Have We Turned A Blind Eye To Domestic Terrorism?

In the United States, some types of hate are more tolerated than others

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TIME Photo Illustration; Wade: FBI / AFP via Getty Images

Among the more off-putting commentary in the immediate aftermath of the attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisc., were the vacuous musings of a number of TV journalists, speculating why the shooter targeted this community. Why did he “have beef with the Sikhs?” one asked. Then came the bemused refrain — Sikhism is different from Islam — as if somehow everything would make more sense had there been six Muslims shot dead on a balmy summer day in Wisconsin.

On a lot of levels, though, it doesn’t matter whether the dead were Sikh or Muslim, not least because Wade Michael Page, the terrorist who killed them, probably wouldn’t have cared. Yes, Sikhs, many of whom grow long beards and wear turbans, have faced shameful discrimination in the decade since 9/11 — the unwitting scapegoats of anti-Muslim fervor nationwide. But to Page, an Army vet immersed in a world of far-right hate, the people he shot were brown-skinned and irredeemably “the Other.” That was enough to pull the trigger.

It’s that ideology that needs to be taken to task, that needs to be front and center of the national conversation. But will it be?

(MORE: After the Bloodbath, Oak Creek Comes Together to Mourn)

One can imagine how different the reaction would have been had Page been a Muslim-American, and his victims Christian churchgoers. Immediately, we would see grim-faced talking heads pronouncing upon the pathologies of Islam — a whole culture — and the reach of global terror networks. Politicians would have started grandstanding, calling on moderate Muslims to repudiate the radicals in their midst. They would use the incident to justify the extensive monitoring and (possibly unconstitutional) profiling of Muslim-Americans that’s already in place. They would exploit anti-Muslim sentiment to score cheap shots against Washington rivals. They would warn their citizenry to eschew “political correctness” and get smart to the danger of Muslims everywhere “trying to kill Americans” — the very words spoken by Illinois Republican congressman Joe Walsh just days after the slaughter in Oak Creek.

But now, in the aftermath of the shootings in Oak Creek, isn’t it time to confront the actual terrorists in our midsts? As Peter Bergen, a TIME contributor and CNN national security analyst recently pointed out, white supremacist and far-right violence has claimed more lives in the U.S. since 9/11 than its Islamist counterpart. In his own deranged writings, Anders Breivik, the far-right Norwegian responsible for one of the worst massacres in his country’s history, liberally cites the writings of neo-Nazi and Islamophobic websites based in the U.S. A recent analysis of the more than 300 cases of domestic terrorism since 9/11 found, in the words of the New Yorker’s Steve Coll, that “all of the most frightening cases — involving chemical, biological, and radiological materials — arose from right-wing extremists or anarchists. None arose from Islamist militancy.”

(MORE: Is the Military Racist?)

Yet no politician is calling for federal hearings on the threat of white supremacists in the U.S. — the type of neo-Mccarthyist agit-prop staged by New York congressman Pete King earlier this year when he held a hearing on the dangers of “Islamic radicalization” within Muslim-American communities. In 2009, when the Department of Homeland Security issued a nine-page report on “Right-Wing Extremism”, the U.S.’s right-wing punditocracy went into overdrive, lambasting the report as an attempt to smear Republicans as a whole. The analyst who wrote it would leave the DHS a year later; his small team of domestic terrorism analysts was effectively shut down. One of the report’s findings warned of growing numbers of disaffected Army vets turning to neo-Nazi hate groups.

In Oak Creek, there’s little time for recrimination and anger. On Thursday, the Sikh congregation returned to its temple, ritually cleaning and purifying it. They are keeping exposed one bullet hole in the wall, a mark of remembrance that speaks volumes of the strength of this community. Yes, the country ought to get to know such an inspiring, brave set of fellow Americans better — and, of course, understand what the difference between a Sikh and a Muslim is. But the real question that needs an answer is why one type of hate seems more tolerable than another.

PHOTOS: Sikh Temple Shooting: Wisconsin Reacts to the Shocking Attack

46 comments
Greg Cox
Greg Cox

It's only terrorism if you allow the government and media to use it as their tool.

There is nothing anyone can do to prevent some effing nutter from going off and killing a bunch of people on a whim so stop worrying about it... It's an unwinnable game, so why play ?

James Staples
James Staples

If you've ever read Tacitus, then these guys like Page who set out to make war on Innocent People in the Name of the 'Christian Right', and the guys like Osama bin Laden who set out to make war on Innocent People in the Name of the 'Islamic Right', should remind you of the Roman Legionairies (Yes! Al Qaeda! I just called YOU 'el Rumi'!!!) who - having been outcast from the Germanic Tribes who, as Tacitus makes tacitcly clear, were otherwise peace-loving people who never attacked Rome even one tenth the number of times that the Official Chroniclers would have us believe, because of their outrageous behavior - Woul hire on a Legionaries, and then, on threat of mutinying, and attacking Rome itself, be set free by their Centurions to rape, pillage, and plunder their own former homelands.

Yes, and, of course, it's all Obamas fault - right, Wayne La Pierre? I mean, this piece of crap obviously had a really, really hard time getting his hands on apiece, now, didn't he?

Joseph Essien-Obot
Joseph Essien-Obot

And what I would like to understand is whether local Islamic terrorism is not domestic. If we know the source of an action should we, because others are less clear or less pronounced, not tackle it at its source? And as Danyz said below "Mass killings like the Batman tragedy and gangster style drive by shootings have nothing to do with politics and are not terrorist acts, terrible as they are." These should certainly be differentiated from politically and organised violent actions under the auspices of religion or culture. Calling everything terrorism is an attempt by known actual terrorist systems to deflect attention from their already established sources.

ladyinla
ladyinla

Well said.  I used to be a journalist and I remember bringing up this very issue -- domestic terrorism already in play -- in a journalism forum about the Patriot Act in the aftermath of 9/11.   I mentioned an ongoing practice by a white supremacy group, I think the KKK, to erect a flaming cross each year in the town square.

You know what the panelist responded to me, who was also a journalist?

I quote:  "One man's terrorism is another man's free speech."

... Please keep the conversation going, try to get yourself booked on some of these news talk shows on networks like MSNBC and even Fox.

roadkill612
roadkill612

Bottom line seems to me, is all these guys are; bitter, broken, losers who want to top themselves but want to go out in what they regard is style.

at least I am notorious if i take lottsa innocents with me.

 

Fla4Me
Fla4Me

This will be an unpopular post but a valid point in the discussion that you wont here otherwise.  I'll preface by saying all these acts of hate fueled violence is wrong and should never happen.  That said, after 9/11 some brave liberals had the courage to say "ok, lets at least look at why they hate us.....maybe our support for dictators, our military presence, our taking of resources from their countries has something to do with it etc"  So, lets have the courage to ask about the things that give rise to resentment, peaking in violent acts, against people who are "other" then "us".  Our government has opened the doors without asking its people.  The people who have come seem to have come more for economic gain then for the belief in the principles the country was founded on.  Much as been written about the lack of galvanizing events in modern times which in the past has served to make people of different origins "Americans".  It was recently reported that in a few years Caucasians will become a minority in the country.  As it is I live in a place where you can live very easily not speaking English.  You often see flags of other countries flying rather then our flag.  Diversity seems to be more about carving out a foothold for your ethic group and competing for resources then about becoming an American in the spiritual and philosophical sense.  Is this what we want?  Have we been asked?  Can we say no?   

IsameldinAbdelrahman
IsameldinAbdelrahman

It is ridiculous to send your sons and daughters to fight worldwide and expect to get out with bloodless hands ! society is one whole part !

John Mclaren
John Mclaren

The right wing has turned a blind eye to far right terrorism. Heaven forbid, if a gun wielding psycho ever happened to be a Muslim of middle eastern descent, they will be all over it and cry for vengeance.

George Lwebandiza
George Lwebandiza

Hate directed to other races (in America) especially now when  non- whites are ascending the political ladder is driving white supremacists to terrorism. Terrorist incidents which are being/were committed by non-whites (Arabs), are driving many white racists to the edge. This will create more white supremacist groups.

If Obama wins the second term, FBI will have to be more vigilant because more  white racists are going to join 'Terror Gangs" and it wont be suprising if America experiences more terror incidents by white supremacists. 

John Mclaren
John Mclaren

The right wing has turned a blind eye to far right terrorism. Heaven forbid, if a gun wielding psycho ever happened to be a Muslim of middle eastern descent, they will be all over it and cry for vengeance.

John Mclaren
John Mclaren

The right wing has turned a blind eye to far right terrorism. Heaven forbid, if a gun wielding psycho ever happened to be a Muslim of middle eastern descent, they will be all over it and cry for vengeance.

johnston1212
johnston1212

This guy is dead as he should be. The problem is with countries that have a predominant religion that does not safeguard the rights of the minority. The USA does Saudia Arabia does not. Lebanon does not. Egypt does not. Whether Sikh or Christian no ones place of worship should have murder or grenades rolled into it. Other countries should step up as the USA has and defend "aggressively" the minority and not stay quiet because the guys getting bombed are not from your group.

ummon
ummon

You clearly know nothing about Lebanon...

johnston1212
johnston1212

I know that you know nothing about Lebanon. That beautiful country turned into a war zone of intolerance, hatred and untruth.

Morgan Sheridan
Morgan Sheridan

Absolutely we have.  Over 20 years ago, the Pentagon was advised that  members of various hate groups were actively joining to get specialized military training.  The Pentagon sat on their hands.  They continue to sit on their hands.   Since 9/11 the focus on terrorists has been explicitly directed toward foreign terrorists and domestic terrorism threats have been downplayed and trivialized.  Well intentioned, conscientious people from various walks of life who've expressed concern publicly have been demeaned and spoken down to as though they were infants by their fellow citizens, politicians and police departments around the country.  "Oh," they  say, "the authorities have a handle on it, so don't worry you're simple little heads about it."  So we have events like the Sikh temple shooting.

We have had over 11 years of having American minds filled with prejudiced propoganda that if victims of domestic terrorism and other crimes of violence are not white, the targets are fair game.  This was a huge win for FOX News, Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, et. al.  No mistake.  And they're doubling down on their propaganda, so it won't be that long before the next set of 'lone wolf' attacks.   And all the while that FOX was doing their dirty work, the other media outlets stayed silent.  They repudiated nothing.  So they gave their consent and approval too.

Addictional Mytha
Addictional Mytha

Some people are just hateful and aggressive by nature.  They use groups like KKK as a tool to express their violence.  It doesn't really matter what their true belief is.  If they really believed this stuff, they would promote it the true American way - through politics.

Also these killers often use drugs and alcohol, in part because it suppresses the part of the brain that says stop and think rationally.  Unfortunately we as a society tend to condone the myth of addiction (that you are not responsible for your behavior when on drugs) that underlies this behavior.

Addictional Mytha
Addictional Mytha

Some people are just really angry and aggressive by nature.  They look for any group to express their violence.  They use the KKK as a tool to justify the destruction, it doesn't really matter if it is true or not.  If they really believed this stuff, they would pursue it in the true American way - through politics.

They also use alcohol and drugs as a tool to justify and excuse their violent behavior, thinking: I can freely express my aggression while on drugs/alcohol without being held accountable or feeling guilty about it.   The drugs serve two purposes: suppress natural guilt and shame, and accrue sympathy from others.

http://AddictionMyth.com

Swiftright Right
Swiftright Right

Specifically  I think were turning a blind eye to domestic terrorism that involves killing people who don't look "American". By American I mean Fox watching WASPs. 

ReDQLulz
ReDQLulz

I applaud the restraint along with the civil and reasoned tenor of the comments on a subject that is obviously fraught with all levels of political, cultural, religious and philosophical mousetraps. You folks made some interesting points.

I can only imagine what could be accomplished if we all could simply sit down and talk 'things out'  in a similar fashion. Alas, such 'imagination' can get you quickly labeled as a nutjob dreamer/idealist...

harvey_conn
harvey_conn

Extremists views of the right wing (that's the far side of the GOP in USA), seem to breed these types of characters. They hate with passion and want to legislate away, deport or kill just about everyone that is unlike them or disagrees with their point of view, however narrow it is. some even become elected officials, using their hated to craft laws (see: legislate away)

 To be fair, every country has them, and they seem to be tolerated and equally well armed.

Danyz
Danyz

While this article is about Sikhs, which many uniformed people confuse with Moslems, one has to feel for the more numerous ordinary Moslems living in Western countries these days. They are scapgoated by the right and pilloried by the left as well, for requiring their women to wear head scarves, maintaining the historical definition of marriage, etc. I suggest that the next time you buy say, a  slice of Uncle Fatih's pizza, just smile and tell the shopkeeper the pizza is great.

fsilber
fsilber

"Yet no politician is calling for federal hearings on the threat of white

supremacists in the U.S. — the type of neo-Mccarthyist agit-prop staged

by New York congressman Pete King earlier this year when he held a

hearing on the dangers of `Islamic radicalization' within

Muslim-American communities."

Maybe that's because white supremacists don't have hundreds of millions of people in their home countries celebrating these acts, nor do they come from large communities of people giving "charity" to organizations promoting these attacks, and we don't see their college-age children creating anti-Sikh college organizations.

Swiftright Right
Swiftright Right

What do you expect fro a guy who was a fund raiser for one of the most notorious terror groups in the world?

Peter King should be in a jail cell. The idea that he can with a straight face defend the Irish Republican Army as "freedom fighters" and then call for witch Muslim witch hunts is sickening.

Joseph Essien-Obot
Joseph Essien-Obot

Well, Swiftright Right, what is the relationship between the Irish political situation and Islamic terrorism. 

Abbasali Dilawarhusein Budhwan
Abbasali Dilawarhusein Budhwan

Thanks Ishaan for at least highlighting this as a "Terrorism". I think you are the only one Media highlighting this as a DomesticTerrorist incident.

Ramamurthi
Ramamurthi

Army veterans who have been engaged in Iraq, Afghanistan and other terror zones are like;y to harbor deep revengeful feelings, since invariably they don't defeat the enemy. They often see their colleagues killed by deceit. Such persons, at times of stress, can let out their revengeful emotions. At such times it is unlikely that they will deliberate in their mind before taking action.

As such no racist or terrorist tag should be attached to these persons. In fact their minds need to be detoxified of the revenge toxin. This can be done by compulsorily enlisting them for 2 years on a job where there are many chances of success.  

Swiftright Right
Swiftright Right

As a combat vet I just want to tell you,

Your full of cow feces (darn these censers to heck)

CJones1977
CJones1977

Post combat stress disorder is a serious and underrated issue for our military, but in the case of this shooter, CNN reported this morning that he never saw combat in his military career.  I'm not sure it should apply to him.  

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

Our gun and drug laws show that we deem a certain level of domestic terrorism (mass murders, bombings, drive-by shootings, etc.) and societal breakdown as tolerable. There is no other interpretation.

James Staples
James Staples

Having caused troubles for (Yeah!) and/or had troubles with the Neo NAZI Assholes of the World, I think I'll continue to put up with the risks associated with the fact that - If I actually owned a Gun (The Force IS With Me, however -  So, I guess that'll just have to do, for now) - they wouldn't be able to SHOOT ME FIRST!!!

Danyz
Danyz

It's not helpful to confuse domestic crime with terrorism, which is politically motivated.

Swiftright Right
Swiftright Right

Because clearly ideology and politics had nothing to do with a white supremacist rolling into a obscure temple full of dark skinned immigrants and killing every only he could.

Domestic crime, yeah right.

Danyz
Danyz

Hello. Please reread the comment in question. Mass killings like the Batman tragedy and gangster style drive by shootings have nothing to do with politics and are not terrorist acts, terrible as they are. 

Talendria
Talendria

I agree with you that one type of hate is as reprehensible as another, but it's incorrect to state that the U.S. government or citizenry tolerates right-wing hate.  The FBI has been stalking these groups for decades, and the vast majority of Americans find these group just as alien and repugnant as al Qaeda.  The problem with your article is that it seems to justify the existence of Islamic militancy as a counterpoint to right-wing hatred, and it seems to suggest that we should stop aggressively pursuing Islamic terrorists.  There is no justification for terrorism, and the government has an obligation to pursue any person or group implicated in terrorist activities, regardless of their ideology.

wandmdave
wandmdave

 He does have a bit of a point though.  We're far more consumed with the Islamic kind of terrorism than the domestic kind and give up far more liberties and treasure in their pursuit at the moment.  Its not terribly surprising given human psychology (rarer more foreign threats always seem more serious and deadly than they are, think fear of sharks vs bees).  However, the author is just pointing out that bias which is worth doing in my mind.

Joseph Essien-Obot
Joseph Essien-Obot

Wandmdave, your premise is gravely false. What you are saying is that Islamic terrorism is not domestic (as in doesn't occur in the US). I think you will have to check that out somewhat.

wandmdave
wandmdave

Sure Islamic terror groups have had cells here that have conducted operations here but that doesn't mean those groups were domestic in origin just because their target was here.  The definition of domestic terrorism is terrorism practiced in one's own country against one's own people. Al-Qaeda is a foreign terror group despite the fact they ran and operation here.  Besides lone wolf crazies I have not heard of a domestically based Islamic terror group.

CJones1977
CJones1977

I see your point that all terrorism, and in the case of this story, all domestic terrorism should be treated the same; either in courts or the media, but I think the author is correct in pointing out how this is not the always the case.  There are constant stories of Mosque permits being rejected or delayed, and the entire flap over the Islamic center in NY, was all played out as a "wink wink hint hint, we don't want that element here."  This is wrong, and the author has a point that too few people are stopping this madness, by stating clearly "that there is nothing wrong with the Islamic faith as a whole, just as there is nothing wrong with the Christian faith as a whole" despite these hate groups, funeral protesters, and abortion extremist (not the ones that protest, but the ones that have actually threatened and killed doctors, just to be clear), that all hold up the Bible as their justification for their universally socially unacceptable actions.  Hate groups have used religion as a basis for thousands of years, and today they are no different.    Though I agree with you, and statistics support this as well, that most Americans by the millions reject these people, you don't hear politicians asking churches to publicly denounce these hate groups that perverse the Bible as their justification; but I remember Congressman King calling on "moderate Muslim to denounce the actions of the Fort Hood shooter." on CNN and no one challenged him how insulting that is to other Muslims and other Americans.  In some cases pundits, news casters, and politicians  would rather the discussion on hate groups get lost into a debate of gun rights, freedom of speech, and abortion rights etc.  Instead of allowing anyone to ask the question; "Why have we as a nation allowed these groups, some of which have existed in some form or fashion since the Civil War, to continue to operate?"  We would never allow Al-Quada or any other Islamic extreme group operate here, we wouldn't be claiming that they have  speech rights and second amendment rights, but Neo-Nazis, KKK, and others that have a history of violence... deafening silence.     

Joseph Essien-Obot
Joseph Essien-Obot

CJones1977, your comment doesn't make any logical sense. Why should one ask churches to denounce terror done in the name of Christianity when it is already universally done? Have you ever come across an Islamic leader denounce such violence or seen a demonstration organised by the Muslim community denouncing such terror actions in their name? It is because Islam is complaisant that is why terror in the name of Islam is rife. But for the support of the Christian community do you not think that violence in the name of Christianity would also be as rife? And please, don't use this abortion issue as some sort of defense. The number of attacks on pro-life demonstrators far outweigh attacks on pro-abortion proponents. Unfortunately the media find it less interesting to report pro-abort attacks than vice versa.

Karamsoul
Karamsoul

 We are "complaisant"(sic)? Just because I didn't hold a candlelight vigil on your front lawn after 911, does not mean I did not do it.

Muslims everywhere have denounced extremist activities ALL THE TIME. If the media doesn't report it, or you don't care to find it, does not mean IT DID NOT HAPPEN.

See some examples below, of the Muslim world's reaction to 911.

http://www.muhajabah.com/other...

CJones1977
CJones1977

With all due respect, I have to disagree with your premise.  You say that terror done in the name of Christianity is universally rejected.  Is it?  The KKK are terrorist group, according to the 1964 Klu Klux Klan Act, they consider themselves a Christian group, so I would imagine that their members or supporters don't all reject their actions.  Now, every non Klansman, non hate group member, self identified Christian or just decent person would not call them a Christian group, and Christians are not expected to defend their faith for those people's actions, and they shouldn't have to.  I'm just saying that these same expectations should be carried to all people.  I would no more ask my friends in the Islamic faith why there are attacks against this country than I would ask the members of my church why there are people blowing up clinics and burning crosses on people's lawns.  My point is that, we easily assume that terrible thinks done by a few are rejected by the rest, and that assumption should be cared over to all thing including other religions.  The Islamic faith no more preaches violence than any other, but anyone can read the words of anything and find a call for violence, that doesn't mean that was the true intention.  

To your point of abortion attacks on pro lifers, maybe your right.  I have never heard of any pro lifer attack, that is not to say it doesn't happen, but I've never seen it on the news.  The point however isn't the frequency or balance, but the fact that both are wrong.  Answering any action with violence is socially rejected in this country, so the nutjob that blows up an abortion clinic is just as wrong as the nutjob that attacks a group of Pro life protesters that are exercising their American Rights.  Both are wrong but yes one is going to get more media attention.  

Talendria
Talendria

You raise a good point about the KKK. I don't know why a group founded on hate with a history of acting on that hate would be afforded any protection under the Constitution. If you write the change.org petition, I will sign it.