Word of The Day: Terrorism
The FBI defines terrorism as The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a Government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.
The US Military uses a similar definition. The main difference is that it breaks down social objectives into a few more categories, but maintains the overall meaning.
This is important. Words have meaning. The way that local law enforcement and the media use words is important.
Just as important is that this means that local law enforcement SHOULD know what terrorism is, but apparently do not. To have the police or certain news outlets tell it, any random shooting committed by a black man or a Muslim is terrorism. Anything done by a white man most likely is not.
Just to cover all grounds, since the inciting events leading up to this post took place in Canada:
In Canada, section 83.01 of the Criminal Code defines terrorism as an act committed “in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause” with the intention of intimidating the public “…with regard to its security, including its economic security, or compelling a person, a government or a domestic or an international organization to do or to refrain from doing any act.”
So, in short, in North America, at least the English Speaking part of it, there is a very clear legal definition of terrorism.
On Monday, 23 April 2018 Alek Minassian, a Canadian citizen, drove a van onto a busy city sidewalk intentionally running down and killing 10 people and injuring 14 more. Prior to this attack, he left a message behind encouraging armed rebellion by himself and other ‘Incels,’ and praising the attack by May 2014 attack carried out by Elliot Rogers in Santa Barbara, California. Within hours of the attack, he was already elevated to the level of sainthood by other Incels.
Incels are members of a social movement whose driving factor is intense misogyny and the belief that women who owe them sex are refusing it to them. The word itself is a merging of the words “Involuntary” and “Celibate.” While they sound like some cartoonish monstrosity out of a comic book, they are very real, and consistently prove to be dangerous. They feel that the world has wronged them and that it is their right to hurt people in response.
In other words, this was a textbook case of terrorism. The Santa Barbara attack was a textbook case of terrorism. Several other attacks carried out by white men against people of color, school children, women, and other groups have been textbook cases of terrorism.
Of course, the Toronto police were relatively quick to declare that it was not terrorism, as were the police departments involved in the aftermath of the other aforementioned tragedies.
Words matter. When the police look at a situation and use race and religion, and not actions and intent, as the deciding factor when defining whether or not a particular event is terrorism that is tacit approval of the behavior involved. It is also encouragement for others to use the same racist criterion. If the attacker is white, it’s obviously not terrorism. If the attacker is not white, it obviously is.
Minassian, of course, was taken in alive. This is not a surprise. In almost every incident of terror in the US, if a white attacker dies, it is by suicide. The rare cases where the attacker was not white, they were gunned down by police. Non-white attackers don’t survive. White attackers get taken out for lunch before heading to the precinct. I wish that were a joke.