A Whiter Shade Of Terrorism

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From top: A view of the damage to the entrance of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Denver yesterday; Dr Julien Mercille

White, right-wing terrorists are killing more Americans in America than jihadists.

Dr Julien Mercille writes:

We have heard a lot about Islamic terrorists recently in the wake of the Paris attacks conducted by ISIS. In general, the implicit or explicit association between “terrorism” and “Islam” can be seen everywhere in popular culture and political commentary.

But last week, we witnessed another act of terrorism, this time committed by a white man in the United States at an abortion clinic in Colorado. Three people died in the shooting and the suspected gunman, Robert Lewis Dear, was taken into custody.

This is yet another event of terrorism conducted by white people, that have killed more individuals in the United States than jihadists since 9-11, as this New America Foundation study found. The study shows that right-wing white terrorists have killed 48 people whereas jihadists have killed 26 since 9-11.

The sad thing is that the shooting at the Colorado abortion clinic is not an isolated event—abortion clinics have long been subjected to terrorist acts and harassment. The perpetrators are often linked to Christian fundamentalist groups, as noted by Juan Cole, the professor of history writing on Islam and religion, in an excellent post on the subject.

Anti-abortion extremists can be seen outside abortion clinics or the houses of those who work there with signs such as “Prepare to Meet Thy God” and “Fear Him Who Has the Power to Cast You Into Hell”.

Anti-abortion extremists have killed eight abortion providers in the US over the years. One well-known case is the assassination of George Tiller in 2009, an abortion doctor who operated in Wichita, Kansas. He was killed point-blank on a Sunday in his Church. After he was murdered, his clinic closed.

Tiller had a history of being targeted by Christian Right terrorists. His clinic was firebombed in 1986. In 1993, he was shot five times by a Christian Right woman called Shelley Shannon (who is now serving time in prison), an attack which he survived.

Targeted intimidation against doctors and staff of abortion clinics is common and on the rise (see this graph). In 2010, 27% of US clinics suffered from those types of threats, whereas in 2014, it was 52%.

This Oxford University Press book tells the stories of abortion providers who have been “physically assaulted, picketed at home, threatened over the phone, and stalked around town”.

As a result, they have been forced to “take different routes to work on a regular basis, they change their schedules frequently, they plan their living arrangements as a precaution, they buy guns, and they wear bulletproof vests.”

Yes, bulletproof vests. As one of them explained

If anybody told me when I was in medical school that I would go to work armed and with a bulletproof vest, I would have thought they were nuts. But I do have a bulletproof vest, and I do go to clinics armed these days.

There have been parallel political moves to restrict abortion in the United States. So far in 2015, states have enacted 51 new abortion restrictions, for a total of 282 since 2010.

It is the anti-abortion climate that occupies a large part of public discourse that gives rise to attacks against clinics. With so much of the public discourse demonising abortion, it is no wonder that some people come to believe that clinics are against God’s will or evil in general and decide to take violent means to eliminate them. It is irrational (what exactly does God have to do with abortion again?) but it happens.

And when terrorist acts are committed by white people or Christians, they rarely produce the same sensationalist media coverage. For example, white terrorists are described as “troubled loners” whereas Muslim terrorists are often suspected of being part of a global conspiracy.

Family and relatives of white terrorists are interviewed as they wonder what went wrong, telling us they cannot understand why their son or husband did what he did, whereas relatives of other terrorists are never interviewed.

Also, there’s apparently nothing that can be done to stop white terrorists because they’re bad apples that don’t represent any broader trend, whereas Muslim terrorists can be bombed and police forces boosted to deal with them.

Double standards are thus the rule in public discourse about terrorism.

Julien Mercille is a lecturer at University College Dublin. Twitter: @JulienMercille

Pic: Reuters

57 thoughts on “A Whiter Shade Of Terrorism

  1. Whitestterrorist

    What does dear Julien call Gerry Adams? Would that be romantic revolutionary or troubled loner? I refer to him as terrorist and I am white.

    1. Sido

      Good point how many people in Ireland have been killed by white terrorists and how many by Islamic. Proof if you ever needed it that Islam is a religion of peace ©

  2. Dόn Pídgéόní

    He has a point about how the media frames these people based on race. It’s so predictable its not even funny anymore.

  3. Declan

    Just as people don’t say ISIS are Arab terrorists let’s not say white terrorists. Both sets are religious fundamentalists with a f*#ked up world view which allows them to justify their actions. It’s the very same thing with Buddhists in Sri Lanka and Burma persecuting Muslims and Hindu’s however we don’t describe them by their “race”.

    Also, the brother of the ring leader of the Paris bomber was all over the news doing the what was he thinking routine

    1. rotide

      This.

      For someone who comments on the media, Mercille doesn’t seem to actually watch the media that much.

      Might be too busy with the mirror.

      1. UCD prof

        I think Julia in the village called him out ages ago as a bit of an airhead. She or JR should get an award .

        1. Mr. T.

          I’d say plenty of UCD profs have an agenda opposite to Mercille because it’s a conservative pro-American university. A J1 nursery for future MBAs.

    2. flourishist

      Well pointed out, the family were clearly distraught too. But his point remains valid on a lot of instances. Integration is our best hope. We can do it without media guiding us towards it.

    3. Lorcan Nagle

      While ISIS aren’t referred to specifically as Arab or Muslim terrorists, they are called terrorists. By comparison the people who shoot up planned parenthood clinics and the like in the US aren’t called terrorists at all, and that’s the problem. Their tactics are broadly similar, they’re using violence to push forward their reactionary ideals, and attack civilian targets. But the ones who come from elsewhere are the only ones who get the label terrorist.

  4. Owen C

    “This is yet another event of terrorism conducted by white people, that have killed more individuals in the United States than jihadists since 9-11, as this New America Foundation study found. The study shows that right-wing white terrorists have killed 48 people whereas jihadists have killed 26 since 9-11.”

    “abortion clinics have long been subjected to terrorist acts and harassment.”

    “It is the anti-abortion climate that occupies a large part of public discourse that gives rise to attacks against clinics.”

    “Family and relatives of white terrorists are interviewed as they wonder what went wrong, telling us they cannot understand why their son or husband did what he did, whereas relatives of other terrorists are never interviewed.”

    This is an odd one even by Julien’s lofty odd standards. His basic point (white anti-abortion terrorism should be reported more) is a fair one. But he butchers this argument up so badly it gets lost in the flaws.

    1. Harassment/intimidation are not the same as terrorism and murder. It is ridiculous to repeatedly try and compare the two. In most of these situations, harassment/intimidation aren’t even illegal.
    2. Islam represents around 1% of American citizens. Christianity represents around 70-75%. If we want to do comparable analysis, the 26 killed by jihadists should be comparable to around 1800-1900 killed by Christian extremists.
    3. The anti-abortion climate gives rise to these attacks? I mean, Jesus feckin wept. This is ridiculous. People are responsible for their own actions. If i’m again abortion and I campaign on such, that does not mean I have given rise to terrorist attacks. Idiotic argument.
    4. Here’s an interview with one of the Paris attackers family. It took 10 secs on google to find it.

    http://edition.cnn.com/2015/11/27/europe/paris-attacker-sister-interview/

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      “The anti-abortion climate gives rise to these attacks? I mean, Jesus feckin wept. This is ridiculous. People are responsible for their own actions.”

      Oh good, so you don’t believe that Islam, radical or otherwise, has anything to do with terrorism.

      1. Owen C

        Radical Islam is causing Islamic terrorism. People going to mosques pr simply practicing Islam is not causing Islamic terrorism.

        Radical anti-abortion rhetoric is causing Christian terrorism. People being anti-abortion in their political viewpoints is not causing Christian terrorism.

        Comprendé?

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          “Radical anti-abortion rhetoric is causing Christian terrorism.”

          And 5 minutes ago that was “The anti-abortion climate gives rise to these attacks? I mean, Jesus feckin wept. This is ridiculous. People are responsible for their own actions.” Changing your position twice in 5 minutes? Impressive.

          1. Owen C

            Do you see how i have used the word “radical”, which Julien has not? He is trying to conflate a perfectly legal and morally complicated issue with terrorism. It is shameful stuff. I’m pro choice, but I would never try to suggest the vast majority of those on the pro-life/anti abortion side of things are supporting or causing terroism.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            “Do you see how i have used the word “radical””

            I see you saying people are responsible for their own actions and then immediately back tracking when it’s pointed out to you that can apply to Islamic terrorism.

            “He is trying to conflate a perfectly legal and morally complicated issue with terrorism. It is shameful stuff.”

            No, he’s comparing anti abortion rhetoric with radical Islamic rhetoric which is perfectly valid. If you paint abortion workers as baby murderers, you are going to inspire some crazies just like radical Islamic rhetoric does. You perfectly illustrate Merceille’s point about double standards in your response. I do appreciate some irony on a Monday morning.

            “I would never try to suggest the vast majority of those on the pro-life/anti abortion side of things are supporting or causing terroism.”

            Merceille didn’t actually do that.

          3. Owen C

            Merceille at no point seeks to clarify the difference between radical or extremist positions on anti abortion vs the more mainstream positions. That was his choice. It was either deliberate or sloppy. It was not a casual or understandable mistake. As I said above, he conflates harrassment/intimidation/anti abortion climate with terrorism. It is an idiotic argument and akin to saying the anti-war protests in Europe and the anti-US protests in Iraq give rise to car bombs in Iraq. Did anti-UK-in-Norn-Iron protests/climate in the 70s and 80s cause car bombs to go off in Birmingham?

          4. MoyestWithExcitement

            So it’s Merceille’s fault you didn’t understand his piece. That’s basically what I’m seeing here.

          5. Owen C

            “It is the anti-abortion climate that occupies a large part of public discourse that gives rise to attacks against clinics”

            Phrases/words chosen: anti-abortion climate, occupy large part of public discourse, gives rise to attacks
            Phrases/words he should have chosen: extremist anti-abortion viewpoints, occupy fringe elements of public discourse, provide some fuel for terrorists to feed on

            This really isn’t rocket science – he should not be comparing mainstream (ie “large part of public discourse”) view points with murder and illegality.

          6. Kerri Ann

            All “anti-abortion rhetoric” is radical. It is an attempt to control and endanger women’s bodies against their will.

          7. Owen C

            “All anti abortion rhetoric is radical”

            Abortion should not be allowed at 39 weeks. Is that a radical position? Assuming its not, is there not an argument that at least some anti abortion rhetoric is based on an entirely justifiable moral position, even if we don’t necessarily agree with it?

          8. trueblueterry

            Owen C, I think you need to watch some of the House Committees on Planned Parenthood funding to see that the radical anti-abortion rhetoric occupies quite a large part of the conservative dialogue.

          9. MoyestWithExcitement

            “Abortion should not be allowed at 39 weeks. Is that a radical position?”

            See, now you’re just being dishonest. You know full well that’s not representative of the normal discourse from anti abortionists. And you think you’ve got some duty to keep Merceille in check, or something. Laughable.

          10. Nigel

            Actually screaming about how late-term abortions are everywhere and more are coming fast is fairly common anti-abortion rhetoric.

          11. Mikeyfex

            “And you think you’ve got some duty to keep Merceille in check, or something.”

            Quality stuff, Moyest.

        2. Owen C

          Moyest

          Keri Ann (who i was replying to) said the following:

          “All “anti-abortion rhetoric” is radical. It is an attempt to control and endanger women’s bodies against their will.”

          I questioned whether “all anti abortion rhetoric” was indeed radical. People need to stop using all/every/most when reality tells us “some/a lot/a good bit”, though less absolutist or emotive in nature, would be far more accurate language.

  5. Gers

    This is just an infantile amalgamation of apples and oranges. The “white terrorism” is in fact ALWAYS rogue, lone individual with zero intent on causing terror but with sole goal to hurt a particular target. Terrorism is an intent to terrorise population by killing random member of the public – at specific geo-location yes but not specific targets.Come on Angel face, you can do better than this….

    1. Nigel

      You don’t think the people who target clinics and staff with violence have a broader agenda to scare these places closed or inoperable? How many people quit, how many supporters and helpers stay away how many people decide not to avail of their services for fear of their lives? You don’t think those are among the results lone perpetrators are gunning for?

        1. Dόn Pídgéόní

          You should watch After Tiller, a really good documentary on the absolute nonsense people have to put themselves through to be able to do their job – changing cars, never driving the same way home twice, always carrying guns (or taking a chance) all so they won’t be executed for doing their job. Then maybe you’ll cop onto yourself.

  6. RainyDay

    This guy is a Christian Extremist as much as ISIS are Muslim Extremists….
    However will anyone in the US now propose limiting Christian immigration into the US?…

  7. Mr. T.

    You should move Mercille to Sunday mornings so that all the little sneering Young Fine Gael keyboard cops all have to get out of bed early to post their cynical little remarks.

    1. Owen O'F

      Will you ever change the record with your ‘I’m such an amazing socialist, everyone’s Young Fine Gael’ borefest. Or would you take a break from posting. You’re like The Citizen from Ulysses. Only Moyest with his unbelievably tedious, predicatably right-on undergraduate snark on absolutely everything is worse than you.

  8. Mr. T.

    I wonder what the Iona Institute think about these attacks on abortion clinics. What they REALLY think, not what they SAY they think.

      1. rotide

        11 people on twitter. Well thats conclusive.

        Wonder if you could find 11 people on twitter supporting ISIS’s actions to put forward an equally idiotic agenda, such as all muslims want to kill westerners.

          1. rotide

            T wondered what Iona thought about it.

            You said “well this is what other people who share their beliefs think about it”, clearly implying they must think something similar. The irony is this is the type of thing Mercille bangs on about endlessly.

            Suppose T said ‘i wonder what the muslims in ireland think about the paris bombs” and you said “Well, this is what people who share their beliefs think about it” and linked 11 jihadi tweets?

          2. Lorcan Nagle

            Your inference from what I posted is all on you.

            Though I find it interesting that by your argument, I’d be justified in claiming that you think all Irish muslims are jihadists.

          3. rotide

            It’s pretty much the exact opposite of what i said, cheers.

            and yes, the inference might be mine but its a tiny leap to make and its pretty clear thats what you meant.

            If it’s not what you meant, I wish you luck with your political career in the coming referendum.

        1. Dόn Pídgéόní

          Twitter isn’t the start and end of the world. But its a prime example of the “sympathy” people apparently feel for terrorists that the UK press has been creaming itself over for the last week.

  9. Peter Dempsey

    If ISIS started to bomb abortion clinics then Julien Mercille would probably make excuses for them.

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