Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Racist Lexicon Of Terrorism

Quick! What's the difference between Joe Stack, Jose Padilla, Bruce Ivins and Scott Roeder?

Stack, of course, is currently enjoying 15 minutes of posthumous fame after flying a passenger aircraft into an office building like the 9/11 hijackers. Padilla was accused of planning to make a dirty bomb and tortured to a faretheewell. Ivins was suspected of mailing anthrax laced letters that killed five people and injured dozens of others before he offed himself. Roeder was recently convicted of murdering George Tiller and has advocated killing other abortion doctors.

While the handiwork of every
guy with a few loose screws can't be labeled terrorism, try as I might I just can't see much difference between Stack, Padilla, Ivins and Roeder. But there is a difference of course: While all four men are or were American citizens, Stack, Ivins and Roeder are or were white skinned and Christians, while Padilla is brown skinned and converted to Islam.

Since 9/11, our perception of "terrorism" has changed and we've become more careful about using the word "terrorist," especially in print or on the air. But again, there is a double standard here that seems to have escaped the FBI in crafting its definition of domestic terrorism:

"The unlawful use, or threatened use, of violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States (or its territories) without foreign direction committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."

Pretty obvious, eh? Oh, and let's not get all relieved-like because Stack, Ivins and Roeder weren't working for Al Qaeda. They were, after all, "one of ours," and in its own way that's even worse.

Top photo by Alberto Martinez/Austin-American Statesman

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