MY PERSONAL INTEREST:
“I wouldn’t call this terrorism”. “I don’t see it as a political act”. Those are just a couple of answers given by former FBI director James Comey upon being asked whether or not Charleston shooter Dylann Roof was a terrorist or not. Terrorism is defined by the FBI as an act:
“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” (FBI).
As you can see in the video presented above, Dylann Roof’s attack on a Charleston church was “perpetrated by [an] individual… that [espoused] extremist ideologies of a… racial nature” (FBI). This is just one of many examples in which the government did not treat domestic terrorism as they would Islamic Extremist terrorism. As American history has progressed, society has frequently turned a blind eye to egregious acts of domestic terrorism and white supremacy. Whether it is the recent incident at Charlottesville or the shooting in Las Vegas, time and time again our political leaders, along with the media, have ignored these pertinent issues that are a threat to the order of society.
When I think about why I am interested in this topic, there are a few reasons that come to the top of my mind. In the year 2018 we live with an imminent threat of terror attacks. This theory is proven by terror attacks at movie theatres, festivals, busy city centers, schools, and even an Ariana Grande concert, so we truly might not be safe anywhere that we go. Furthermore, I have a deep personal connection with terrorism, for my entire mom’s side of my family lives in New York City. This, of course, was the city where the most devastating of the attacks on 9/11 occured. Living in New York City, my grandfather was a first responder at the World Trade Center, and he has told me a plethora of stories about the horrific recovery effort. Finally, I have always been curious as to why domestic terrorist acts seem to get less media coverage than Islamic terrorism.
PLEASE WATCH THIS SHORT VIDEO FOR A QUICK OVERVIEW OF WHAT DOMESTIC TERRORISM TRULY IS
In order to capture the full essence of the issue at hand, the label of “domestic terrorism” must be broken down to its three main motives: protest against the government, white supremacy, and acts committed by psychopaths. Interestingly enough, these three motives seem to occur in a pattern throughout our history. The 19th century was dominated by white supremacy, the early to mid-20th century was dominated by anti-government acts, and the late-20th century to the present has been dominated by pure evil. While we have seen terrorist attacks with white supremacist motives in the 20th and 21st centuries (think Dylann Roof in Charleston and Tulsa Race Riots of 1921), the era in which white supremacist terrorism was most prominent was the 19th century. With the presence of the KKK throughout the latter years of the 19th century, there were acts of extralegal violence and terrorism directed towards frightening the African-American communities throughout America. The political leaders of the reconstruction era did make efforts to stop the Klan from gaining more and more power. While acts like the Ku Klux Act and internal dysfunction could be main factors attributed to the KKK’s downfall, the Klan seemed to have fizzled out due to the Compromise of 1877 allowing racist, white-democrats regain control of the south (Wallace, Coolidge Foundation). But it is viable to see why the government faced such a difficult task halting the Klan’s influence and movement. This idea was illustrated in a rampage in Memphis in 1866, where many racist policemen joined the Klan in their rampage through black neighborhoods, killing 46 and wounding 70 (PBS.org). If the government couldn’t trust their policemen who were hired to protect the rights of these black men, how was the government going to halt the KKK? This cause of the downfall shows how tough this problem is to solve, as even in the first chapter of our story, when our government resisted this movement, they couldn’t stop the Klan.
As we progress into the early-mid 20th century, we observe a rise in the next motive of domestic terrorism, anti-government protests. In the year 1920, the United States was taken aback when a bomb placed inside of a horse carriage detonated on Wall Street, leaving 38 dead. When pressured to respond to this disaster, the American government avoided blaming the anti-government motivation at the root of this attack. President Herbert Hoover actually went as far as to hire agents to falsify Russian connection to the incident. Furthermore, President Hoover used this falsified association to justify his ramped up aggression towards the Soviet Union (Holi, The Independent). With Hoovers ignorance towards the motives of the attack, his action exemplifies one of the subpoints of my thesis; politicians have consistently turned a blind eye to these domestic terrorists. However, it is fair to note that the FBI never solved this case, which can be attributed to why Herbert Hoover proclaimed Russian association with this attack (Harvey, The Vintage News).
From the late 20th century to the present, the United States has faced countless acts of domestic terrorism, but this time most of the acts don not seem to have a main motive, rather they are attacks committed by psychopaths. Moreover, the media and political leaders have seemed to gloss over the motives of these attacks.
With incidents such as the shooting in Las Vegas earlier this year or the car driving into the crowd in Charlottesville, the media has done an ample job of covering these tragedies; however, time and time again they fail to label these domestic acts as “terrorism” (Chermak, Taylor & Francis Online). On the contrary, studies have shown that when acts of domestic terrorism are carried out by hijacking or other aviary techniques, the media tends to cover these events heavily (Chermak). In spite of that, there hasn’t been a plane hijacking that threatened America since the tragic events of 9/11. When Donald Trump was asked about media coverage of domestic terrorism last February, our president took his own stance on this issue, stating, “Radical Islamic terrorists are determined to strike our homeland as they did on 9/11, as they did from Boston to Orlando to San Bernardino […] It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported.” (Boyle, NPR). This statement is something of utter hypocrisy from Trump, considering that him and the media have been ignoring the reoccuring acts of domestic terrorism in order to hone in on the preternatural acts of Islamic terrorism.
As we glance at the problem today, I believe that there are a couple possible solutions that could keep this issue from getting out of hand. For possible solutions to this problem I look towards a few legislative paths that could be taken. First, a ban on assault rifles, bump stocks, and extended clips could help stop this issue. While taking such a measure would not affect smaller homicides (think gang violence and usage of handguns), a ban of these automatic and semi-automatic guns could make a big difference. Looking back as recently as 1994, the United States banned assault weapons from that year up until 2004, and according to a report published by the National Institute of Justice, there were not any significant effects on gun violence during these ten years. On the other hand, of the ten domestic terrorist shootings in this time span, only two of them were carried out with an automatic or semiautomatic weapon. In 2005, Dianne Feinstein made an effort to renew this ban, but her effort was to no avail as her proposed bill never made it past the senate. However, there is reason for hope in a restoration of this ban due to the anti-assault weapon movements that have sparked recently across the country in response to a variety of mass shootings in the last year. Secondly, we could possibly establish a government appointed security organization that protects our schools, concerts, busy city centers, and other busy areas. While this organization would be hard to create, I do believe that it would make a great impact, as we have seen security organizations like the TSA significantly decrease the airport violence after 9/11.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP:
So here we are, a long history of the problem, still no solution. What do we do? What you can do at home right now is make a call to the NRA and make your voice heard (1 (800) 672-3888). Additionally, if you are conveniently living in or near an urban city, take the opportunity to create movement towards an assault rifle ban at the next march or protest. All in all, there are many things to do to make your voice heard and try to end domestic terrorism, for the government continues to give this issue the blind eye.
Thank you for reading this article, please feel free to fill out the form linked below to voice your opinion on the topic. Your time and participation is appreciated. Additionally, it would be greatly appreciated if you could leave your feedback below.
Boyle, Tara, et al. “When Is It ‘Terrorism’? How The Media Cover Attacks By Muslim Perpetrators.”
NPR, NPR, 19 June 2017,
Chermak, Steven M. “The Medias Coverage of Domestic Terrorism.” Taylor & Francis Online, The
Taylor and Francis Group, 18 Feb. 2007,
Feinstien, Dianne. “S.1034 – 108th Congress (2003-2004): Assault Weapons Ban Reauthorization Act of 2003.” Congress.gov, 8 May 2003,
“Grant, Reconstruction and the KKK.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service,
Hari, Johann. “Blood, Rage & History: The World’s First Terrorists.” The Independent, Independent
Digital News and Media, 11 Oct. 2009, www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/blood-rage-history-the-worlds-first-terrorists-1801195.html.
Harvey, Ian. “The Wall Street Bombing in 1920 That the FBI Never Solved.” The Vintage News, 30
“Terrorism.” FBI, FBI, 3 May 2016, www.fbi.gov/investigate/terrorism.
“Terrorism in the United States.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Jan. 2018, www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrorism_in_the_United_States.
Wallace, Jerry L. “The Ku Klux Klan in Calvin Coolidge’s America.” Calvin Coolidge Presidential
Foundation ICal, 14 July 2014,