Editorial

Self-induced myopia on domestic terrorism

Sunday, October 08, 2017

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Terrorism is a worldwide phenomenon, but there is no commonly accepted definition of “terrorism”. Wikipedia's attempted definition is serviceable:

“Terrorism, in its broadest sense, describes the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror, or fear, to achieve a political, religious or ideological aim.”

The objective of terrorism may be made explicit or sometimes the terrorists do not state their goal. Sometimes the act of terror is claimed by one group or another, and at other times it is not.

Terrorist violence is not merely to murder per se. First degree murder is intentional and the victim is known to the killer, while second degree murder is unplanned and among people usually unknown to each other. A mass killing, however, is a statement.

Last week's Las Vegas mass killing was meticulously planned and was intended for some purpose yet to be determined. It made it clear that even multimillionaires can be mass killers or terrorists.

It is interesting that where no motive is made explicit it is easy to attribute terrorist intentions when those involved, or alleged to be involved, are foreigners and of certain religions and ethnicity. It is then easy to mobilise public hostility.

If, however, the perpetrators are ethnic minorities and/or Muslim, but are citizens, they are usually classified as terrorists. The problem is when it is a white, educated, affluent, middle-aged and apparently sane person who does an act of terrorism, as in Las Vegas.

There is a crisis of domestic terrorism in the USA and Western Europe. It is a crisis because they refuse to admit to its existence. The sensible approach to a crisis is to be honest enough to admit it as soon as the situation is recognised, then move decisively and proactively to deal with it.

There are two possible explanations for the myopia as seen in the US and Western Europe.

First, sometimes reality is too traumatic for a person, family or society to accept, so they deny the truth as a way of coping. This is the only explanation of why American society, Government, and news media have refused to classify last Sunday's mass shooting in Las Vegas — the worst in US history — as terrorism.

Terrorism is not new to the Americans. The early settlers systematically perpetuated terrorism on the indigenous native population; the slave owners used it to maintain slavery, and there was Timothy McVeigh's bombing of a building in Oklahoma City in April 1995.

This approach of denial can result in a repetition of the crisis, prolonging the crisis, and a proliferation or worsening of a crisis.

Second, the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the US has a lockdown on the American psyche and on the policy which prevents effective gun control. Few politicians can remain in office if the NRA spends enough supporting their political opponents. It is all about the profits of the arms manufacturers.

Given how close to home this latest attack has hit — a demographic known to fervently oppose gun control — the NRA has cracked open the door to considering extremely limited restrictions on devices used to make guns more deadly.

Limited as it is, that is indeed a heavy price to pay for such a common sense concession. It should never have come to this.

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