A new application of a label?

A reader from Cleveland writes:

It was a subtle change, and you may have missed it.  But I suspect it will be significant.  Until yesterday, the term “domestic terrorist” was used mostly to describe misanthropic white Americans who lean right.  Apparently, now Kuwaiti-born ISIS-inspired Muslim radicals are also domestic terrorists.  Who knew? 

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), abortion clinic bombers, white separatists, tax protestors, sovereign citizen movements, and right-wing militias have been held up as examples of domestic terrorist threats for over 30 years.  But with the exception of the Oklahoma City Bombing and a few abortion clinic bombings, the existential threat posed by paunchy white guys from Idaho never materialized.

The SPLC is generally considered the leading non-governmental authority on domestic terror and hate groups in the U.S.  While they do not have a category for Muslim hate groups in their list, they track anti-Muslim groups.

Ham-handed efforts to include the Tea Party movement and veterans in the ranks of domestic terrorist threats riled up the hard left and hard right in recent years, but associated acts of violence never materialized.  Bombings and arsons done by left-leaning animal rights or environmental groups have been officially labeled domestic terrorism by the FBI, but those attacks don’t fit the narrative that domestic terrorism in the U.S. comes from the right.  They do not garner much national coverage.  

After the Boston Marathon bombing, some left-leaning pundits openly hoped for a white American villain.  After a poorly constructed IED was found near Times Square, Mayor Bloomberg speculated that it could have been planted by right-wingers upset with Obamacare.  But in the end, the political movements traditionally associated with domestic terrorism were not to blame.  

At the same time, the administration and the left were having a hard time finding ways to separate Islam from terrorism, both at home and abroad.  The Fort Hood shooting was an act of workplace violence.  A shooting in Paris targeted random folks who just happened to be shopping at a Kosher supermarket (not a domestic incident, but the obfuscation is instructive).  A great deal of media coverage on Pam Geller’s cartoon exhibit and subsequent attack didn’t use the word terror or terrorist, but the word Islamophobia punctuated stories focused on her provocative behavior.

The FBI did not reference Islamist terrorism in its 2014 National Domestic Terrorism Assessment.

Just a few weeks ago, a study was released purporting to show “Homegrown Extremists Tied to Deadlier Toll Than Jihadists in U.S. Since 9/11.”  If you dig into the details, you can see pretty quickly that they need to define the term “domestic terrorism” pretty loosely to inflate the numbers, but they keep domestic and jihadist separate.

Including a radical Muslim shooter in the ranks of domestic terrorism may have been a slip of the tongue, but the idea is gaining traction quickly.  Twenty-four hours after Chattanooga, if you Google stories containing "chattanooga" and "domestic terrorism," you will find 50,000 hits.  Five and a half years after the Fort Hood shooting, if you do the same for “fort hood” and “domestic terrorism,” you will find fewer than 1,000 hits

In just one day, the elites in media and government have managed to rhetorically blunt any radical Islamic threat on U.S. soil.  They also added a heretofore unknown lethality to Tea Party and militia groups whose violence has not lived up to predictions.   

The next time Homeland Security, NSA, FBI, or IRS needs to justify surveillance of domestic groups, they won’t need to convince you some Tea Partier might shoot up a Walmart.  They’ll point to the latest abomination from ISIS.

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