UPDATE, 17 July:
The FBI found no evidence whatsoever of ISIS ties to the Chattanooga shooting, Reuters reports. This, naturally, didn’t stop the media from speculating without evidence.
An extremist monitoring group said that Abdulazeez, the shooter, blogged on 13 July, writing “life is short and bitter” and insisting that Muslims should not miss an opportunity to “submit to Allah.” Reuters, which was not able to independently verify the blog posts, implied this could be evidence that Abdulazeez was an extremist.
If a Christian had written “life is short and bitter” and insisted that Christians should “submit to Jesus,” on the other hand, the media would no doubt not even bat an eye.
ORIGINAL, 16 July:
Four US Marines were shot dead in an attack on two Tennessee military facilities on 16 July 2015. Three more people were injured, and the shooter himself, a man by the name of Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, died.
Mere hours after the shooting, very little information was known. Abdulazeez’s motive was not clear. But that didn’t stop the scaremongering media from already calling it an act of terrorism and speculating that the shooter was influenced by, or even tied to, ISIS.
The FBI explicitly warned that it was “premature to speculate on the motives of the shooter at this time.” The US media, nonetheless—desperate for blood and controversy (both guarantee more clicks and thus greater profits), and never one to entertain crucial journalistic principles like thorough fact-checking and nuance—clearly did not hear the FBI, as it was already loudly screaming “TERRORISM!”
Several weeks after the white supremacist Charleston massacre—carried out by a neo-Nazi who said in his racist, far-right manifesto that he was killing black Americans in hopes of instigating a race war—the US government still refuses to classify Dylann Roof’s slaughter of civilians as terrorism. The US Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Bill Killian, nevertheless, immediately classified the Chattanooga attack on the US military as an example of domestic terrorism.
Why? One suspects that the reason is the Chattanooga shooter is Arab.
In fact, even the impartiality of the FBI’s investigation is questionable. Actively defying his own bureau’s warning, the FBI agent in charge of the investigation told local Tennessee media that they “will treat this as a terrorism investigation until it can be determined that it is not.”
In other words, in an inversion of the most fundamental principle of the US Justice System, the FBI says that, if you are an Arab shooter, you are a terrorist until you are proven not guilty.
US media and government reactions in a nutshell:
- Known white supremacist slaughters nine black civilians in church in hopes of re-igniting the Civil War.
- Arab man kills Marines (soldiers, not civilians); his motive is unknown.
Is the Chattanooga shooting an act of terrorism? Probably, but we cannot say for certain without more evidence.
Yet if the Chattanooga shooting is an act of terrorism, so is the Charleston shooting. If institutions refuse to use the term to describe the latter, they only continue to demonstrate how meaningless the word “terrorism” is.