Yesterday, a man opened fire in the visitors center of the US Capitol. He drew his weapon and pointed it at officers, one of whom fired and struck the suspect before he could go any further. The media would later learn that the same man had shouted “I am a Prophet of God” from the balcony of the House of Representatives in 2015.
Except the shooter’s name was Larry Dawson, and he’s not Muslim.
Now I know there’s always a difference between how you want to define a word and how society around you chooses to. A fair definition of terrorism might be one that describes violence against civilians by a non-state actor or actors, in the service of a political cause.
But most of our media has its own definition of terrorism: A Muslim did it.
Once we learned that Dawson wasn’t Muslim, reporters went out of their way to calm the American public. There was still almost no other information about the case, the suspect, or his motivations. “Don’t worry,” one outlet after another told us, “it’s not terrorism.”
But if a Muhammad Dawson had rushed in and opened fire, screaming “I am a Prophet of Allah,” what then? Today we’d be discussing a new and even more offensive policy proposed by Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz. Meanwhile Donald Trump would be making the rounds on TV, offering ever more outrageous, unconstitutional, and Geneva-noncompliant policy proposals.
I’m not arguing that Dawson was in fact a terrorist. I’m pointing, once again, to the double standard in how we treat Muslims. That we collectively breathed a sigh of relief when we found out there was no material connection to terrorism because the shooter was just a crazy guy screaming about God says a lot. More Americans die from this kind of violence than from terrorism. But so long as gun violence is not terrorism, the public is urged to go about business as usual.