Terrorism has no specific nationality, geography, race or creed.Sirota brings up two important points, one which I pointed out briefly in a post yesterday and will be the topic of this post plus a second point -- the "lone wolf" -- I will addressed tomorrow morning.
Not surprisingly, police and reporters have been quick to tell us the opposite — that the suspected shooter was likely just a “lone wolf” and that “this act does not appear to be linked to radical terrorism or anything related to Islamic terrorism,” as ABC News put it. This newspeak is supposed to reassure us that this is anything but terrorism — that terrorism is something that happens only in faraway places or huge cosmopolitan cities, not in an Anytown, USA, in the American heartland; that terrorism never comes at the hands of a “24-year-old white American male” named “James Holmes”; it comes only at the hands of dark-skinned “evildoers” with hard-to-pronounce names; that terrorism comes only from calculating operatives who represent organized political interests, not from “crazy” individuals who calculatedly act on their own ideology or psychopathy. In this, we are expected to be sedated by such reassurances, to ignore the ever-growing list of such “lone wolves,” and to reject a much wider definition of terrorism, no matter how much the reality of shooting after shooting after shooting screams at us to accept it.
~ from Call It Terrorism by David Sirota ~
As a word, terrorism has been hijacked by politics. In its most basic sense, terrorism is the act of terrorizing -- to frighten others out of their wits. If we look at the eyewitness reports from the Aurora shooting, it is more than obvious that the shooter not only wanted to kill and maim others; he wanted to terrorize them in the process.
It can be argued that almost any mass murder has terroristic elements. As the first individuals are slain, the rest of the victims face the terror of being next. I can think of few things more terrorizing that watching one or more assailants methodically killing others right before your eyes with the knowledge you will soon be next.
While I accept the above argument to a certain extent, some assailants go out of their way to terrorize the unfortunate folks caught in their crosshairs. Thinking back to another mass murder in Colorado -- the Columbine High School massacre -- the two teenage killers taunted many of their victims before they shot them. Not only did they insult and disparage their victims, but they killed people at random!
That's the same thing the Aurora shooter did. He wasn't killing and maiming specific individuals he had a beef with -- he was killing, maiming and scarring complete strangers. That factor, in and of itself, is terrorizing.
There is another variable in common between the shootings at Columbine and in Aurora. In both cases, incendiary devices were used to disorient people. People who are disoriented are more easy to terrorize because they really aren't sure what's going on. When a person can't see because of smoke and/or breath because of gas, it is not uncommon for most people to become panicky and frantic. Add in bullets whizzing by your head and even the most stoic person will begin to feel terror build up inside of them.
As I pointed out yesterday and Sirota points to as well, terrorism is now used solely as a political term. It is reserved only for the acts of certain people, mainly Muslims. It is an act that our government leaders contend is against US national interests. Any other act that involves a degree of terrorizing -- especially those acts committed by the US -- are described using other words, many of which are self-aggrandizing and laudatory.
The time has come to reclaim the word from the clutches of self-interested politicos. What happened in the movie theater in Colorado was an act of terrorism. The people who lived through the carnage may well be terrorized for the rest of their lives.