Last week, a lone gunman bought a ticket, entered the theater and opened fire on the audience, killing 12 people and wounding 58. The media has focused on his red hair, and referred to him as a suspect, a shooter, a gunman.
Isn’t he a terrorist?
Dawinder S. Sidhu, Assistant Professor of Law at the University of New Mexico, says we should focus on the act, not the ideology, and call him a terrorist right from the get-go. I agree.
Labels are important. They establish a context for how we process information and make sense of the senseless. Labels serve as a cultural compass; setting the direction for how we should respond and react.
“Terrorism” and “terrorist” are especially pernicious labels.
Sidhu defines “terrorism” as a premeditated, random murder of innocent people that causes physical and psychological harm on a community, without regard to whether the perpetrator attempted to further a possible message.
Using that definition, the Aurora gunman is certainly a terrorist.
Osama bin Laden was labeled a terrorist for planning and executing the killing of 1000s of Americans, and was probably planning to kill many more. George W. Bush was NOT labeled a terrorist, although he did the very same thing —– planning and executing the killing of 1000s of Iraqis. Maybe neither man had blood directly on their hands, but they were both lethal and created terrorism based on the definition above.
The United States government considers Hamas a foreign terrorist organization
. (I’m still looking to see if the US has an operative definition for terrorism.) Of course, Israel is not on the State Department’s list
If we look at actions, and not ideology, to determine who or which organizations or what countries use acts of terrorism, then Israel (and specifically the Israeli Defense Forces) clearly makes the grade.
It is time to call a “spade a spade” and that’s why I like the definition of “terrorism” that this UNM law professor has come up with. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian, Muslim, or Jew ……. the act of terrorism governs the definition; not who the perpetrator might be. It is more intellectually honest.