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James Holmes, Adam Lanza, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Double Standards

Authorities have yet to determine what motivated suspects Tamerlan, 26, and Dzhokhar, 19, Tsarnaev to set off two home-made bombs at Monday’s Boston Marathon, killing three and severely injuring over 170 people. Nonetheless, the bombings have been labeled an “act of terror”, implying that a known political motive is not necessary for an attack in the US to consitute “terrorism”. While this raises significant questions about the term “terrorism”, it also highlights a grave double standard in the US government’s response to mass murder.

For example, if a mass casualty attack in and of itself equals terrorism, why was the brutal massacre of 20 first graders and six teachers by Adam Lanza never labeled as such? Why isn’t James Holmes–who killed 12 and injured 58  at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theatre last summer–being prosecuted as a “terrorist”?

James Holmes was read his Miranda rights without controversy, despite his home being booby trapped with explosives that the authorities spent several hours dismantling after evacuation of an entire apartment building. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has invoked the public safety exception to Miranda so they can question Dzhokhar Tsarnaev “extensively about other potential explosive devices or accomplices” before reading him his Miranda rights.

James Holmes’s religious background was never closely examined as a potential motivating factor in his decision to shoot up a movie theatre. His family’s Pastor was never expected to declare his love for America and denounce Christian extremists to prove his loyalties.  Adam Lanza attended a Catholic church but no one ever speculated that the Vatican played a role in his deadly rampage.

The NRA material found in Adam Lanza’s home (shooting guides, certificate) was never viewed as suspicious or worthy of further investigation into the NRA’s potential role in provoking the Newtown massacre.

Despite Holmes dressing up like a military soldier while committing his crime, GOP lawmakers never issued a statement demanding he be prosecuted as an enemy combatant. Yet, this is exactly what happened today in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. 

Holmes killed more people than the Boston bombers, yet Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) never urged Obama to ship him to Guantanamo.

I also don’t recall a single US politician suggesting we torture James Holmes for information about his explosives or possible links to terrorist cells, which New York State Senator Greg Ball has suggested we do to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev:

Young white men and white people in general were never profiled, harassed, assaulted or collectively blamed for the actions of Lanza, Holmes or the countless other white males who’ve gone on a shooting rampage in the recent past.

Even now, investigators are unsure about what provoked Lanza and Holmes aside from a potentially undiagnosed mental illness.

More recently, the media has speculated that Adam Lanza was motivated by bullying he experienced during his time as a student at Sandy Hook Elementary. Conversely, not a single person has inquired about the mental wellbeing of the Boston Bombing suspects. Experts in psychology, violence and mass murder haven’t appeared on cable news or written op-eds for the New York Times and Washington Post with insight into what causes people to snap. No one has speculated about bullying that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar’s may have experienced, particularly Tamerlan, who was in middle school when he immigrated to the United States, an age when bullying is at its peak.

Of course, all of these questions are rhetorical since we already know the answer: Adam Lanza and James Holmes are Christian white males whose names have the appropriate number of consonants. Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev are Muslim (which cancels out white) males who immigrated to the US from a region of the world where names are difficult to pronounce (for us).

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15 Comments
  1. One more way in which the privileged retain privilege: by not ever acknowledging that privilege is a position. It is not a universal truth of humanity. People use these events to perpetuate racist, classist, ableist stereotypes without admitting it. They hide behind a veil of “the white guy must be mentally ill” and “the brown guy proves my point that every brown is gonna turn bad sooner or later.” Always out to blame someone(s) else rather than take responsibility for our collective narratives. You wrote a great essay.

    April 20, 2013
  2. jwise #

    Nice article, and I agree with a lot of what you say, but with all due respect, I think you are incorrect on various points…

    For instance, it’s not all about the suspects being “white” or other suspects being “people of color,” “brown” or “nonwhite.” That is a total cop-out, and a narrow way to look at things, IMHO.

    Making all of this a racial issue by “evil,” “right wing” “white males” is totally unfair and not the way to go if you really want a thorough, fair, and balanced analysis. For instance, do you think that an “evil white male” such as Ron Paul would have been such a despicable, heinous, barbaric, child and women killing, fanatical zionist slave, Israel first (and second and third) war criminal, the same way that the “black,” “person of color,” certified war criminal Obomber HAS undoubtedly been? Of course not! But when people only see “color,” whether they are “of color” or not seem to be very blinded to this. This is especially true with fanatical blind apologists to the war criminal, zionist-Judeo-Christian neo-Crusader, Muslim killing, modern day Firawn, Obomber (not to say you are, but most supporters and apologists of their Dear Leader Obomber tend to think this way, and blindly support him NO MATTER WHAT)

    No, the reason why these other people who have committed despicable terroristic crimes (who happen to be white) such as Holmes, Loughner, Lanza, etc., etc. (or even the Asian guy at Virginia Tech) are not labeled terrorists is BECAUSE they are NOT Muslim (Although you will find many of the fanatical, Muslim hating, extremist zionist, Islamophobic loons trying to link and connect ALL bad things and evil acts to Islam, including the white males you mentioned, and also the Asian VA tech shooter)

    If you haven’t noticed, there is a war against Islam by many in the West, and NO they’re not all “white,” “racist” males (or females) who think like this. And of course they only see that Muslims can be “terrorists”. They undoubtedly see these two words, Islam and terrorist, as synonymous. NO Jews or Christians or Hindus, etc. can EVER be terrorists, NEVER!

    Of course some of the biggest terrorists in the last 20 years have been their Judeo-Christian “brothers” such as the Orthodox Russian Christian Crusaders who have occupied, butchered, slaughtered, pillaged, and raped en mass, many, many thousands of “white” Muslims of Chechnya in the North Caucus.

    But the average zionist mass media brainwashed, “Islam is Evil,” “Islam equals terrorism”, American sheeple (of all colors), will only see that the latest “alleged” Chechen perpetrators (of course the terrorist bombing, whoever did it, it goes without saying was was totally evil and barbaric!) are evil, subhuman, barbaric, and despicable, etc., PRIMARILY because they were alleged Muslims and/or they came from a Muslim part of the world.

    And unfortunately these sheeple DO NOT KNOW, nor DO THEY CARE TO KNOW how the Chechen Muslims for centuries have been oppressed, genocided, massacred, pillaged, occupied, etc., by the barbaric “Judeo-Christian” Russian Crusaders…

    My point is that whatever color you are, the brainwashed masses in the in the zionist occupied, “Judeo-Christian” west (with few exceptions) see Islam as an inherently evil, barbaric, and terroristic religion, regardless of the color or race of the Muslim, and regardless of how many crimes or evils non-Muslims have committed whether against Muslims or themselves…

    Anyway, thanks for letting me post and hearing me out

    April 21, 2013
  3. K, not sure what the dude above me is talking about, large stream of incoherence plus referring to Obama as “Obomber”… Rhetoric gets in the way of communication, my friend. Ease up.

    So, @ OP, great article. However, I’d say there’s a clear distinction as to why the Boston bombing would be considered terrorism distinct from the suspects being Muslims: the use of an indiscriminate weapon.

    The Tsarnaevs planted a bomb aimed at killing/harming hundreds of people indiscriminately. Not all terrorism involves indiscriminate weapons (e.g. The plane hijackings of Carlos in the 1970s), but when a non-state entity uses an indiscriminate weapon against civilians, the action is almost always considered terrorism. 9/11 involved planes, the London train attacks was ricin (I believe, but I may be misremembering), and the Timothy Mcveigh attacks involved a bomb-laden truck. The Lanza and Holmes cases were mass murder (distinct from terrorism) because each death was transactional, executed one person at a time, with a weapon that kills discriminately.

    Now, the broader scope of this issue, which was briefly touched upon in this article, is that the current American definition of terror and (extra-)judicial handling of terrorism is deeply warped, thanks to the Karl Rove/GWB super-team of insanity that set roots to the suspension of habeas corpus through the deliberate selection of Guantanamo Bay as a place unaffected by international law. (There was a great article in New Yorker this year on the same subject, ill link to it here if I can find it.) I suggest we repair our repugnant handling of terrorism, but I think that the Boston bombings were clearly terrorism.

    April 21, 2013
  4. If I may… :) A pretty simple definition of terrorism that I’ve pieced together is: “An organized attack planned/targeted against a government and its people.”

    We can further label these incidents as “politically-motivated” attacks, but isn’t pretty much everything more-or-less politically motivated in some way/shape/form?

    Using that definition, to me, makes classifying and responding to the latest few months of tragedy and murder much more clearer….but how we as a nation respond to and prioritize these acts of terror is obviously where lines are drawn.

    April 21, 2013
  5. some random girl #

    this article basically summed up what I was already thinking, when the perpetrator happens to be muslim, it constitutes an act of terror. it really saddens me about what the government is doing, striking fear into people’s hearts by using this type of propaganda.

    April 21, 2013
  6. cm #

    You guys are leaving out a simple fact, one of the perpetrators of the Boston bombings made videos and posted them online where he discussed his political position and displayed Islamic oriented extremism.

    But the two Tsarnaev’s defined their own actions as terrorism when they made the choice to bomb their fellow Americans on behalf of their own misinterpretations of a healthy religion.

    I get that the majority of Muslims look at extremists the way Christians view the Westboro Baptist Church, but when that Church terrorizes the funeral goers of fallen American soldiers, the problem isn’t that the Tsarnaev’s were defined as terrorists but that the Phelps were not.

    This isn’t about skin colour. It’s Christianity versus Islam and it’s equally misrepresented on both sides.

    April 21, 2013
    • Only one of these two is a American Citizen, the dead one was a holder of a green card making him a Resident Alien, I for one have not made up my mind as to how I feel about what you want to call this crime against our Nation and MY fellow Americans other than to say it would not have bothered me a whole lot if they were both “shot dead trying to attack the Police. However seeing he was not I view it as a criminal proceeding that can and should be handled in a State of Massachusetts Court. But no the Federal Government sees the need to jump in and take over the case Like the State here needs a babysitters help.

      April 25, 2013
  7. Me #

    Except: media and government labeled it an act of terrorism well before anything was known of the ethnicity of the suspects. In fact, many media outlets speculated that it was likely an act of domestic terror carried out by an extreme right-wing group, due to the timing and low level of sophistication in the devices used.

    Except: all indications from the Obama administration and lawmakers are that he is to be tried in Federal court, not a military tribunal.

    BTW, are you arguing that the Boston Marathon bombing wasn’t terrorism? Or that the shootings in CO and CT are? Or are you just attacking a straw man assumption about how you think people decide the question one way or the other?

    April 21, 2013
  8. Wyoming #

    It’s ok, everyone. He has been read his rights after he was considered coherent and answered just a few, very specific public safety questions. He is being charged as an American citizen for using a weapon of mass destruction against persons and property in the US, resulting in death. Everyone can rest assured that that charge is not related to his nationality and would be the same charged given to the other individuals mentioned by this article, had they chosen to use a bomb rather than firearm…

    April 22, 2013
  9. You made some good points, but you also left some important things out. While no one made assumptions about religion or race based on Lanza, they did make assumptions about autism. There were some pretty horrible broad, sweeping statements made about autism and autistic people after the Lanza shooting, with many statements demonizing all of us. People were openly and loudly wishing us to all be locked up and the key thrown away, with the assumption that all autistic people are like Lanza.

    It may have been a different group being demonized, but it still happened. Please don’t erase it.

    April 23, 2013

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