Thinking Aloud: Terrorism Is (Still) Terrorism

Nov. 29, 2015 by Darius 

Yesterday, a man opened fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, killing three people and wounding more than 10 before being taken into custody. The motivation for the shooting by all accounts was an ideological hatred of abortion. The governor of Colorado and others have condemned the shooting as an act of terrorism. Functionally, though, nobody is treating the Colorado crime as a terrorist attack.

In the aftermath of terrorist attacks, the death or capture of the perpetrator or perpetrators is not the end of the story. Instead, there follows a huge manhunt for possible accomplices and, just as importantly, for those who may have motivated or incited the attack. In the aftermath of the Boston marathon bombings, for instance, police arrested nearly a dozen other people. Most were quickly released, although several were charged with lesser crimes and one friend was sentenced to six years in prison.

However, none of this happens after typical right-wing terrorist attacks such as yesterday’s Planned Parenthood shooting or the shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, several months ago. Instead, these home-grown, non-Muslim cases are dismissed as the sad but predictable work of a disturbed white male and shoehorned into becoming either (a) a mental health issue or (b) a gun control issue. There might be some general hand-wringing about radical discourse, but concrete action never follows. The Planned Parenthood shooter has already been pigeonholed as a disturbed loner. It is not a terribly risky prediction to say that there will be a much smaller investigation, if any, of any associates or contacts who might have radicalized him or helped him along the path to murder.

Just like Islamist terrorists, right-wing terrorists are plugged into communities of like-minded extremists. Why are these communities not being targeted and dismantled by law enforcement? After all, terrorism is terrorism. Or does terrorism require a brown, or at least swarthy, perpetrator to merit the “terrorism” moniker in the US?

Terrorism is politically motivated violence designed to instill fear in civilian populations, and white, right-wing terrorism – and the radicalization process leading to it – needs to be taken as seriously by US law enforcement as any other terrorism.

I’ll believe it when I see the associates and the political and religious mentors of the Planned Parenthood shooter taken into custody. If that doesn’t happen, we should all be asking why not. The three people killed in Colorado yesterday are just as dead as the result of politically motivated violence as the three people killed at the Boston Marathon two and a half years ago.

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