Notes From the Margins…

Chapel Hill: Stop Calling it ‘Terrorism’

  • February 14, 2015
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Were the Chapel Hill murders a hate-crime or an ‘ordinary’ crime in which the religious identity of the victims was not a factor?  Within hours of the killings, leading voices amongst the American conservative/’counterjihad’ movement were already denying or playing down any suggestion that the three victims were killed because they were Muslims.

At Frontpage Magazine and Jihad Watch, Craig Stephen Hicks was variously described as a lone psycho,  or an ‘angry leftist’ because of some of the Likes in his Facebook page.   In fact Ricks’ list is far too varied to reach any such conclusions.

Others have described the murders not merely as hate crime but as an act of terrorism.     The Palestinian Authority has described the killings as terrorism and there is even a Facebook page called ‘ The Craig Hicks is a Terrorist Community’ which has nearly 6,000 Likes.

The ‘angry leftist’ and ‘lone psycho’ suggestions are as predictable as they are contemptible.   eir own.   For the likes of Frontpage and Robert Spencer, there can never be Muslim victims, unless they were killed by Muslims. But I don’t think the arguments about whether or not these murders were an act of terrorism are particularly enlightening.

Terrorism is a slippery and often subjective term, which governments use again and again to their own advantage.    In theory the term applies to acts of violence with a political objective or motivation.   In practice it acts a label that can be applied to any organizations and individuals that you don’t like.

There is no evidence so far to suggest that Hicks was affiliated to any political group, organization or ideology, or that there was any political dimension or motivation to his actions.

Just because he was an atheist doesn’t mean that he was a ‘militant atheist’ or an ‘anti-theist’ terrorist.   And just because governments use the word terrorism to lift acts of violence into a new category of (politically useful) horror, doesn’t mean that critics of this process or those who have been victims of it should do the same.     .

It’s entirely valid to draw attention to the responses of the media and politicians to these killings.   Because there is little doubt that had the perpetrator been a Muslim they would  have evoked an entirely different response.   Politicians and the media are often reluctant to acknowledge the extent of anti-Muslim violence and prejudice, while they are often all too willing to treat even the most disparate acts of  violence involving Muslim perpetrators as part of a common phenomenon of terrorist violence.

Critique that by all means.    But a vacuous term remains vacuous, regardless of the victims or perpetrators.   And calling Hicks a terrorist doesn’t make him any worse than he already is, and it doesn’t make the Chapel Hill murders any worse than they already are, and I very much doubt whether it explains these horrendous crimes.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Nik

    15th Feb 2015 - 7:50 pm

    I started thinking the same way the moment I heard that there was an argument about a parking spot.

    However, I am quite sure that all the arguments in the world preceeding the killing wouldn’t have helped if the situation was reversed and a muslim shot 3 evangelicals over a parking spot argument. He’d still be a terrorist.

  2. #Islamophobia #Xenophobia #Ethnocentrism: From #Christchurch to the #WhiteHouse! | | truthaholics

    15th Mar 2019 - 4:45 pm

    […] Chapel Hill: Stop calling it ‘terrorism’ […]

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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