When Shooter Is White Male, Note Critics, Label of 'Terrorist' Put on Hold
Sunday night's shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival left at least 58 people dead, making it the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history
As law enforcement officials release more information about Stephen Paddock, the suspect in the Las Vegas shooting that killed nearly 60 people and injured more than 500 Sunday night, much of the reporting on his identity has focused on the fact that he is a "local individual" and a "lone wolf"—terminology that critics say has been used to signify that Paddock was a white male, and therefore not a terrorist.
Everyone knows (even if won't admit it) that in the early stages of mass shooting, "no signs of terrorism" means: "shooter isn't Muslim." https://t.co/zFWDySMrET— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 2, 2017
Paddock resided in Mesquite, Nevada, about 80 miles away from the hotel on the Las Vegas Strip where he opened fire on a crowd at the Route 91 Harvest music festival just after 10:00pm.
Omar Mateen, the shooter in the June 2016 shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was by definition a "local" as well, living 120 miles from the attack site. The attack was classified as an act of terrorism by President Barack Obama within 12 hours of it taking place, due to Mateen's pledge of allegiance to ISIS during the shooting.
Though the Associated Press reported Monday morning that ISIS had claimed responsibility for the Las Vegas attack, as of 12:00pm the FBI was reporting that it had found "no connection with an international terrorist group" after searching Paddock's home.
Still, journalists and other observers spoke out on social media about the reluctance of local and federal officials to call the attack, now the deadliest mass shooting in American history, an act of domestic terrorism.
In the Washington Post, Aaron Blake wrote that "the vast majority of members of Congress" have not used the words "terror" or "terrorist" in relation to the shooting. "Perhaps they don't want to get ahead of the evidence, but some argue that this is giving the shooter the benefit of the doubt in a way that simply isn't afforded to Muslims who commit such acts," he wrote.
Because America still don't know what domestic terrorism -- which has killed more Americans than international terrorism -- is.— Ernest Owens (@MrErnestOwens) October 2, 2017
Because the shooter isn't of color they get to be called "local individual" because white people, even when violent, still is granted their humanity. https://t.co/znW2CM2VfA
How about we stop calling the Las Vegas shooter a ‘local individual’ and start calling them what they are. A terrorist.— grace (@prrttyodd) October 2, 2017
"Thoughts and prayers."— Ebony Elizabeth (@Ebonyteach) October 2, 2017
"Too early to politicize."
"Have some respect for the dead."
Correction: The local individual IS a terrorist when he kills 50 innocent people and injures hundreds more. https://t.co/HJpj7CMKxD— Lisa Lucas (@likaluca) October 2, 2017
He can be both a "local individual" and a "terrorist."— Justin Hendrix (@justinhendrix) October 2, 2017
Essentially, by the definition currently in common currency, a white person cannot be a terrorist.— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) October 2, 2017
At Vox, Jennifer Williams highlighted just a few of the major attacks that have taken place in the U.S. so far this year, all carried out by white men. "In the eight months since Trump took office," she wrote, "more Americans have been killed in attacks by white American men with no connection to Islam than by Muslim terrorists or foreigners...In fact, between 2001 and 2015, more Americans were killed by homegrown right-wing extremists than by Islamist terrorists, according to a study by New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C."