Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Too Few Dare Call It Terrorism

It's a good point Max Abrahms makes in Politico magazine (which has proven to be far superior to Politico itself)- not great, but good.  Three indiviudals were murdered Sunday in two incidents in Kansas, at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park and the other at the Village Shalom Retirement Community in Leawood. Abrahms notes

From the earliest reports, the killings bore all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack.

There is still no consensus over the definition, but terrorism usually denotes a nonstate actor attacking civilian targets to spread fear for some putative political goal. And here we had a 73-year-old lone wolf opening fire on a Jewish community center and retirement home on Passover eve yelling “Heil Hitler.”

With time, it’s become even clearer that the alleged perpetrator is a terrorist.

He asks- and not rhetorically- the most fundamental question about the event: "yet, the word terrorism wasn’t mentioned “in a single bit of news coverage,” as one observer noted. Why?"

He continues

But what does it take for a hateful act to become a full-fledged terrorist attack? You might think the distinction hinges on lethality. A year ago this week, though, the Boston Marathon bombings killed the same number of bystanders, and Americans had little trouble fingering the incident as terrorism.

Lethality, like size, matters, but as Abrahms maintains, it's not only lethality.  It's also how something is characterized. Words and phrases can obfuscate, confuse, and even propagandize, such as referring to Social Security as "entitlements" (understood by Americans as the other guy wanting something for nothing) rather than earned benefits (or simply "Social Security.") And people labeling them "entitlements" will claim to want to "preserve and protect" benefits rather than, as they're proposing, cutting them.

But words can also clarify and explain.  And here Abrahms is swinging and fouling the ball off while much of the left is swinging and whiffing. He notes.

As founder of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party, Frazier Glenn Miller has a long history of militant anti-Semitism. The Southern Poverty Law Center described him as a “raging anti-Semite” known for posting online rants, like “No Jews, Just Right.” The Institute for Research & Educationon Human Rights has also noted, “His worship for Hitler and Hitlerism is real.” According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, Miller is “one of the pioneers in the modern hate world, he’s been entrenched in the hate movement his entire adult life.”

That at least is technically accurate. The Anti-Defamation  League released a statement similarly contending

While it is too early to label these shootings as a hate crime, the fact that two Jewish institutions were targeted by the same individual just prior to the start of the Passover holiday is deeply troubling and certainly gives us pause.   We have reached out to local, state and federal law enforcement and stand willing and able to offer guidance and assistance to the community if this incident turns out to have been motivated by anti-Semitism.

So what was the first hint this was a hate crime? A hearty "Heil Hitler" is always a good clue. But it was something much more than a hate crime which, truth be told, goes on in the streets of America daily. It was terrorism: t-e-r-r-o-r-i-s-m.

Terrorism does not go on every day. Ask any American when the last act of terrorism was in the nation, and he or she might cite the Boston Marathon incident. And if needed to be reminded of the crime there, the individual surely would describe it as terrorism.

And that is why we read on (from which the photo below is taken)::

One year after the deadly bombings took place at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the people of Boston appeared stronger than ever. The well-known saying 'Boston Strong' could be seen everywhere, from banners and signs to t-shirts and storefronts. The anniversary drew a stream of onlookers, from tourists who wanted to lend their support, to last year’s runners who had returned to remember, some wearing the bright blue and yellow marathon jackets that became a symbol of solidarity.

Walking down Boylston Street, crowds of hundreds of people huddled together under umbrellas while the rain poured down. At 2:49 p.m. ET, the time the first bomb exploded, there was a moment of silence. Nothing could be heard except the gentle sound of rain falling on umbrellas and, soon after, the strong and supportive sound of bappipes. The mood was somber, yet uplifting, while the victims of the bombings were remembered, as well as the courage and compassion of those who ran toward danger to help, rather than away.

Will the events of April 13, 2014 be remembered in the same way one year from today? Not likely, considering the shootings have been nearly- if not completely- expunged from the news already, other than presumably in Missouri and Kansas.

They are not being ignored because the target was the Jewish community (and the victims one Roman Catholic and two Methodists). But labeling them "hate crimes" has made it more likely they would be.  Message to the Southern Poverty Law Center and others: to many Americans, hearing of "hate crimes" precedes a "ho, hu." They've heard it all before and it sounds ideologically motivated, unlike the class of offenses known as "love crimes."

The attacks in eastern Kansas on Sunday will be known as hate crimes or as terrorism. If concerned organizations start labeling them accurately- as terrorism- the response from the American people and their government will be far more vigorous. As an added benefit, we might stop thinking of terrorism as the exclusive province of Muslims.  And that would be an important start in chipping away at hate.

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