Well, it's happened again. Our fine nation was the target of yet another act of terrorism. Fortunately, the plot to bomb ten different Target stores along the East Coast was foiled when Mark Charles Barnett got turned in by someone he was trying to enlist to help carry out the attack. But, with the issue of national security in the spotlight more than ever, I have one question... why isn't anyone actually calling this an act of terrorism?
Unfortunately, the answer is clear the second you look at the mugshot of Mark Barnett; he's a white man in America.
When I first saw the headline this morning I did my rounds and checked NBC, ABC, and Fox News, but did not find a single article that referenced this as an act of terrorism, or referred to Barnett as a terrorist. (Note, that he is currently being held only for violating his probation and has not yet been formally charged with the bombing plot.)
First a quick rundown of the events... Mark Charles Barnett was arrested after someone he attempted to recruit for the plot turned him in. Barnett reportedly offered the unnamed source $10,000 to help plant the homemade bombs in several different states. By bombing the stores Barnett hoped to devalue shares of Target, thereby lowering the price and allowing him to purchase stock in the company. Each bomb was to be placed on a shelf next to other products where employees and customers would be in close proximity, and an explosives expert has been quoted as saying the bombs would cause, "property damage, serious injury, or death to nearby persons upon detonation." Federal agents and local law enforcement arrested Barnett, and after a search of his house, found materials consistent with the type of bombs in question.
We are all relieved that this plot was foiled, and owe a debt of gratitude to the various individuals and agencies that lead to the arrest of Barnett, but the hypocrisy of treating this man as a typical criminal and not a terrorist is not only worrisome, but racist and xenophobic.
Now, my first and most obvious point, imagine if Mark Charles Barnett was non-white and a Muslim. Not only would he most likely be charged with terrorism by now, but he also wouldn't be sitting in a local jail in Florida. He'd be in a federal prison or other Guantanamo-esque detainment situation. Furthermore, the media would be all over the story as another 'foiled terror plot', yet the headlines seem to focus more on Target, like a brand plug. He's just another crazy white guy pushed to the edge by society and lashing out at corporate America. This is idiocy.
Just as Dylan Roof was a terrorist (or his recent white-supremecist copy cat plotter), just as Mohamad Atta was a terrorist, so is Mark Charles Barnett only his plot failed. Yes, his intended target was... well, a Target, but his methods and the consequences of his actions would have been terrorism no matter how you cut it. Innocent lives could have been lost, property damaged, a sense of safety and normalcy destroyed. Not just one Target, but ten of them.
The other disturbing thing about this situation is that here we are, in the midst of a nationwide debate about Donald Trump's travel bans, where Terrorism and national security are the main justifications (and as they spin it, the only thing that can save us), and yet, due to this administration's misguided stance on terrorism and blatant hate towards Islam, they're paying little to no attention to the threat already within our borders.
One of my biggest issues with the original travel ban was its misguided approach at targeting seven nations that have not been responsible for a single American death since 9/11. The order ignored hot button countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and United Arab Emirates, as well as ignored the fact that some of the biggest acts of terrorism since 9/11 (Boston Marathon Bombing, Orlando Nightclub Shooting, San Bernardino) have been perpetrated by US Citizens. Ultimately, this is why the travel ban was squashed in the 9th District Circuit Court of Appeals; it did not show it was actually meant to protect our nation and looked more like the 'Muslim Ban' many say it was meant to be.
However, if you look more closely at terrorism in America the issues run deeper than foreign countries or radical Islam; even a travel or all out immigration ban on all foreign countries wouldn't protect us from terrorism, because one of our biggest enemies is our fellow Radical-Conservative-Christian-White guy.
Now, I'm not going to throw statistics at you, because depending on how you define and record 'terrorism' there are many conflicting studies out there... some sources say radical right-wing terrorism counts for twice as many deaths as radical-Islam since 9/11, some say the exact opposite, others put the count closer to 50/50, and some try to discount the idea all together. Feel free to dig around for yourself. (One great resource is this Global Terrorism Database from the Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence and the University of Maryland... it's a lot of data but will give you an idea of how much non-jihad terrorism happens in America.)
Regardless, no matter how you cut it, the point still stands that lone wolf radicals, as well as groups like the KKK and the White Nationalist Party, do commit acts of terrorism. Churches burned, people intimidated, buildings blown up, lives lost. And, since the Trump presidency, these groups are on the rise. To think that shutting down our borders would stop terrorism in America is not only naive, but flat out inaccurate and a dangerous illusion.
Cases like Mark Charles Barnett perfectly illustrate America's double standard of defining terror. The way he's being treated by law enforcement and portrayed in the media is a far cry from how we'd see a brainwashed ISIS recruit treated, but what's really the difference here?
Answer: There isn't one. Barnett planned to use fear and violence to achieve his ideological goal. Other than his skin tone (White) and religion (most likely Chrisitan), he is the same as any ISIS, Al-Qaeda, or lone-wolf radical extremist, and should be treated as such.
Furthermore, we can not ever hope to put an end to terrorism if we refuse to acknowledge that the problem is bigger than just foreign countries and religion, but that it lurks in the hearts of evil men and women around the world, possibly even those living next door. Until we start calling a terrorist a terrorist regardless of skin tone, or religion, or ideology, we will never truly be rid of this plague of terror.