The LAX shooter is a terrorist. So let’s start calling him that.
Published: Thursday, November 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, November 14, 2013 20:11
On Nov. 1, Paul A. Ciancia walked into the Los Angeles International Airport with an assault rifle and opened fire. The ensuing gunfight claimed the life of one Travel Security Agency (TSA) agent, injured two agents and wounded two civilians. Airport police returned fire and injured Ciancia before he could hurt anyone else.
The resulting media blitz was standard for the umpteenthshooting this nation has weathered in the past two years. Of course by standard, I mean that Ciancia’s actions were being described as those of a mentally unstable man. At no point were the terms “terrorist” or “terrorism” used to describe him or his actions.
This is a shame because Ciancia’s actions are textbook-terrorism. Terrorism is defined as “premeditated, politically motivated violence … in furtherance of political or social objectives,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
In the days following the shooting, Ciancia’s actions before Nov. 1 became better known to the public. First, USA Today broke the news that, on the day of the shooting, investigators discovered his hand-written notesdetailing his plan and motivations.
Next, Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, revealed that Ciancia had an annotated Patriot Movement manifesto in his possession. The Patriot Movement is a hate group that believes in the “new world order” and advocates violence as the solution. Known domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh had connections to the Patriot Movement.
Potok said Ciancia harbored a hatred of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), of which the TSA is a sub-agency.
Politically motivated? Check.
In addition, he wrote derogatory comments about DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. He also believed his actions against the department would aid in its downfall.
In furtherance of political or social objectives? Check.
By those qualifiers alone, Ciancia should be deemed a terrorist. However, even after Potok’s report, news outlets refused to refer to Ciancia as a “terrorist,” but simply a “radical.”
Compare that to Nidal Hasan, the former Army Medical Corps officer who shot up Fort Hood. Every single news agency covering his shooting spree was quick to label him a terrorist.
His label as a member of Al Qaeda or the Taliban went unquestioned by the media until The New York Times published a report on behalf of Hasan’s lawyers revealing that he was, indeed, deeply mentally disturbed.
His army tribunal decided not to charge him with terrorism. When put together with the fact that Ciancia’s own family has said that he suffered no mental issues, a disturbing trend becomes apparent.
Why is this important?
Both the Hasan and Ciancia shootings’ media coverage highlights the inherent racism in this nation’s media.
To the news outlets, it is as black and white as “Muslim/Arab shooters are terrorists” and “Caucasian shooters are mentally unstable.” Unfortunately, this is not new.
When Wade Michael Page opened fire at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, killing six people and wounding four, the media never once used the term “terrorism” in their coverage. But Page also fit the standards of the DOJ’s definition of a terrorist. Page was a known white supremacist who planned the spree weeks ahead of time. He was also reportedly an active member of the Hammerskins, a Neo-Nazi group actually labeled a domestic terrorist organization by the FBI.
But to our nation’s media, a pre-meditated act of mass murder by a member of a known terrorist organization is not terrorism as long as the shooter is white.
The media’s refusal to label white shooters as terrorists is rubbing off on the American public. There was a great outcry by the people of Boston to call Dzohkar Tsarnaev an “enemy combatant.” The outcry to label Ciancia an “enemy combatant” is virtually non-existent.
“This philosophy is not only wrong, it’s dangerous,” wrote Dean Obeidallah, a Daily Beast reporter, who also believes Ciancia should be charged as a terrorist.
The TSA is notorious for racially profiling Middle Eastern men in airports, giving the public the idea that it’s OK to think people of that ethnicity are always a threat. The act of domestic terrorism can be, and will be, carried out by people of every background and ethnicity.
They say that history repeats itself. As Americans, we have systematically discriminated against every minority group throughout our history. If we don’t hold our media accountable, our documented discrimination against Muslims and Arabs will go down as just another chapter in American racism.