White Terrorist is “Gunman,” “Alleged Shooter,” no Mention of Wingnut ‘New World Order’ Beef

This Chicago Tribune story amalgamated from its sources and wire services on the LAX shooter is interesting for its language. Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, is charged with “murder” and called a “suspected shooter.” The article speaks of his desire to kill TSA employees, i.e. Federal personnel. That is, he conspired against the Federal government.

We know from other reports that Ciancia bought into a far rightwing conspiracy theory that US elites are delivering the country into a “New World Order” or world government. (For Ciancia’s ideology, see Mark Potok at the Southern Poverty Law Center). But this piece does not mention ideology. Nor is his ethnicity even brought up.

Ultimately, Ciancia is depicted as a quiet and troubled loner, probably mentally unbalanced, and his right wing political commitments and conspiracy theories are not even mentioned. That put-upon “whites” in an America becoming majority multi-ethnic and multi-cultural have developed an extremist ideology centering on their betrayal at the hands of a government subordinating itself to a world dominated by non-whites is not deemed worthy of being part of the analysis.

It is worth considering this language because we know how he would have been treated in the press had he been Arab or Muslim. His ideology and what he had faith in would have taken precedence over his being a conspiracy theorist or mentally unbalanced. Likely the word “terrorist” would have appeared in the article.

Even David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, was held for 8 hours by authorities in London for “terrorism” because he was transporting a flashdrive with evidence of government wrongdoing on it. “Terrorism” is acquiring a very narrow semantic field, dedicated to the Middle East on the one hand and whistleblowers on the other. Crazed white conspiracy theorists are exempted because taking them seriously would require changes in America’s bizarre gun laws (changes made effectively by Australia, e.g.). The gun manufacturing lobby, i.e., the NRA, would never allow that.

Conclusion: Arabs and Muslims who melt down are not in today’s America allowed to be just ‘quiet” or “troubled” individuals. They are always seen as emblematic of their ethnic group, and one or two of them are enough to make a conspiracy. (In some cases, a Muslim troubled loner who went postal has been enlisted in the conspiracy simply by pointing to radical magazines he read, whereas the wingnut literature Ciancia clearly hung out with is not being mentioned.)

I’ve talked about this before.

16 Responses

  1. A similar incident at the same airport (LAX) in 2002, in which one person was killed and others wounded at the El Al counter was labelled a terrorist attack, even though the attacker (with an Arab background) had no known international connections and, in the FBI’s judgment,acted alone. Just like this guy.

  2. It’s similar with Jared Loughner (of the Tucson shooting). While he certainly was psychotic, he had been reading extreme right-wing material. Shooting congresswomen Giffords may also have been antisemitic (I don’t really know), as she was Jewish and the stuff Loughner was reading – about debasing the currency, etc. – has a strong antisemitic tinge.

    About David Miranda, the logic is scary. He revealed information whose release may have aided terrorists, he acted in pursuit of a political cause, therefore he is a terrorist. Watch out, Juan Cole!

    I am reminded of the Reagan administration, which in the 1980s labelled people who protested his support of the death-squad government in El Salvador as terrorist, even FBI informants found no links to violence, and who, in fact, were explicitly non-violent. But death squads and the Contras in Nicaragua, who targeted (under Oliver North’s direction) teacher, nurses, doctors and medical clinics, were labelled “freedom fighters.” Yes, there are indeed people who target civilians in heinous acts, but the the label “terrorist” seems to be reserved for those who oppose US (or British) foreign policy, regardless of whether they engage in violence or not.

    • Labeling Ciancia and Loughner “white terrorists” because they had read some right-wing NWO propaganda is a stretch, IMO. Loughner ran off the rails several years ago. Ciancia hasn’t been connected to any far right group and is probably a nutjob too.

      However, the federal government and the lackey media does not call lone white gunman “terrorists,” especially if they are Americans. More than one attacker might be a different story. Would it have “legs?”

      • P.S. Compare these two nutters with Wade Michael Page, the Sikh temple killer in Wisconsin. Page did have ties to neo-Nazzs and played in one of their hate bands. Without a doubt, Page was a white terrorist.

        Don’t confuse his kind of violent hatred with a couple mental cases like Loughner and Ciancia who were probably set off by some kinda tin foil delusions like the Navy Yard shooter, another nutjob.

  3. Remember, in much of the country right-wing terrorists have already won in their war against abortion, in close but plausibly deniable alliance with Christian Right politicians. The fact that they weren’t called out as terrorists, much less victorious terrorists and terrorist allies, showed the Right that if they screamed hard enough the media would back down.

  4. I’ve been disturbed about it before, but haven’t talked about it. Our media seems to like to echo right wing memes, and is certainly nervous about becoming a target. But, rest assured, if we had any left-wing terrorism, I’m sure it would be labeled as such.

    Now, it may be legitimate to distinguish acts of an individual, not formally associated with an organized political group -but who have clearly drunk the coolaide as something other than a terrorists, perhaps ideologically inspired hate criminal is more accurate.

  5. If one individual does it, it’s not terrorism, unless it’s not a white person. ‘Case closed’. ‘All you need to know’. ‘Nothing to see here’. ‘These aren’t the droids you’re looking for’. ‘Look! Superman’! ‘Who’re ya gonna believe? Me? Or your lying eyes?’

  6. It is absurd, that in press a person like Anders Breivik is called as shooter and rather reluctantly as terrorist. And on the same time frustrated Palestinian teenager who throws stones on Israeli settlers and soldiers is called a terrorist without any questions.

    The right wing terrorism killed alone in Bologna in 1980 many times more than the Red Army Faction (Bader Meinhof) and Red Brigades combined during their whole decades long “carriers”. Tens of films and books have been made of those left-wing terrorists. On the same time we are given very little “information” of those behind the Bologna massacre or Anders Breivik’s mission. Strange …

    • It is indeed absurd! The question is can we change it. The press knows the right wing will scream bloody murder, and they seem to get their wishes. Maybe the left (and Palestinian and other) causes need to start becoming loud enough to be heard as well? This is the awful press environment that progressives are up against.

  7. People forget that the second worst terrorist incident in our country’s history was the Oklahoma City bombing, committed by a white, christian, veteran who was a right wing extremist. Not only is the media reluctant to apply the terrorist label to the right wing, law enforcement avoids making connections among the many instances Could it be because they have too many members who are too close to some of the right wing organizations?

    • In the media’s case, it’s just plain fear of getting screamed at by rabid righties. I used to work for local radio and TV stations in the Washington area, and I can testify that it’s no picnic to have some meatheads hollering nasty and brutish abuse at you over the phone every day. Not pleasant. After years if not decades of putting up with that sort of thing a half-conscious kind of self-censorship sets in; you want to not go to certain places because doing so will light up the station’s switchboard with the nut cases. Reporting on the LAX shooter’s far right-wing fantasies is precisely the sort of story that sets them off.

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