Picture the scene, a man brutally shoots and stabs a British MP. Onlookers claim he shouted “This Is for Britain- Britain will always come first” and insinuated about his affiliation to a supremacist, extreme Nationalist and prejudice group. His extremist persona is supported by his social media activities as well as literature found in his home. He then goes to court and says “Death to traitors”!
Most people will be imagining a bearded Muslim man inspired by ISIS. Most people would call him a terrorist. Most people would call his actions an act of terror.
Yet Tommy Mair, the man suspected of carrying out the brutal murder of Jo Cox MP, has been described as a ‘loner’ or ‘mentally ill’ But not a terrorist. Despite his obvious use of unlawful violence with a political motivation for the furtherance of his goal to coerce the government and it’s civilians to his beliefs.
For instance, in the latest article about his trailer, the BBC state Tommy Mair
In court Tommy Mair said
“Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”
For many this seems like a double standard? His crime reads exactly like the brutal murder of Lee Rigby. The papers did not care about his killer’s mental state. They called them terrorists.
Too many people Tommy Mair is a terrorist by any other name.
Terrorism has over 200 definitions- many academics argue over what defines terrorism. Some dispute whether a state can be a terrorist. Others like Noam Chomsky say a state or country can be a terrorist. This is in reference to the bombing, drone strikes and extrajudicial killings by Britain & America. If someone dropped a bomb on your home, surely you would be terrorized by their action?
The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives”
Even with or without this US definitions it is quite easy to argue that the media and the government picks and chooses when someone is labeled a terrorist.
Before 9/11 the phrase ‘lone wolf terrorist” was used far more commonplace in the media. However, it seems after 9/11 terrorism has been strictly used in reference to extremist acts perpetrated by radical Muslims.
Yet, it simply has not been the case that since or before 2001 only radical Muslims have murdered civilians in cold blood with a political motivation. In Britain, before 9/11 or 7/7 we had IRA and the Brixton Bomber. In America, Dylan Roof used unlawful use of force to coerce the civilian population in furtherance of his social objective. Roof wanted to start a race war; by definition he should be considered a terrorist. Despite 9 dead Black Christians, Dylan Roof was not called a terrorist.
However, overwhelming the majority of ‘terrorist’ attacks in US and Britain are committed by one demographic- White men. The Independent and ABC reported that a study found that since 9/11 the majority of terrorist attacks in America have been perpetrated by white men.
Are you Christian? Do these people represent your religion? I didn’t think so, so stop saying ISIS represents Islam. pic.twitter.com/hXtu1YhgNH
— Dr. Craig Considine (@CraigCons) June 7, 2016
Yet, the media sticks with the narrative that there is only one type of terrorist. Ask your average Black person whom they were fearful of growing up or during the civil rights era and the answer won’t be a Muslim. Ask a historian who started World War 1 & 2 and the answer won’t be a Muslim. Ask a British person which people fit the description of a terrorist before 9/11 and the answer won’t be a Muslim.
However, since 9/11 we have not only generalized all Muslims but perpetuated the notion Islam is fundamentally violent. People looked at the pages of a book but ignore the actions of people throughout history. If World War 1 was in Africa it would have been described as an ‘ethnic’ war. If we were to take 10 fighters from Britain and 10 from Germany and describe them as we do Black people, it would be called White on White violence. Oversimplified? Yes, but these are still examples of the double standards that people on social media are annoyed by.
The question isn’t so much whether someone is or isn’t a terrorist. In modern times more so than ever definitions are becoming meaningless. Racism, anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia and terrorism are used with little reference to their true definition. Often, they are used to stifle debate and diminish a point of discussion. However, the instances when they actually occur are no less real.
The question is what happens when someone is labeled a terrorist?
As soon as someone is labeled a terrorist their motivations are put at the front and centre of discussion. Example Omar Mateen was called a terrorist, which meant his link to ISIS took precedent over him being homophobic or having internalised homophobia(whereby a person is homosexual and has hatred for other homosexuals).
If he had been called homophobic without the weak links to ISIS. It would have made people look deeper at the homophobia in society; which is found in religious and non-religious groups and peoples. However, instead the popular narrative was lets blame a book, immigration and generalise a whole group of people; once again.
The problem is murderers like Tommy Mair and Dylan Roof do not get labeled terrorist, so the route cause of their motivation isn’t under public scrutiny. So people do not have to look at themselves or the people they know to see if they are going down a similar heinous path. Those two are treated like one offs and the culture/statements/groups that recreate them aren’t put in the spotlight.
Society doesn’t say “we need to tackle extremism in White men or White people”. This means when White people or Christians go into work the following day or go back on social media, they do not have a societal pressure to apologize for the actions of those whom look like them. Yet, everyone else is told they should apologise and denounce the crimes of their demographic.
Why? Some say because of white privilege. To some this might be a new term to them. To others, it may be an old phrase but misunderstood. I myself was told the phrase by a white male sociologist.
Must be pretty cool to be white and just represent yourself and not your entire race.
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) February 13, 2015
‘White Privilege’ isn’t something someone tells you you have. You just have it whether you accept it or not. It’s the nature of society. Much like accepting the patriarchal system. Whereby society treats men more favorably than women.
It’s not a case that every single white person benefits from the ‘privilege’ it is every single white person can potentially benefit. Just like every single black person doesn’t get hindered by racism. But every single black person can potentially experience or be hindered by racism- President Obama can be called a N*gga just as quick as any other black person.
White privilege is another example of inequality in the system. This inequality manifesting itself in many ways, such as in the media, policing, education and global politics. Inequality is two people in a race and one of them having more hurdles in their lane than the other. The person with fewer hurdles should not have to say ‘sorry’ for having fewer hurdles. But simply to acknowledge they have fewer hurdles and help to make the race more equal.
There are lots of ‘privileges’ in society not just around race. Yet, they are all the characteristics that enable one group of people to be potentially treated more favorably than another. Example, if we had to basketball players of the same ability, one black and one white, the black player would probably get picked first. In this case, if those two players both committed an act of terror, one would be labeled by religion and race and the other would be labeled by their potential mental illness.
Basically, in this case it is the privilege of not being generalized by the actions of fellow White people. The privilege of being able to further distance yourself from their actions by defining them by political terms instead of race or religion ie neo-Nazi or far right.
The effect of this is that when someone is murdered we mourn his or her death. We asked questions of why? How? And what we need to do to stop it from happening? The depth of that questioning is often found in how we describe the assailant. Mental ill or Evil? Terrorist or Murderer?
Those label choices determine how we generalise people who tick the same boxes on the censor form as them. It is the difference between how we see a terrible event as an endemic trait of ‘such and such a group’ or simply a lone example of the fragility, mental instability, potentially violent nature and unpredictability of humans.
We must remember that each race, religion or gender has examples of people whom do terrible things but they aren’t a reflection on the majority.
Just as all White people aren’t racist; all Black people aren’t criminals or ‘thugs’. Just as Tommy Mair is not an example of all White men, Omar Mateen is not an example of all Muslims. Yet, both are examples of two men radicalized on the Internet but only one was used to speak on the nature of a whole group of people.
Let each one of us think before we follow or repeat media driven narratives and generalisations. Let us look at the motivation behind people like Tommy Mair and Dylan Roof. Their hatred is not unique, their belief are not found in a book, they are the manifestation of both historical racism and xenophobia as well as current day negative political rhetoric.
It is now a year since Dylan Roof attacked a Black Church and killed 9 black people. We can only honour their lives by ensuring no one else is sadly murdered in such a hateful way.
Tommy Mair committed a terrorist attack against the British people. Jo Cox was everything right with our democracy. Jo Cox was everything a citizen would want from their MP. This wasn’t simply a murder, it was an attack on democracy & freedom. It was a terrorist attack on our united future. We must unite around Jo Cox’s death and stamp out this growing swell of extremism and stop the negative politics that encourages it.
We have to decide whether we acknowledge mental illness for everyone or just for white perpetrators of terrible acts. We must examine why those with mental illness become marginalised and turn into ‘loners’; pushing them to find solace, brotherhood in negative causes, evil groups and those with hateful and murderous intent. It is only then can we create a better future for everyone.
RIP Jo Cox MP
Let us know your thoughts
Do you think Tommy Mair should be called a terrorist?
Do you think the media shapes the way society views crime?
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