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The white ‘lone wolf’ in a world of coloured ‘terrorists’

October 4, 2017

At least 59 people were killed and 527 injured when a gunman opened fire on concert-goers Sunday night in Las Vegas. A crowd of more than 22,000 people were listening to country music star Jason Aldean at the Route 91 Harvest Festival when bursts of automatic gunfire erupted. Police said the shooter opened fire with multiple weapons on concert-goers from his room on the 32nd floor at the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino across the street from the Las Vegas Strip.

Media outlets, treading carefully, reported the incident; the identification of the culprit remained a heavy mystery. Here is what the headlines of some major media outlets looked like after the culprit’s identity, the gunman responsible for one of the biggest incidents of mass shooting in the US in recent history, was finally revealed:


Las Vegas Shooting: ‘Disgusting’ Gunman Won’t Define City, Mayor Says – NBC – On the account of not being called ‘terrorist’ but ‘disgusting’

Las Vegas gunman’s brother: He was a highly intelligent person – CBS News

Las Vegas shooting: Brother says something drove Paddock into ‘the pit of hell’ – USA Today – To imply the “lone wolf” concept that he was mentally unwell.

Las Vegas shooting: What we know

“There’s a clear difference in the way this kind of incident is treated and the way it would be treated if it were actually associated with Islam or Muslims,” Ibrahim Hooper, spokesperson at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told HuffPost. “It would be instantly called an act of domestic or even international terrorism; it wouldn’t be individualised, but collectivised to the entire Muslim community or faith of Islam.”

Instead, Paddock came to be known as the “lone wolf” who “doesn’t fit the mass shooter profile” rather than a part of a systemic problem of violence by white men in the US. By definition a “lone wolf” is “someone who prepares and commits violent acts alone, outside of any command structure and without material assistance from any group. He or she may be influenced or motivated by the ideology and beliefs of an external group and may act in support of such a group”.

Highlighting an incident of shooting that took place one year ago, the mass shooting at a gay bar in Orlando was treated rather differently.

Florida mass murderer and ISIS wannabe Omar Mateen: What we know so far… – Express UK

Orlando shooting: 49 killed, shooter pledged ISIS allegiance – CNN

How the Orlando shooting unfolded: ‘He came in with the intent of evil’ – The Guardian

Hours after Paddock killed and injured hundreds, the headline of Washington Post read that he “liked to gamble, listened to country music, lived quiet retired life.” White criminals are often portrayed more humanised than acts committed by other individuals that are almost instantaneously categorised as acts of ‘terrorism’.

People on Twitter were quick to point out that nonwhite and Muslim perpetrators of violence don’t often get such humanising profiles after the such an incident.

According to US Mass Shootings, 1982-2017: Data From Mother Jones’ Investigationmost mass shooters and domestic terrorists in the US have been white people.

“There is nothing wrong with including human details in reporting, but when we choose to do it is telling,” Farai Chideya, a longtime journalist who has been reporting on white extremism for more than 25 years, told HuffPost. “In many cases when there is a white mass-shooter or domestic terrorist, we get personal details about them, like the reports that the Las Vegas shooter was a country music fan,” she added. “But how often do we learn personal details about terrorists and mass killers, or even street criminals in the US, when they are not white? Who gets humanised in news coverage is important ― and telling.”

“Just hours after the mass shooting in Vegas, the media was calling Paddock a “lone wolf.” When white people commit mass violence, however, there is often an emphasis on the fact they were acting alone. The implicit assumption is that they are in no way responsible for representing the larger demographic group they belong to,” writes Sarah Ruiz-Grossman in the Huffpost.

Trump allegedly referred Paddock as ‘demented’, the mayor of Las Vegas called him a “crazed lunatic”, and speaker of the White House Paul Ryan asked for reforms in mental health in response to the attack. While some of the perpetrators of such attacks have had a history of mental illness, the underlying assumption is that a dangerous white man is struggling with mental health but others are in complete sanity when carrying out attacks of this nature.

Perhaps the most obvious emblem of this is the fact that US president Donald Trump did not officially label the shooter a terrorist. Las Vegas police say they are still working to find a motive in Sunday’s mass shooting, and Sheriff Joe Lombardo stated at a Monday news briefing that the shooter could just be “a distraught person just intending to cause mass casualties.”

But reports state that Under-Sheriff Kevin McMahill described the shooting as an act of “domestic terrorism.”

Stephen Paddock: Retired accountant, Las Vegas shooter

After the fatal shooting in Paris this April, Trump tweeted that the “people of France will not take more of this”, and after the truck attack in London, Trump condemned it and instantly called on courts to reinstate the Muslim travel ban. Both attacks were claimed by the Islamic State and thus, received much condemnation, however, in the case of Stephen Paddock, no such statement was made.

“I can guarantee you, President Trump would have reacted differently ― it would have been night and day ― if there was some association with Islam,” Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR)’s spokesperson told HuffPost. “He would have called it terrorism, there would have been calls for extreme, extreme vetting.”

The post The white ‘lone wolf’ in a world of coloured ‘terrorists’ appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Source: Tribune News | The white ‘lone wolf’ in a world of coloured ‘terrorists’

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