There’s three definitions of terrorism I see tossed around. One is simple: Violence by a non-state actor. Another is moral: Violence against civilians—usually for a political purpose, and often by a non-state actor. But another is just mainstream: A Muslim did it.
After Omar Mateen’s horrific massacre in Orlando, the media piled on. He’d done it in the name of ISIS, which led many commentators to believe that the attack was orchestrated by the extremist group itself, an operation commanded from afar, as have recently struck Europe.
Within a day, Donald Trump was gloating—only the Donald would see this as a morally appropriate response to violenc—and renewing his call for a Muslim ban.
But here’s the odd thing.
Even as more information came out, complicating the picture, we continued to hear major media and mainstream voices insist this was nothing more than a simple act of terrorism. Even after we found out there was no operation role for ISIS, that Mateen had previously claimed to support Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah, who are actually at war with each other in Syria, even after evidence emerged suggesting Mateen was gay, and even most recently that he may have been a jilted, spurned or aggrieved lover, seeking revenge—still, it was terrorism.
Or the story just vanished from the headlines.
But there have been several recent instances that should fulfill any reasonable definition of terrorism, which have hardly been described as terrorism—or even described at all.
Did you hear about the Muslim guy who plotted to blow up churches, posted pictures of bombs on his Facebook page, and was stopped in the nick of time by law enforcement? He got—get this—ninety days in jail, minus time already served.
Did you hear about the Muslim guy who stabbed and shot to death a sitting Member of Parliament in the UK, a clear and obvious instance of terrorism, given that his target, Jo Cox, was a political leader? It was an assassination.
Did you hear about the young Muslim guy who attended a Trump rally with the intention of killing the Republican frontrunner, hoping to seize a law enforcement official’s weapon and assassinating the billionaire? He even declared the operation was in ISIS’ name.
But no, of course, you did not.
Because none of these three was Muslim.
The first terrorist was a Trump supporter who planned to blow up mosques, and even got as far as building the bombs necessary for it. Almost nobody picked up on the story.
Jo Cox, meanwhile, was assassinated by a “crazed loner,” a “timid” and “quiet” man who also happened to be a kind of white supremacist, keen to push Britain out of the EU.
And the young man who tried to kill Trump? Yes, actually tried to kill one of the two people who will be our next President? His name was Michael Sandford, so we can just calm down and go back to our business.
I know there’s a double standard when it comes to Muslims and violence, but these last few instances have been peculiarly egregious. If it’s true that all terrorists are Muslims, it’s just because we’ve defined terrorism so that it’s pretty much only restricted to violence committed by Muslims.