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With Suspected Austin Bomber Dead, a Familiar Story About Who Is and Isn't Called a "Terrorist"

"When 'other' people who kill innocent civilians with bombs and blow themselves up, media, politicians, and Twitter have no problem immediately talking 'terror.'"

Emergency workers responded to an area of Round Rock, Tex., where the police say a bombing suspect blew himself up in his vehicle. (Photo: Eric Gay/AP)

The man believed to have been behind a string of bombings that killed two people and injured five in Austin, Texas died early Wednesday morning after blowing himself up in his vehicle as law enforcement closed in.

"U.S. media and politicians have been very, very quick to apply the terrorism label when suspects are not white, because such an application carries no social or professional blow-back if they are wrong."
—Christian Christensen, Stockholm University

The suspect has been identified as Mark Anthony Conditt, a 24-year-old white malereigniting a familar conversation on who is and isn't labeled a "terrorist" by the mainstream media and American politicians.

The explosions began on March 2, when a package bomb killed 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House on his front porch in Austin. Over the next two weeks, five other bombs were detonated—all of which were constructed by the same individual, law enforcement officials said during a news conference on Wednesday.

"What we do know is we believe the same person built each one of these devices," said Fred Milanowski, an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. "We are not 100 percent convinced there's not other devices out there. We still want the public to be vigilant."

Before the bombing suspect's death, the White House released a statement claiming "there is no apparent nexus to terrorism at this time."

Now that the suspect has been identified as a white male, commentators predicted that lawmakers, the major media, and law enforcement will likely follow the White House line that the suspect is not a terrorist—a line some argued would be radically different from the beginning if the suspect wasn't white.

In a Twitter thread Wednesday morning, Christian Christensen, a journalism professor at Stockholm University, observed that "U.S. media and politicians have been very, very quick to apply the terrorism label when suspects are not white, because such an application carries no social or professional blow-back if they are wrong."

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