Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The New York attack was labeled 'terrorism.' The Texas shooting wasn't. Here's why

The New York attack was labeled 'terrorism.' The Texas shooting wasn't. Here's why

I think that labeling is technically correct. Terrorism is normally defined as peacetime violence or the threat of violence against a civilian population for the purpose of advancing an ideology. That definition separates it from "war" or simply "crime." As far as I can see, the guy in Texas was either completely nuts or trying to settle some personal score. He seemed to have no ideology to advance, and was not trying to provoke any government action.

Some other incidents are difficult to pigeonhole.

Las Vegas? Maybe, but it's impossible to say for sure at this point. We still don't seem to know why it happened. At this point it seems to be the work of a deranged psychopath with no ideology to advance.

Y'all Qaeda? That could be considered terrorism, but if they were terrorists, they sucked at it. Basically all they did was trespassing, vandalism, and interfering with federal officers. Of course, terrorism can also encompass the THREAT of violence, and refuge employees were set to testify that they had received death threats and feared for their lives, but that appeared to be all empty posturing by the occupiers. The most radical of them, Lavoy Finicum, even if he did reach for his weapon, was not menacing civilians, but armed federal agents, which places him more in the "not real bright" column than the "terrorist" one.

Dylann Roof? That was not officially called terrorism, but could have been by the standard definition. Roof was not just simply killing a number of black people. He had a greater purpose in mind. His stated intention was to start a race war, which is certainly ideological, and makes him a terrorist, as I see it, so you would not be wrong to call him that, but his actions may not have been domestic terrorism by the legal definition in the USA. The US Code 113B delineates several possible terrorist activities. Roof's actions (debatably) didn't quite come under that umbrella, so he was instead charged with hate crimes.

Here is how the code defines domestic terrorism:

(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—
(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; 
(B) appear to be intended—
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

I think Charles Manson was also a terrorist by the standard definition, as he too was attacking innocent civilians in the process of trying to foment a race war, but again his actions may not have fallen under the legal definition in the US code.


  1. Replies
    1. Complaining about something without offering a possible solution to that something is called whining.

  2. Roof was terrorism, 100%. Even left a witness to spread his "message" to blacks.

    Ironically, the San Bernardino shooting want. They were a terrorist sleeper cell, but the guy got pissed at his coworkers and defied orders to kill them instead, making it workplace violence/rage killing.