Las Vegas shooting reveals new racist definition for terrorism


Graphic by Hyemin Kang

Safa Saied, Staff Writer

On Oct. 1, Stephen Paddock opened fire on a festival in Las Vegas, Nevada and killed more than 59 individuals and wounded more than 527 while country music singer Jason Aldean was on stage. This event lead to an eruption of articles with a variety of titles. Some of the variety leaving space for debate.

If the definition of terrorism is the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims, then why are attacks without political aim called terrorism because of religion or race of the individual, instead of the intention of the crime? More often than not the intention of the crime is nothing because the “terrorist attacks” all have been done by people with mental health issues. If classifying attacks is such a big deal, shouldn’t we stay true to the definition of terrorism when identifying attacks?

The New York Times article published regarding Paddocks terrorist attack on Las Vegas was titled, “Father’s History Could Offer Insight Into Mind of Las Vegas Gunman.” The article seeks to find answers and a motive. However when a 30-year-old suspected of committing a terror attack in Canada, was expelled from entry to the U.S., The New York Times did not hesitate to speculate every detail. Titling the article, “Suspect in Canada Terror Attack Had Been Ordered to Leave U.S.” Why did they not justify his actions and come up with an article title about his abusive upbringing? The major difference between the 30-year-old suspect and Stephen Paddock? The 30 year old was Abdulahi Sharif, a Somalian. The first example of both individuals having mental and family issues but one being called a terrorist not because of his aim, but his race.

One CBS News article published regarding Nevada was titled, “Las Vegas shooting: Why it’s too soon to call the attack terrorism” in it they reason why it is important to think twice about categorizing a mass murder on innocent people. However, when a 53-year-old man is going to be facing charges for ramming his car into a barrier and possessing a large knife at the Dolphin Mall west of Miami, CBS news titled their article covering the topic, “FBI: Florida man sympathized with Islamic State, wanted to bomb mall”. Even though he did not start or carry out any legitimate actions of the attack, the article suggests Vicente Adolfo Solano is a terrorist. The difference between a man who committed a mass murder on his own versus a man with corrupted views and psychological issues? Solano is a Latino Islamic Convert. The second example of two men with mental issues but one being called a terrorist, not because of his aim, but his race.

Even Google classifies the Las Vegas shooting when looked up as an “incident.” Not a terrorist attack, just something that merely occurred on a random night in Nevada. However, if you search “Orlando nightclub shooting,” the attack is classified as a terrorist attack and hate crime. The difference between Stephen Paddock and Omar Mateen, a proven mentally ill, bipolar, steroid addicted, and unstable individual? Omar Mateen was Muslim. The third example of two men with mental health issues with no political aim, but one was called a terrorist because of his religion.

At some point in our history, it was seemingly unanimously decided that race affects the weight of the crime and its globalization. Based on recent events and the titles of news articles, nothing is 100 percent unbiased anymore. With the rise of customized Facebook feeds and filtered news web searches, it’s clear that something about a person’s race affects the crime they commit and its broadcasting, specifically online. A number of attacks have occurred with no connection to politics.There are rarely attacks that are considered terrorism following the technical definition. If we are not going to follow a clear definition of terrorism when categorizing attacks, then it should stop being used for the sake of attention of readers. The word is being taken advantage of and thrown around irresponsibly.

The Las Vegas shooting should not only bring mental health awareness, but also make it clear to the public that the definition of terrorism has become more based on race instead of political aim. If the definition of terrorism really has changed into being any attack on innocent people, regardless of their goal or intention, all attacks should be considered terrorism. Just because Stephen Paddock is white doesn’t give him the pass on being classified as a terrorist. If someone who isn’t white can be considered a terrorist even with mental health issues, then so should Stephen Paddock.

With all of the attacks in the news recently including the shooting in the elementary school in Northern California, Tampa, Baton Rouge, etc., gun control laws, mental health, and racism are all topics that need to be discussed more.

Innocent teenagers around the world are called terrorist every single day. My decision to wear a hijab does not make me a terrorist, and just because Stephen Paddock is white does not mean he is not.