t that scary, they were largely ignored or relegated to the inside pages. The scary militamen were the ones making the headlines. 9/11 obviously introduced a new narative and changed all that. But I don’t think the driving factor was terror of scary Muslims, it’s just there was a big event which changed the dominant media narrative. Now the domestic right-wingers are ignored and aren’t getting the newsprint, but if they pulled off something spectacular tomorrow I imagine it would all change again, and the Muslims would be the ones having trouble making the front pages.

  41. Sacha says:

    Perspectives on whether or not someone is terrorist are entirely dependently on where you stand. There’s a saying that goes “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” that sums this up well. Were the suffragettes, who organised bombing campaigns and who martyred themselves for their cause, terrorists?

    My personal definition of terrorism depends very much on whether or not the individuals perpetrating the violence are motivated by political means and are part of a political movement, and this is what distinguishes them from serial killers; although this definition is pretty blurry. If a serial killer is a misogynist, is that a political viewpoint given that there are groups who have core misogynistic values?

  42. William says:

    @William You do the people in the US military an enormous disservice calling them a “herd of unskilled teenagers with guns.” Sneer at a group of less exploited persons, please.

    Calling soldiers exploited is like calling a button man a victim because the big bad mob boss made him kill someone. Sure, its true on some level, but at the end of the day a hired killer is a hired killer.

    Still, you’re partly right. We don’t have a draft and you don’t have to be more than passingly aware to know what the US military is and what it does, but some of our hired killers are quite skilled. Thugs would be more inclusive. I’m also a lot more comfortable calling them thugs because it’s a word that more closely signifies people who take money in exchange for rape and murder.

    No, I’m not going to stop sneering at people who are so morally bankrupt. I get that there are a lot of motivations for joining the military, I get that they make a really good offer, but at the end of the day I simply can’t have much respect for someone who takes money in exchange for killing people so Halliburton can make a few extra bucks.

  43. That’s disgusting. You’re right, so it doesn’t matter who you harm with what you do or say. Truth is on your side.

  44. aznemesis says:

    “No, I’m not going to stop sneering at people who are so morally bankrupt. I get that there are a lot of motivations for joining the military, I get that they make a really good offer, but at the end of the day I simply can’t have much respect for someone who takes money in exchange for killing people so Halliburton can make a few extra bucks.

    Couldn’t agree more, William. I’ve lived most of my adult life below the poverty level. Yet, if I went out and killed someone for money to support my family, I’d rightfully be called a murderer. Yet, somehow, if you put on a uniform and do it for the government, you’re a “hero” or “exploited.” Screw that. You’re a killer. Even worse, you’re a mercenary: someone who kills just for the money, just because s/he is told to kill. That’s the very definition of moral bankruptcy, in my opinion.

    If you think back 1995-2001 (post-Oklahoma City bombing) the main media focus on terrorism was on domestic right-wing anti-government activists. Islamic terrorism was happening at the same time, but the ’scary Muslims’ weren’t that scary, they were largely ignored or relegated to the inside pages. The scary militamen were the ones making the headlines. 9/11 obviously introduced a new narative and changed all that. But I don’t think the driving factor was terror of scary Muslims, it’s just there was a big event which changed the dominant media narrative.

    If you think back to immediately following the Oklahoma City bombings, the people targeted for law enforcement and media harassment were Muslims living in the U.S. It was only later that it was proven to be a whack-job right-wing white boy. Until that point, it was assumed that Muslims were behind it, and Muslim men bore the brunt of the suspicion and harassment. So, point not made. At all.

    The only thing the seems silly to me is calling him a terrorist after he’s dead, and there is no organized group to carry on after him.

    Why? If you go by the official U.S. government definition of terrorism, it is the use of violence to instill fear in a population in order to accomplish a political goal. Nothing about “organized group.” Nothing about “still alive.” Besides, does one cease being a terrorist simply by virtue of being dead? Well, I guess if Nixon can become a Great Statesman after his death, anything is possible, huh?

    By the way, I love how someone’s post above uses letters to the editor as proof that the mainstream press is somehow taking the supporters of the latest homegrown terrorist to task. I don’t think s/he thought people would actually follow the links to see what they said. Try harder next time, please.

Comments are closed.