Troubled or Thug?
Johnson, Maisha Z. “8 Ways the Media Upholds White Privilege and Demonizes People of Color.”
Domestic Terrorism: The American Pastime
Domestic terrorism goes mainly unchecked in the United States; partly because of the federal government’s inability to implement gun control laws and prevention strategies, and also because of the ignorance and pride of American society. Even though, there are an exorbitant amount of mass shootings in the US, motivated by extremist beliefs, the media rarely frames them as domestic terrorism. Additionally, a stark inconsistency exists between how American news outlets cover mass shootings based on race.
Me, Myself, and Domestic Terrorism
For a more in depth look at my personal interest click on this link, Personal Interest Essay
Daily Dose of Racism
Historically, the US government and media has treated violent politically motivated organizations differently because of race. For example, the different treatment the Black Panther Party and the Ku Klux Klan received from the federal governement and media during the 1960’s and Civil Rights Movement. To know more about the historical racial bias in the US click on this link, Historical Problem Essay
Initiating Violence To Stop Free Breakfast
The Black Panther Party combined elements of socialism and Black nationalism, and was dedicated to armed self-defense, set up armed patrols with the intention to prevent police brutality, created free community health centers, and free breakfast programs that were beneficial to the community (Hermida). When the US media covered the BPP, “the stories fit into narrow frames that underscored national ideologies about race and social protest”, basically framing the party in a negative light (Rhodes). In response to the Black Panther’s party rhetoric and actions the FBI, Federal Bureau of Investigations, launched the Racial Intelligence Section COINTELPRO (Counterintelligence Program) with the goal to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalists” (Jones). The tactics, however, usually involved violence, which was largely initiated by the government who, “aimed not at preventing violence, but at neutralizing the BPP as a political entity” (Jones).
“The Black Panther party, without question, represents the greatest threat to the internal security of the country”
-J. Edgar Hoover
Blakemore, Erin. “How the Black Panthers’ Breakfast Program Both Inspired and Threatened the Government.”
Turning a Blind Eye To Whiteness
The Ku Klux Klan rose in high numbers in the 1960’s in order, “to disrupt and intimidate the growing civil rights struggle” (Smith). The reception of the KKK’s bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in 1963, which resulted in the death of four black girls, is a stark contrast to the coverage the Black Panther Party received. Reportedly, the police where informed of the bomb two hours before the explosion and did nothing. It wasn’t until 1977 that a Klan leader was prosecuted and convicted for the bombing, but officials declined to present evidence detailing the role the federal government had in the bombing (Smith). This demonstrates the governments past of ignoring racism and dereliction of duty in protecting American citizens. After the Civil Rights Movement there was an effort to discover the identities of Klan members and dismantle Klan activities. However, none of the tactics used were ever violent or caused fatalities; unlike the tactics used against the Black Panther Party.
The Elephant In The Newsroom
Even though there are an exorbitant amount of mass shootings in the US motivated by extremist beliefs, the media rarely frames them as domestic terrorism. The media will often frame politically motivated mass shooters as an individual struggling with mental health problems or as a hate crime (Sanchez). Even though, hate crimes do not always mean domestic terrorism, the two labels are incredibly similar, but the US media has a clear aversion to the label of domestic terrorism. This is important because, the way a story is framed is important because it can shape the reader’s perception, tolerance, and opinions on the issue or event (Nelson, Clawson, Oxley). To see more of my research on the present day problem click on this link, Present Day Problem Essay
White and Troubled Has A Better Ring To It
Additionally, the US media more frequently portrays white mass shooters with extremist beliefs as troubled individuals dealing with mental health issues, then with non-white mass shooters (Sanchez). For example, in Charlottesville, South Carolina on June 17, 2015 a white supremacist named Dylan Roof killed nine black churchgoers while they were praying (Blinder, Sack). A CNN article detailing Roof’s background in order to comprehend his motivations, did not once refer to him as a terrorist even though the shooting had all the hallmarks of an act of domestic terrorism.
(Image Citation: Robles, Frances. “Dylann Roof Photos and a Manifesto Are Posted on Website.”)
Compare this to the backlash the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM) received after a shooting in Dallas, Texas on July 7, 2016 the difference is clear. BLM was holding a peaceful protest, when a black veteran, Micah Johnson, shot and killed five police officers because of his extremist beliefs (Blake). The movement was subsequently condemned by news outlets like the Rush Limbaugh Show, which called BLM a “terrorist group” (Blake). Even though, Johnson was later reported to have no affiliation with BLM a portion of the media was quick to blame the politically motivated violent extremist attack on the organization. However, while it was fair to label Johnson a terrorist, an entire movement shouldn’t be judged and condemned for the actions of one extremist not even associated with the movement. This backlash shows that there is a clear difference in the coverage mass shootings get based on race. Other reports of the shooting would remain unbiased, but never referred to Johnson as a terrorist (Fernandez, Pérez-Peña, Bromwich).
(Image Citation: Wilson, Samantha. “Micah Xavier Johnson’s Mother & Siblings Surface For First Time Since Dallas Murders.”)
The US Government Isn’t Doing Their Job?! Shocker!!
In an attempt to combat domestic terrorism, the US launched a Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) in 2011. The three objectives for countering violent extremism were, “community outreach, research and training and capacity building” (GAO). In 2016 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that out of the 44 tasks aimed to counter violent extremism; 19 tasks had been implemented, 23 tasks were in progress, and no action had been taken on 2 tasks (GAO). The report found that there is no real strategy for the implementation of the plan or effective way to measure the outcomes of it, thus it can be concluded that the US government’s efforts to counter violent extremism are inadequate and insufficient. To resolve domestic terrorism the federal government needs to be more proactive in implementing preventative plans and strategies. For example, more effective treatments and programs for mental health issues, more gun control legislation, and more resources in public education in order to develop critical thinking skills and to further assist struggling students.
Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Calling All Local Politicians And News Outlets!
On the surface, the idea of one person solving domestic terrorism is absurd, however, there are several actions an individual can take to effectively prevent domestic terrorism. For example, one can call or send a letter or email to their local politician to lobby for more competent gun control laws, or join a protest against mass shootings calling for more preventative actions from your local government.
Some more abstract approaches are to have more tolerance for those who are different from yourself, to provide more support to those who are struggling, and to hold more respectful and open conversations that include people with a variety of different opinions. In addition, a good method to remain unbiased against the framing of news outlets is to first, understand that the media does have a bias, and then expose oneself to as many different commentaries on the event as possible, then proceed to use critical thinking to produce an objective opinion for oneself. To learn more about my proposed solutions click on this link, Solutions Essay
Not To Sound Cliche But More Gun Control Would Definitely Help
Unlike the US, Japan has highly restrictive gun control and one of the lowest gun homicide rates in the world, demonstrating that gun control is effective (Masters). Furthermore, with the highest homicide-by-firearm rate out of all the world’s developed nations, the US sorely needs gun control. An economist Richard Florida found that, “states with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths” (Lopez). Additionally, after the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida state legislatures passed 69 gun control measures in 2018 (Astor, Russell). However, while this is promising the federal government, especially Congress, have yet to enact any new gun restrictions, due to pressure from the National Rifle Association (Astor, Russell). The federal government’s hesitancy to implement more gun restrictions is detrimental to preventing domestic terrorism.
You’re Toxic, I’m Slippin’ Under
The root cause for domestic terrorism can be found within the attitude American society has created of supremacy and the belief that the individual is purely responsible for any success or failures. Not only does this societal attitude generate an anger and intolerance towards those who are different, but also provides a way to ignore racial bias and disregard America’s history of racism. In order to progress as a nation, American society as a whole needs to abandon the notion that the US is perfect and homogeneous and acknowledge the prevalent racism and domestic terrorism plaguing the nation.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
Wang, Sissi. “People with Racially Diverse Friend Groups Are More Productive.”
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