Commentary: The problem with avoiding the ‘terrorism’ label

Dylann Roof, accused of murdering nine people at an African-American church in Charleston, S.C., appears in court via video on June 19, 2015. Acts like those he’s charged with are terrorism and ought to be called that. (Charleston, S.C., bond court)

Dylann Roof, accused of murdering nine people at an African-American church in Charleston, S.C., appears in court via video on June 19, 2015. Acts like those he’s charged with are terrorism and ought to be called that. (Charleston, S.C., bond court)

Source: Chicago Tribune

By Thomas R. Mockaitis, who is a history professor at DePaul University, where he teaches British, modern European and military history. His research and writing cover terrorism, insurgency, counterinsurgency and peace operations.

It’s time to treat hate groups as the terrorists they are.

The phone didn’t ring even once on Thursday. This may seem a strange thing to report, but as a terrorism analyst I am used to being called when a violent, ideologically motivated attack occurs.

So when a 21-year-old white man entered an AME church in Charleston, S.C., and murdered nine African-Americans at a Bible study, according to authorities, I thought some reporter might at least raise the specter of racially motivated terrorism. Nope, no calls.

When reports surfaced the next day that the alleged killer had adorned his Facebook page with symbols popular among white supremacists and that he had a reputation for telling racist jokes, I thought, “Now someone will surely ask me about ‘lone wolf’ terrorism.” Again, silence.

Then it dawned on me: White Americans don’t do terrorism. No, terrorism is something others do to us. It is a weapon used by extremists far from our shores, people with a different religion and skin color, who infiltrate our society to attack us because they hate our way of life.

When a true-blue, red-blooded American picks up a gun and shoots a member of Congress because he doesn’t like her politics or a young man touting white pride perpetrates a massacre at a black church, commentators rush in to disconnect those individuals from the ideological context in which they act. “These are just disturbed young men acting out of their own warped worldview, not representatives of something larger and more insidious,” they argue.

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