It is an article of faith among the wingnuts of the far right that only brown people can be terrorists. Whites who commit mass murder are simply ‘disturbed’. The T word never gets mentioned in connection with crimes committed by Caucasians. Stephan Salisbury of Le Monde Diplomatique illustrates this with a comparison of the media treatment of Jared Loughner and Nidal Hasan:
That leads to a common thread among these murderous incidents. None has been labeled the work of terrorists by authorities or the media. All involved white men, most of whom — like Jared Loughner in Tucson — have been deemed troubled or disturbed by authorities and various media outlets. Even Jim David Adkisson, the unemployed truck driver who attacked the Knoxville church because he believed it was “a cult” and a haven for Democrats and secular liberals, has not been characterized as a political terrorist. Adkisson was a fan of the writings and shows of right-wing media personalities Bill O’Reilly, Michael Savage, and Sean Hannity, according to authorities who searched his residence after the 2008 shootings. However, his primary motivation, according to those same authorities, was the imminent loss of food stamps and inability to find a job.
Joseph Stack, who flew his plane into the Austin IRS building in an eerie echo of the 9/11 attacks, is also not a terrorist — just a plain old suicide. The Maine dirty-bomb maker, who amassed quantities of hydrogen peroxide, uranium, thorium, lithium metal, thermite, aluminum powder, beryllium, boron, black iron oxide, and magnesium ribbon, a terrorist? No, just a “disturbed individual.”
…[C]onservative columnist David Brooks, in an astonishingly superficial argument, wrote in the New York Times that those who drag politics into public debate over the killing of political figures and government officials are leveling “vicious charges” and lack empathy for the mentally ill. Brooks gravely wagged his finger at those — he singled out MSNBC commentator Keith Olberman, former Senator Gary Hart, and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas — who have argued that violent rhetoric from the Tea Party and Sarah Palin set the table for the Tucson shootings. (Of course Congresswoman Giffords herself chastised Palin for putting her district in the now-infamous gun-sight crosshairs. Does Brooks include her, too, in excoriating “vicious charges made by people who claimed to be criticizing viciousness”?)
How sugary is Brooks’ argument? Compare it to what he wrote following the shooting rampage that took place at Fort Hood in November 2009. In that murderous incident, Major Nidal Malik Hasan was ultimately charged with killing 13 and wounding over 30. Hasan, a Muslim psychiatrist, was clearly disturbed by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (he was about to be deployed to the latter) and his deteriorating mental state had been a concern to officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
That was before Hasan snapped. Despite documented psychiatric worries, the issue of terrorism quickly dominated public discussion of Hasan’s act.
At the time, Brooks derided talk of Hasan’s mental state and characterized those who brought it up as casting “a shroud of political correctness” over the Hasan “narrative.”
“The conversation in the first few days after the massacre was well intentioned, but it suggested a willful flight from reality,” Brooks intoned. “It ignored the fact that the war narrative of the struggle against Islam is the central feature of American foreign policy. It ignored the fact that this narrative can be embraced by a self-radicalizing individual in the U.S. as much as by groups in Tehran, Gaza or Kandahar.”
So much for “vicious charges” and empathy. They are apparently reserved for young white males in Tucson; Muslims need not apply.
There is one simple explanation for this disparity in the way white and non-white criminals are regarded on the right: Bigotry is a central characteristic of conservatism in the Unted States.
(hat tip: Crooks and Liars)