December 14, 2018 | ° F

EDITORIAL: Austin bomber is not deemed terrorist


Public perception of word needs to be re-examined


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The people of Austin, Texas were instilled with a deep fear for their lives as a string of package-bomb attacks occurred over the span of 19 days. The perpetrator, a 23-year-old white male, is now deceased after blowing himself up inside of his vehicle while authorities approached. His actions left two people dead, both of which were the sons of prominent Black community members, and multiple others injured. Before committing suicide, the perpetrator recorded a 25-minute confession video, which Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said indicates no link to terrorism, but that the bomber was "a very troubled young man who was talking about challenges in his life that led him to this point." That caused many to be frustrated by the fact that despite the terror experienced by the residents of Austin, the perpetrator has not been deemed a terrorist. 

To ensure the two sides are not comparing apples and oranges, it is important to examine the definitions of terrorism before arguing about whether what occurred in Austin was such.

According to the FBI, domestic terrorism is “perpetrated by individuals and/or groups inspired by or associated with primarily U.S.-based movements that espouse extremist ideologies of a political, religious, social, racial or environmental nature.” Additionally, according to U.S. Code, the definition of domestic terrorism is conduct which involves, “acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State ...; appear to be intended — (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping; and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States ... ”

Considering the fact that a political, social or ideological motive is not apparent based on the bomber’s confession tape and that such a motive is not apparent as of yet based on his personal life, such as internet search history, it seems to make sense that he was not deemed a terrorist. So this brings up the question: Is something wrong with the definition of a terrorist, or rather is something wrong with the way we use the word?

It is interesting to think about how the media or the authorities would have portrayed the bomber in this case if he had been Muslim or of Middle-Eastern descent. It is not far-fetched to assume that rather than simply deeming him “troubled,” they may very well have been more quick to attribute terroristic motives to his actions, regardless of if they were existent. To some, what happened in Austin is blatant terrorism no matter the definition, and the perpetrator should be deemed a terrorist. But aside from the definitions of these words, the change some want to see will come down to the public’s perception of who terrorists generally are, which is largely influenced by what they are shown on television and in the news. 

As of right now, it seems that maybe the way the media and the authorities portray “terrorists” as opposed to the way they portray “troubled young men” is racially or culturally biased. So the change must begin there — in the media. No matter the perpetrator’s creed or color, someone who commits such heinous acts as those experienced by the people of Austin should never be humanized or made out to be less of a monster depending on what they look like. It can be agreed that all people who commit atrocities like this are troubled, even terrorists. But being troubled should not act as a crutch for one’s actions depending on their race. The Austin bomber was no doubt troubled — but considering his victims, there may very well be more to it than that. 

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The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.


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