Published by CJ Werleman Independent, a crowdfunded investigative journalism project that seeks to expose and end Western injustices against Muslims. Please SUPPORT my effort against injustice by clicking here.
The political discourse and media response to the Las Vegas massacre has been a textbook illustration of how collective guilt is applied to Muslims, and collective innocence is afforded to whites in the aftermath of a mass casualty attack.
Discourse matters because government policies are not created in a vacuum; they’re hammered together in a political context. Put simply, media headlines drive public discourse, and policy follows from the way in which issues are framed by both political elites and the media.
It has been more than 36 hours since Stephen Paddock, a white male, slaughtered 59 concertgoers and injured another 500 more using an automatic weapon from his Mandalay Bay hotel room, perched some 30 odd stories above street level, but not once, anywhere, has the word “terrorist” or “terrorism” been applied to his heinous act of violence.
Instead, the white attacker has been humanized in a way that no Muslim or person of color perpertator would ever be. The lead story for Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald is illustrative:
“The Las Vegas shooter lived a “quiet life” and enjoyed “country music.” Can you imagine a Muslim shooter being so quickly humanized like this?” tweeted Mehdi Hassan.
The subtext to the Sydney Morning Herald’s headline is obvious: the shooter was loveable one of us who just happened to go rogue. *Cue mental health stigmitization.
The Daily Mirror’s headline, however, is illustrative of the manner in which whites are framed outside of terrorism discourse:
By comparison, a Muslim attacker is never referred to as a “local individual” because Western media considers Muslims to be a foreign other or external threat, even when the Muslim is attacking the very community he’s from.
“But if Paddock were Muslim, his status as a local individual would be entirely irrelevant,” writes Khaled Bedouin, “And the motive of ‘Islamic terrorism” or “jihad” would likely be immediately assumed, even without any evidence.”
Not only are white attackers portrayed as “lone wolves,” thus seperating them from the rest of white society, but also as “mentally ill, which not only excuses their actions, but also stigmitizes mental health. Moreover, “Whiteness,” observes Shaun King, “somehow, protects [white] men from being labelled terrorists.”
This has huge implications for the manner in which counterterrorism policies derive, ones that negatively discriminate against Muslim communities.
Despite widespread public misconception, terrorism has no universal meaning. It’s an entirely subjective label applied in a political context. In fact, the US federal government can’t even agree on the definition of terrorism given the US Congress, Department of Defence, Department of Homeland Security, and FBI each operate under the guise of competing and contradictory definitions.
Thus terrorism is defined by policy makers, and not the criminal justice system. In other words, politicians, not judges and courts, determine who is a terrorist, and what is terrorism, and policy makers get their cues and cover from the manner in which terrorism is portrayed in public discourse (media).
So, when a white perpertator carries out an act of terrorism, public discourse is confined to “thoughts and prayers,” while a demands for policy proposals follow in the wake of an attack carried out by a Muslim.
This distinction has resulted in counterterrorism policies that include invading and occupying Muslim countries, torturing Muslim suspects, Muslim travel bans, profiling and surveiling Muslim communities, and counter-violent-extremism programs that not so subtly depict Islam as a gateway to terrorism.
On the other hand, it’s almost impossible to think of a single piece of legislation or policy that has come into being in response to a white perpetrated terrorist attack, which says something given attacks by white supremacists/nationalists outnumber attacks by Muslims on a scale of 3 to 1, and given 63% of all mass shootings are carried out by whites.
The evidence is clear: when whites carry out acts of terror, we seek to distance ourselves or excuse the attacker, but when a Muslim is the perpetrator, we seek vengence.
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