Terrorism By Any Other Name Is Just As Deadly

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines terrorism thusly:

“The use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of achieving a political goal.”

Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? However, in the wake of the shooting which occurred at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, another term is being thrown around: domestic terrorism.

Domestic terrorism is an act of terrorism which is committed by a citizen of the country in which the attack takes place. Note the wording of that definition.

You cannot explain “domestic terrorism” without including “terrorism”. Quite frankly, there should not be two different definitions, as there should not be multiple terms to define what is expressly terrorism.

By allowing multiple terms and definitions to come into play, it has reached a point where people can no longer agree on what is and what is not terrorism. This is particularly poignant when looking at the opinions of the topic by two people who under normal circumstances have very similar viewpoints.

Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and current Republican presidential contender, said on CNN’s State of the Union when speaking about the alleged gunman:

“What he did is domestic terrorism, and what he did is absolutely abominable”

Now one could (and should) rip the former governor to shreds for the incendiary and blatantly false things he said later in that same interview. But the fact is that he called the murder of three people “domestic terrorism”. Considering that he would like all Planned Parenthood clinics to be shuttered, that says a lot about what he considers an act of terror.

On the other side of this coin is Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee.

On ABC’s This Week, the congressman pointed to the mental health of the alleged shooter:

“It’s a tragedy. It’s, I think, a mental health crisis…I don’t think it would fall under quite the definition of domestic terrorism, although I’ll leave that to the Justice Department to make that determination.”

Now usually, Rep. McCaul and Huckabee would be of the same mind when it came to political mindset. However, it seems that the head of the congressional committee on Homeland Security does not seem to know what terrorism is, either.

It is simple; mass murder carried out for political reasons is terrorism. It does not matter if it is in Colorado or Paris or Nigeria or Iraq.

And if you are in agreement with Rep. McCaul about the alleged gunman’s mental state, remember that he outright said, “No more baby parts” when police questioned his motives. This was not a random attack which killed three random people.

This was a hostile shooting carried out to harm people who dared use their rights to safe and legal healthcare for whatever reason they happened to be there. That is terrorism, plain and simple.

However, there is another reason why people are hesitant to label this an act of terrorism, and that reason is almost more dangerous than the continued politically and racially motivated acts of violence we see all across the country.

The fact is that because the alleged shooter is white, he is being defended.

You may recall last June when Dylann Roof killed nine people at the Charleston AME Church. President Obama immediately labeled the massacre an act of terror.

However, the mainstream media, GOP leaders, and even the FBI would not use the word “terrorist” or “terrorism” to describe Roof or his actions.

FBI Director James Comey stated at the time:

“Terrorism is an act done or threatened to in order to try to influence a public body or the citizenry, so it’s more of a political act and then, again, based on what I know so far, I don’t see it as a political act.”

This, of course, is in blatant disregard to Roof’s admission that the attack was racially motivated. If a Muslim shot up a Catholic church, it would be terrorism. Apparently if a white man shoots up a black church, it isn’t.

Who is called a terrorist is so blatantly based on racist and xenophobic attitudes that a study led by University of Illinois communications professor Travis Dixon found that while, according to the FBI, about six percent of domestic terrorism suspects were Muslim, a whopping 81 percent of the domestic terrorism suspects described on national cable and network TV news programs were Muslim.

Regardless of who commits the act or what the mainstream media or politicians want to call it, terrorism should be outed as terrorism.

For years, America has fought a phony “War on Terror” without knowing or accepting that terrorism happens in our own backyard, and by people who may have turned out to be your neighbors.

It is time to stop segmenting terrorism by where it happens, who it affects, and who perpetrates it. It is time to step up and call terrorism what it is: terrorism, plain and simple.

Cover Photo Credit: Jagz Mario/Flickr (CC by-SA 2.0)

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About the Author
Alex Austin is originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and is a graduate of the University of Alabama. He currently resides in Tuscaloosa, AL.
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