What counts as ter­ror?

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION -

Last Saturday in Lon­don, three men ran over and then stabbed dozens of peo­ple, killing eight, and it was an act of in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism. In Or­lando, Fla., the next Mon­day, a dis­grun­tled ex-em­ployee shot dead five of his for­mer col­leagues, and it was an­other day in Amer­ica.

Such is the way some Times let­ter writ­ers say this news­pa­per and other me­dia out­lets treated the two at­tacks. Over the last weak, read­ers have been ask­ing why there’s a sharp dis­crep­ancy be­tween the cov­er­age of the two in­ci­dents de­spite the sim­i­lar ca­su­alty counts; once such let­ter has al­ready been printed, touch­ing off more dis­cus­sion on what acts of vi­o­lence count as ter­ror­ism.

— Paul Thornton, let­ters edi­tor

Ir vine res­i­dent Vic­to­ria Reiser puts the risk to Amer­i­cans posed by ter­ror­ism in per­spec­tive:

We con­tinue to head­line ter­ror at­tacks by for­eign ex­trem­ists who use knives and ve­hi­cles as weapons, ze­ro­ing in on the at­tack­ers’ ori­gins and ex­treme Is­lamist views.

Mean­while, in the back pages and with far less bravado, we re­port our home-grown national ter­ror­ism

by na­tive cit­i­zens wield­ing le­gal hand­guns and knives.

Facts are clearly less sen­sa­tional than news­pa­per head­lines, no mat­ter how many times we read them. As re­ported by Busi­ness In­sider, the life­time odds of be­ing killed in an as­sault us­ing a gun are 1 in 358; in an at­tack by a for­eign-born ter­ror­ist, 1 in 45,808; in an at­tack by a refugee ter­ror­ist, 1 in 46,192,893; and in an at­tack by an il­le­gal im­mi­grant ter­ror­ist, 1 in 138,324,873.

Re­spond­ing to a let­ter to the edi­tor, Flo Gins­burg of Santa Mon­ica ex­plains why not all acts of mass killing deser ve to be called ter­ror­ism:

In the June 8 Times, Frank Fer­rone of El Ca­jon sug­gests that the one-off mas­sacre by a U.S. Army vet­eran in Or­lando be deemed ter­ror­ism.

Ter­ror­ist acts are done to put fear into peo­ple’s psy­che for the fu­ture. It is an ide­o­log­i­cal act to make peo­ple sub­mit through fear to their fu­ture de­mands. It is build­ing a history of ter­ror­ist acts in order to try to con­trol the fu­ture. This is far dif­fer­ent from a one-off at­tack by, say, an an­gry for­mer em­ployee, no mat­ter how many are killed in the event.

It is true that some work­place vi­o­lence is ter­ror­ism. How­ever, that can usu­ally be iden­ti­fied by the per­pe­tra­tor, who will of­ten an­nounce his in­ten­tion in order to help build that layer of fear that may make us bow to the fu­ture de­mands of peo­ple who share his ide­ol­ogy.

Allen F. Dz­iuk of Carls­bad takes a much broader view of what ter­ror­ism is:

It is re­fresh­ing that The Times has read­ers ob­ser­vant enough as let­ter writer Fer­rone.

How did a re­port on the killing in Or­lando end up buried inside The Times while an­other piece on a nut chas­ing a cop in Paris with a ham­mer landed on the front page?

In my book, murder is ter­ror­ism; it does not mat­ter if it is com­mit­ted by an Is­lamic State mar­tyr wear­ing a ex­plo­sive vest or an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen who is an­gry over los­ing his job and picks up a gun.

Ger­ardo Mora Getty Im­ages

IN­VES­TI­GA­TORS gather at the scene of the at­tack near Or­lando. The shooter was a for­mer em­ployee.

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