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Refusal to Call Charleston Shootings “Terrorism” Again Shows It’s a Meaningless Propaganda Term


Refusal to Call Charleston Shootings “Terrorism” Again Shows It’s a Meaningless Propaganda Term

Glenn Greenwald

In February, 2010, a man named Joseph Stack deliberately flew his small airplane into the side of a building that housed a regional IRS office in Austin, Texas, just as 200 agency employees were starting their workday. Along with himself, Stack killed an IRS manager and injured 13 others.


Part of the way the construct works in popular (unquestioned US white-supremacist) consciousness:
As a necessary connotation of the word terrorist:
The terrorist represents a people.

There is cognitive dissonance (in mainstream white-supremacist consciousness), if the white terrorist represents a people. Therefore, by (never spoken) definition: The white is not the terrorist. It is “unthinkable.”

A corollary is: Propaganda (like they run on FOX, but also a million other forms) is not seen as propaganda. To recognize it as propaganda would be to note the cognitive dissonance required of white supremacy.


If the people in the room when the shooting began didn’t feel an instant of stark terror before they felt the bullet enter their body, fell to the floor, and bled to death then how else would someone not in the room describe it? Surprise, amazement, disgust, fear? If they were terrified then a terrorist (a person who is creating a terrifying situation for another person) is what the man should be called.

Of course, the term is for propaganda and is laden with political baggage when used by government officials, newscasters, pundits, etc. trying to promote their view of the world. It hides the reality and disables thought. We need to remember that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter to get beyond the propaganda.

No, Dylann is truly a terrorist, just not the sort the powers that be want us to think about. They would have us see just a bad boy with a gun.


The U.S. War on Terror has never been anything but a War of Terror. Just ask anyone in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, and so on.


It is all political. The fanatic that flew his plane into the irs building was not considered a terrorist, or the south carolina shooter as a result of a political decision. Same goes for the Ft. Hood shooter and the guy who cut the womans head off with a knife at work in Okla. Everyone knows they were terrorist acts, the government just chooses to call them something else.


It’s important to be critical of how the wealthy, white ruling class labels the violence of their enemies as “terrorism”, but does not use this language to describe their own much greater violence. However, I’m worried about the way that people are trying to express this criticism by pushing to have the Charleston shooting labeled “domestic terrorism”.

Taking on this “war on terror” language ourselves acts as a justification for further increasing the size of the US “counter-terrorism” (i.e. counterinsurgency) apparatus. We should be critical of the use of the word “terrorism” to describe anti-colonial violence, but I feel like way we should achieve that is by working to stop the use of this language, not by taking it on ourselves to label our own enemies as “domestic terrorists”.

The word “terrorism” is meaningless, really. All violence instills terror. What happened here was not a “terrorist attack”. It was a racist massacre.

Speaking of the killings as a “racist massacre” centers the discussion on what matters most: white supremacist violence/oppression. By calling it “domestic terrorism” we name the problem as “terrorism”, which is solved through “counter-terrorist” initiatives (gun control, mass surveillance, militarized borders, etc). I think we should call it a racist massacre so that people know that the solution is not “getting better at identifying lone wolf terrorists” or “implementing stricter gun controls”, but rather confronting white supremacy.