Home / General / Why, Yes, It IS Terrorism

Why, Yes, It IS Terrorism



Just after midnight, London time, yet another attacker drove a van into a crowd of people, killing one and seriously injuring nine more. All of the victims were Muslims leaving their evening prayers in Finsbury Park.

This tragedy, on one hand, is disturbingly unsurprising, given the rise in terror attacks, virulent anti-Muslim sentiments, and hate crimes. What is surprising, on the other hand, is just how quickly and publicly this has been claimed as an act of terrorism.

There have been too many good and important pieces written on the heavy bias in reporting violence for me to begin offering links here. But we’ve all heard and/or voiced our own concerns about the way that violence by people with a particular set of physical characteristics is immediately denounced as terror, while white male mass killers are always something else (troubled, isolated, mentally ill…).

Coverage of the Portland train stabbings invoked “hate crimes,” but not terror (except, ironically, when the perpetrator himself denied being a terrorist). Even days after the attack, FBI was claiming that it was simply “too soon” to determine whether this was an act of domestic terrorism.

This morning’s killing of a Virginia teenager is, we are told, not even being considered as a hate crime (to be fair, details on this crime are still sketchy, but the victimization of a young veil-wearing Muslim woman certainly raises red flags). At the moment of writing, the Washington Post’s main page is carrying this headline just below their story on PM May’s insistence that the Finsbury Park attack was indeed an act of terror.

Now, it’s odd to find myself wanting to cheer any Theresa May statements, but props to her and everyone down to the local police who identified the attack as terrorism within eight minutes. The attacker, who was protected from angry bystanders by the local imam, is officially being held for terror offenses. May herself was quick to declare the violence “every bit as sickening” as other recent attacks.

It is awful and heart-wrenching for any community to reckon with this level of senseless and hate-filled violence. But calling terrorism by its actual name turns out to be easy enough.

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  • guthrie

    Naturally, the usual nasty ‘paper’ led first with smearing the mosque, then once the official communiques had come out abotu it actually being terrorism, they then put out headlines to admit it was terrorism.

    Also now it seems the deceased person had collapsed for some reason and was being attended to by other people there before the van drove at them.

    • Woodrowfan

      The daily hate mail. ?

      • guthrie

        You said it, don’t say it again twice.

        • Woodrowfan

          What if you say it three times while looking into a mirror?

  • CP

    Yeah, I did note that and give props to May for doing it. It should go without saying, of course.

  • Richard Hershberger

    I think it is the method used. When the exact same method was just recently condemned as terrorism it is harder to pretend that this is something different and relatively benign. Harder, but not impossible, so I guess some credit is due.

    • McAllen

      I dunno, I remember a lot of people waffling about whether Andrew Joseph Stack crashing a plane into a building counted as terrorism.

      • Just_Dropping_By

        You do realize, right, that Stack’s suicide note was filled with what would generally be considered left-wing viewpoints?

        Link to archived copy of his suicide note here: http://www.webcitation.org/5ndnnvvrP?url=http://www.embeddedart.com/

        • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

          Are you trying to argue that only RWNJs commit terrorism? We’ve always had LWNJs and even some middle of the road ones.

  • efgoldman

    Cynic that I am, i thought it might take days for local and national authorities to define it as terrorism. I am pleasantly surprised.

    I’m still cynical enough to think it would be a “lone wolf” if it happened in London, Arkansas or London, Kentucky.

    Yes, it matters what we call things.

  • Dilan Esper

    Terrorism is actually impossible to define.

    But yes, given the political valence of this it was important to call it terrorism.

    • guthrie

      And yet, we have definitions; the one used by the british government is about using violence to further political aims.

      • Dilan Esper

        By that definition, most of the world’s powerful militaries are terrorists.

        Trust me, this is much harder than you think.

        • BiloSagdiyev

          Yes, but we have a flag.

        • guthrie

          I’m glad you’ve finally caught up with us, Dilan.

  • sam

    Aside from the always-horrible tabloids, Britain on the whole has generally been better about this – both in this instance and in not COMPLETELY LOSING THEIR FUCKING MINDS after each incident.

    It might have something to do with the fact that anyone there who is over 21 and has lived in London their entire lives has spent at least part of that time living with semi-regular attacks from, well, pasty white people.

    Note: I am a pasty white person myself, just for context.

    Second Note: My first trip to London ever was only a few months after the docklands bombing I note above. The end of that trip (my summer of eurailing around europe before law school) had me flying out of Madrid only two weeks after a plane hijacking out of the same airport.

    I’d say maybe people shouldn’t travel with me, but really, you should look at where I’m going and avoid those places in the weeks/months BEFORE my trip (seriously – I’m going to Peru in August, but my flight is through Bogota.

  • They are Brits, and even if they had to be nudged in the proper direction by prior events, still light years ahead of our current clownshow. I’m doubtful our Vichy media would EVER cop to calling it what it is under the same circumstances.

  • Stephen D

    Sure, it’s terrorism. And if you like, you could even call it Islamophobic terrorism.

    Just as long as you agree to call the rather more abundant opposite Kuffarophobic terrorism.

    Haven’t ever heard it called that. Wonder why not?

    • guthrie

      Because the attackers tend to kill anyone, and others of their ilk kill more muslims than even the American air force.

    • Aziraphale

      Islamophobic and Kuffarophobic are both unnecessary words which obscure the facts. The defining emotion of terrorism is hatred, not fear. Why not “anti-Islamic” after the pattern of “anti-Semitic”? Or, more generally, “religiously inspired”?

      • Origami Isopod

        “Phobic” has come to indicate hate as well as fear. That ship sailed years ago. Unless you want to keep company with the wingnuts who say, “I can’t be homophobic, I’m not afraid of those [slurs go here]”?

  • Jake the antisoshul soshulist

    Hate is usually driven by fear.

  • BradP

    It will be very interesting to watch the interplay of the terms “terrorism” and “hate crime”, especially among those quick to apply the former and loathe to apply the latter.

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