Earl Ofari Hutchinson
This one could have been mailed in. The “one” I refer to is the case of the Austin Bomber, Mark Anthony Conditt. If there was ever a case that the tag “terrorism” and the perpetrator labeled, “a terrorist,” it’s the two-week reign of terror that Conditt traumatized Austin, Texas and other cities with. The facts sans Conditt’s motive is clear. He targeted and killed two African-Americans, and certainly more were on his kill list. He paralyzed a city. He ignited a veritable small army of FBI, ATF, and local police to hunt him down. He even got Trump to send a note of praise to law enforcement for finally bringing him to bay.
Yet, the words “terrorism” and “terrorist” were as usual nearly invisible from all official characterization of his made-in-America-terror rampage. Yes, some newspapers and commentators finally get it, and called him and his acts that. But note, I said, any “official” branding of him and his actions as “terrorism” and “terrorist. Instead, as usual, we got the by now standard playbook litany of half-baked veiled excuses and almost apologetics for his murderous deeds.
The words and terms describing him as “troubled,” “a loner,” ‘hostile,” and “no clue he was dangerous,” from a good family” and now “anguished family” are standard for guys like him. The grand prize for media hand wringing about him went to one news outlet with this screaming headline, “An outcry from a challenged youth.” “Outcry?” “challenged?” and a “youth?” Youth, he was 23 years-old, that’s hardly comparable to a teen kid stealing hubcaps.
What made these veiled apologetics an even more disgusting example of an in your face dime store psychology attempt to deny domestic terrorism, is that almost within hours that Conditt blew himself up, Sacramento police riddled Stephon Clark, and unarmed Black man with 20 bullets. Clark was one year younger than Conditt. Yet, there were none of the sympathetic pop descriptive analyses of Clark, let alone any in-depth picture of his family history and background.
Even more galling, according to FBI reports, between 2008 and 2012, about six percent of domestic terrorism suspects have been Muslim. The number of Blacks and Latinos that have committed domestic terror acts, be it mass shootings or bombings, has been almost negligible. In fact, the profile of a mass killer is that he’s a he, a staunch gun nut, politically disgruntled, and a young white male. In a few cases, they were influenced by white supremacist groups.
The Charlottesville, Virginia rampage by assorted white nationalist groups last August, should have sounded loud the alarm bell that white nationalist and white supremacist groups have touched the delusional and loose wires in the heads of a more than a few impressionable, distraught, alienated, and unhinged, young white males. They have easy access to the big killer guns, and stocks of ammo, and bomb making parts. They are not routinely profiled by police. So, they can take pictures with guns, parade with guns publicly, and blast away at rifle ranges or at training sites. They have no fear of exposure or arrest.
The brutal reality, beyond the obvious issue of race and the political and religious typecasting of Muslims and Blacks, there’s simply no political incentive to call an Austin bomber a “domestic terrorist.” This crashes hard against the official narrative that made-in- America terrorists and terrorism constitute minimal or no real threat to life and property here. This danger supposedly only comes from a foreign group, Muslim of course.
By any definition, Conditt was not just a domestic terrorist, but a racial terrorist. There is a bloody history that he is a part of. Legions of America first, neo-Nazis, and assorted overt racist groups have committed violence with impunity, and with a wink and nod from officials, judges, and police agencies on Blacks, Hispanics, and other outlier groups. They in effect rewrote the definition of what terrorism is, and, isn’t.
The rise of white nationalist groups and the hideous reports of their penetration into the armed forces and some police departments, has made it even harder to finger them as the same major threats to national security as is routinely true of Muslims from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, or Iran. Then when you have baby-faced school boys such as Conditt, and the litany of other white kid looking mass shooters and bombers, this makes it impossible for the media and the public to rail against them as major threats to the nation’s peace.
With their smiling, beatific faces, they simply look too much like the kid next door, the kid at a local school, or church, in white suburban communities. It would be too painful an exercise to turn the mirror inward and admit that that kid who many merely wrote off as an eccentric, a loner, or just a plain odd ball, could easily turn into a mass killer.
But they are. And until that mirror is turned inward and there’s an official admission that made-in-America terrorism comes with that smiling beatific, kid next door face, then the terror carnage will continue to mount.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is, The Russia Probe: What Trump Knew, And When Did he Know It? (Middle Passage Press). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.