White Male Terrorists Are an Issue We Should Discuss
May 10, 2017 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Teen Vogue continues hitting it out of the park with a column exploring "Who gets named a terrorist, and why."

Two recent cases feature prominently in the piece by Lincoln Blades: A mass shooting in San Diego on April 20th, which killed Monique Clark, a mother of three daughters, and wounded several others, by Peter Selis, a white man. In March, James Harris Jackson rode a bus from Washington to New York City, intending to murder a black man. Politicians usually keen to discuss domestic acts of terrorism have been noticeably silent on both.

(Teen Vogue Previously)
posted by Made of Star Stuff (43 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
 
The rise of unexpected kinds of journalism from sources like Teen Vogue is possibly the ONLY good thing I've seen happen in the past 6 months. I hope they continue doing good work, because educating young women on matters such as these is something that has been lacking in our culture. Not to say that young women don't have access to education about these matters, but bringing it right into the faces of possibly underserved populations is one of the best things ever. Plus, strong reporting for anyone to read, even if you're outside of the usual Teen Vogue target market.
posted by hippybear at 12:09 PM on May 10, 2017 [37 favorites]


Honestly, this out-Gibsons Gibson.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:10 PM on May 10, 2017 [5 favorites]


I’m not sure it is actually that unexpected. When the white, male, cis, straight gatekeepers of most mainline institutions do their level best to keep new voices out of their pages, it is practically an inevitability that those new voices will be lifted up elsewhere.

Also, given that we have increasingly seen that the most dedicated opposition to racism, sexism, and tyranny has been coming from women and youth, a magazine for young women is almost naturally designed to help foment the revolution. Men have decided it doesn’t help their CV to work at these institutions anymore (there are a lot of great accounts about how the mid-20th century women's magazine in the US was a bastion of male editorial oversight, and how they refused to publish perspectives that were remotely controversial), and so they have removed themselves as the people who determine what is worth printing. The result: magazines that are run by and employ women are more likely to take women seriously.

I mean, compare the editorial responsibility to tell the truth at Teen Vogue versus today’s NYT. The very elements that make NYT so “lofty” are exactly what are destroying its ability to report news or even convey information truthfully.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 12:21 PM on May 10, 2017 [68 favorites]


The only thing that kind of frustrates me about the article is they miss a huge axis of why this stuff happens that should really be right up New Teen Vogue's alley - sexist entitlement. It's no accident that Selis was on the phone with the woman who broke up with him days before at the time of the shooting - intimidating her with proof of the violence he was willing to commit. It's less explicitly racial terrorism, and more sexist/intimate terrorism, because the person he was trying to frighten and influence was a woman he felt he was entitled to.
posted by corb at 12:23 PM on May 10, 2017 [24 favorites]


NB: that doesn't mean he didn't choose a black crowd because he felt their life had less meaning, which is definitely also important to consider. But most of the last white male violence issues have been because they felt entitled to women.
posted by corb at 12:25 PM on May 10, 2017 [6 favorites]


As someone who studies terrorism academically, and despite the various definitions of terrorism, most agree that is a form of political violence, which precludes including forms of personal/sexual/intimate violence.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:26 PM on May 10, 2017 [6 favorites]


Honestly, this out-Gibsons Gibson.

Iceland (or maybe Greenland?) was there first: when other national media outlets failed/ were coerced to not cover politics, a tourism magazine became the publication to speak truth.

[I saw this in one of the prior US Politics megathreads when Teen Vogue was mentioned as groundbreaking in this fashion, but now I can't find the citation]
posted by filthy light thief at 12:32 PM on May 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


MisanthropicPainforest, can you say more? Why would defining terrorism as political violence preclude it also being considered a kind of intimate partner violence if and when both motivations are present? Why the rigidity?
posted by minervous at 12:51 PM on May 10, 2017 [8 favorites]


Records show Selis also faced serious financial troubles, filing bankruptcy in 2009 and again in 2015. He owed substantial amounts of money to medical groups, credit card companies and creditors, according to court documents.

Alright, I feel qualified to comment here. It is possible to be completely broke and powerless and not have violent fantasies of revenge and destruction.

It's not clear what exactly makes the difference, but it may be as simple as biological makeup, if some form of PTSD was a factor, because it's pretty well understood most people have one of a number of different threat responses they're likely to be triggered into if they have PTSD; basically, it's fight or flight response, but there are a couple of other flavors of automatic nervous system responses possible; I've seen them described as the four fs: fight, flight, fear/freeze, or fuck (although this last one I've also seen described as a tendency to dissociate and retreat into fantasy rather than fuck).

Most people seem to have a natural, preferred mode of stress response that doesn't change throughout their lives. Mine and my son's is fear/freeze, with a slight tweak in my case that my fear takes the form of relationship anxiety and emotional neediness when my abandonment PTSD is triggered, so I get overwhelmed and paralyzed and can't do anything under survival stress (or sometimes when really overwhelmed, I have to sleep).

But some people's natural stress response style is to want to fight when feeling threatened. And that's literally old school, raw animal fighting/killing instinct in this case, not an urge to slap fight or play competitive tiddlywinks.

It could be the difference between sad white dudes who kill, versus sad white guys who don't, is just a matter of how they're wired to respond to stress, whether cultural influences and hateful beliefs direct those instincts at a particular target or not.

Either way, I have long argued authorities are reluctant to call it "terrorism" when white dudes motivated or inspired by the right wing hate machine do it, so I don't doubt police might be reluctant to see it here. But at least the case about the guy who had just had a breakup and was financially ruined doesn't seem like terrorism to me, so much as an actual real life case of someone snapping under too much pain and stress.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:54 PM on May 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


> Iceland was there first: when other national media outlets failed/ were coerced to not cover politics, a tourism magazine became the publication to speak truth.

n.b. at least one mefite writes for that tourism magazine, and IIRC a mefite writing for said magazine was the first to confront the former PM about the panama papers.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:07 PM on May 10, 2017 [8 favorites]


When you've got State Representatives starting and managing influential online forums, that espouse and promote a misogynistic world view, and a pussy-grabbing POTUS that is not far off that mark, it is hard not to label anti-woman violence as being political, and thus terrorism.
posted by jetsetsc at 1:14 PM on May 10, 2017 [34 favorites]


The Selis example isn't the best but I think we can forget it when there are plenty of other examples of public terrorist violence against women and POC.
posted by kittensofthenight at 1:17 PM on May 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


Honestly, this out-Gibsons Gibson.

Both William and Debbie!
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:18 PM on May 10, 2017 [13 favorites]


In March, James Harris Jackson rode a bus from Washington to New York City, intending to murder a black man. The New York Times called him a "benevolent man content with an unassuming life."

What? No, I'm pretty sure that they didn't. The quote from the article linked to describes his victim in that way: "By all accounts, Timothy Caughman, 66, was a benevolent man content with an unassuming life."

I actually think that needs fixing.
posted by howfar at 1:22 PM on May 10, 2017 [16 favorites]


Whoa, shit, thank you howfar. I read that totally wrong. I can't believe I did that.

Mods, please fix if possible!!
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 1:30 PM on May 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


[Nixed that incorrect quote from the post.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:31 PM on May 10, 2017 [2 favorites]


which precludes including forms of personal/sexual/intimate violence

What? How the fuck is violence against women because they are women and therefore you are entitled to their bodies not political? Are political scientists somehow just completely ignorant of gendered violence? That seems...amazing, to me.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:48 PM on May 10, 2017 [33 favorites]


To be even more clear: the research is clear that physical abusers -- who are almost all men -- do not abuse because they cannot control their anger or their actions, or because they are experiencing a trauma response, or because they're in a fugue state or some such bullshit. They abuse because they believe they are entitled to do so. That is a direct quote. They beat and abuse and kill (almost exclusively) women because of their beliefs.

That is fundamentally political.
posted by schadenfrau at 2:09 PM on May 10, 2017 [65 favorites]


FURTHER, and I don't have a cite for this offhand (although for my previous comment you can literally just google), but my recollection is that a history of violence towards women is the single most predictive factor in whether someone becomes a mass shooter.

What the actual fuck.
posted by schadenfrau at 2:10 PM on May 10, 2017 [34 favorites]


a history of violence towards women is the single most predictive factor in whether someone becomes a mass shooter.

yeah, I've seen this cited in a parallel way to how people repeat the (true? not certain) factoid that torturing animals makes you likely to grow up to be a serial killer. That is, people repeat it, meaning that you should be concerned about animal torture or violence against women because important, significant living creatures might be harmed one day if you ignore these small things. mass shooters and serial killers harm men and children, sometimes! not because animal suffering or violence against women is a problem in itself - just as a warning sign of something actually bad that might happen someday. animals, women, all the same.

Man-on-woman partner violence is, on occasion, not terrorism: those occasions when it is merely a hate crime. an extremely effective and economical hate crime.
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:21 PM on May 10, 2017 [77 favorites]


I've run out of favorites for the day, queenofbithynia, so you can't tell that I'm furiously clicking that little plus sign, but rest assured. I am.

Goddammit.
posted by schadenfrau at 2:25 PM on May 10, 2017 [9 favorites]


MisanthropicPainforest, can you say more? Why would defining terrorism as political violence preclude it also being considered a kind of intimate partner violence if and when both motivations are present? Why the rigidity?

Sorry wasn't clear. Intimate/sexual violence is orthogonal to defining it as political violence. Meaning, an act of violence, even if it is designed to terrorize someone, isn't considered a form of terrorism unless the act is politically motivated or has some political goal or some political component. Usually politics in this sense relates to the state in some way. Going on a shooting spree because one hates women doesn't usually qualify, unless of course the targets are a specific group (so called 'categorical terrorism').
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:29 PM on May 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


Every time I personally have seen that connection made, the context is, "If you claim to take terrorism seriously but you aren't taking domestic violence seriously, then your faux concern about terrorism is just opportunistic bullshit to push xenophobic, fascist policies". I've literally only seen the connection brought up to attack the sincerity of people who claim to be concerned about stopping terrorism, by people who already have well-established anti-DV bona fides. Nobody I have seen talking about that connection has ever been minimising DV by doing so.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:32 PM on May 10, 2017 [2 favorites]


unless the act is politically motivated or has some political goal or some political component. Usually politics in this sense relates to the state in some way

But not exclusively. Your definition does not preclude violence against women because of the belief that men are entitled to commit violence against women. That belief is wholly a political component and a political motivation, regardless of whether the perpetrator -- or you -- recognize it as such.
posted by schadenfrau at 2:37 PM on May 10, 2017 [12 favorites]


Going on a shooting spree because one hates women doesn't usually qualify, unless of course the targets are a specific group

Women are a specific group. I feel like I must be misunderstanding you, so maybe that's what you mean.
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:38 PM on May 10, 2017 [20 favorites]


. Usually politics in this sense relates to the state in some way. Going on a shooting spree because one hates women doesn't usually qualify

A belief that women are not entitled to political, economic, and social freedoms and powers equal to those of men is absolutely, 100% a political belief relating to the state.

I mean, what the f*** do you think men hate women qua women for? They find breasts aesthetically unbearable? They smell funny? High-pitched voices remind them of when they were tormented by sparrows as children? No. Hatred of women most often arises from the belief that they should be subjugated to men generally, politically, financially, sexually, and that one man in particular, and that is utterly a matter of politics.

It gobsmacks me that anyone would try to argue otherwise, here in the year of our Lord 2017.
posted by praemunire at 2:39 PM on May 10, 2017 [63 favorites]


I was a bit surprised when I was watching the first episode of Dennis Farina's stint on Unsolved Mysteries and he described those guys who went on a shooting rampage in southwest Colorado, killing several cops as terrorists. Even a lot of political violence doesn't get labeled as terrorism when the perpetrators are white males.
posted by wierdo at 2:45 PM on May 10, 2017 [4 favorites]


But is it as political--meaning explained by, and subject to--political variables in the way that a lot of other forms of terrorism are? Meaning, are the ETA and the IRA terrorists--which were designed to coerce a state to give into their demands--in the same way as these people are? Clearly not. Experts on hate crime have much more to say about misogynst/intimate/sexual violence (and understand it better) than experts on terrorism. Thats not to say that hate crimes are devoid of politics, only that they are generally considered 'less political' than terrorism. Anyway, you can read the definitions for yourself from the various datasets/scholarships and yell at them.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:59 PM on May 10, 2017 [4 favorites]


The main difference there seems to be a degree of organization. Yet single Palestinians stabbing random Jews is most definitely terrorism, though it is not terrorism in the same way that the IRA was terrorism.

Again, this explanation is not sufficient.
posted by schadenfrau at 3:11 PM on May 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


Experts on hate crime have much more to say about misogynst/intimate/sexual violence (and understand it better) than experts on terrorism.

Of course, but this is...whatever the phrase is you're supposed to use when "begging the question" comes to mind but you know everyone will tell you it's a misapplied usage. that thing, whatever it is.

People who pay attention to a thing know more about it than people who determinedly and, dare I say, politically, maintain that it isn't their responsibility or within their purview. for sure, no question. but experts on terrorism might have a lot of useful things to say about violence against women if they chose to study it and apply their particular analytical sensibilities to it.

Meaning, are the ETA and the IRA terrorists--which were designed to coerce a state to give into their demands--in the same way as these people are? Clearly not.

Violence with political aims is not identical to, and nor does it require, violence against a nation-state or its representatives. and political violence with the aim of getting a state to carry out completely impossible, not to say incomprehensible, demands, or political violence unaccompanied by any articulated demands at all, is still classed as terrorism by many. Definitions of terrorism are not only not entirely consistent, they are not fixed for all time. they have been adjusted before and they will be again.

Simple explanations are not always right, but sometimes they are pretty likely. Here is one: targeted political violence against women isn't treated as a special category outside of terrorism because the motivations of the perpetrators are different, but because the identity of its targets is.
posted by queenofbithynia at 3:24 PM on May 10, 2017 [17 favorites]


Anyway, you can read the definitions for yourself from the various datasets/scholarships and yell at them.

Well, I happen to be a lawyer, and, while I am not an expert on the subject, my field also happens to be concerned with the definition of terrorism, and so I have done some reading on this. (If we're going to play the game of appeals to authority, that is.) Under most legal definitions, e.g., the current definitions in the USC and the CFR for domestic and international terrorism, terrorism need not be aimed directly at a nation state; the intent to coerce a civilian population is sufficient. Can you actually be arguing that a person like Elliott Rodger was not out to coerce a civilian population--women?

But is it as political--meaning explained by, and subject to--political variables in the way that a lot of other forms of terrorism are?

My ability to receive the same education as a man, to hold the same jobs on the same terms as a man, to own property on the same terms as a man, and, critically, to refuse to have sex with or marry a man, these are all political matters which have been controlled or policed by the state for quite possibly as long as we have had states. They are absolutely subject to and explained by political variables. To choose an example obvious beyond denial, my ability to choose whether or not to bring to term a child I have conceived is under direct threat all over this country due to politics. When men hate women because the state is so organized to guarantee to them the enjoyment these freedoms rather than the converse subjugations, they hate them for political reasons. When they engage in mass killings because women won't have sex with them, they are simultaneously opposing a state order in which there is even a modestly meaningful concept of rape and attempting to punish women for saying no, thereby intimidating the survivors out of exercising their right to do so. When a man shoots up an abortion clinic, he is attempting to render null a woman's politically-guaranteed right to have an abortion. These are both cases of political violence.

You may have been trained to automatically regard issues touching women as not Truly Politics, but rather belonging to some subsidiary personal or social realm. That was always wrong and is now hugely out-of-date.
posted by praemunire at 3:47 PM on May 10, 2017 [72 favorites]


When mainstream news outlets report that *one* man shouts in what is heard as "Arabic" or is read by bystanders as vaguely "Middle Eastern" during a crime in North America and Europe, immediately terrorism is de facto suspected until ruled out by facts. When political analysts speak of *individual* people being "radicalized" by videos and other online media or when they see violence, they want to trace it back to known groups with tidy political goals that have to do with resisting nation-states. I think that being in the economic and political position of a nation-state makes it harder for analysts to see "politics" without armies with flags and guns defending physical borders. I just bring this up because I can see usefulness in placing domestic violence, hate crimes, and terrorism in a tighter Venn diagram. However, "winning" a war against "terrorism" when it is defined with nation-states as targets looks a lot different than "winning" a war against "terrorism" when it is defined to include domestic violence and hate crimes. "Winning" for me would mean all the violence would stop, but I fear our political leaders are more pragmatic and circumspect in expanding their definitions.
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 3:53 PM on May 10, 2017


There's geopolitical and there's political. Just because it doesn't have to do with tanks rolling across borders doesn't make it apolitical. Social justice is, sadly, political in the US (and pretty much everywhere else), so the weaponization of misogyny qualifies as political by any sensible definition. There's nothing wrong with distinguishing between "terrorism" as a term of art among academics and the colloquial usage that finds its way into political discourse.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:59 PM on May 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


I've literally only seen the connection brought up to attack the sincerity of people who claim to be concerned about stopping terrorism, by people who already have well-established anti-DV bona fides.

Is it possible to care about domestic violence without caring about terrorism?

These sorts of fights create a false dichotomy. At some point, saying "you only care about x if you care about y" just spirals into an interconnected mess, because the only way to address all the issues at once is to destroy our society and start from scratch.(*) Domestic violence may be important on its own, but using it as a weapon to challenge the credentials of people who care about other issues is kind of offensive.

(*) This is often framed as demolishing capitalism, but economic reductionalism misses the point -- sexism (for example) was alive and well long before the rise of modern capitalism.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 4:13 PM on May 10, 2017 [2 favorites]


Is it possible to care about domestic violence without caring about terrorism?

I guess? But recognizing the existence of domestic violence does not require one to dismiss it as being not-terrorism.
posted by rtha at 6:24 PM on May 10, 2017 [6 favorites]


I hope they continue doing good work, because educating young women on matters such as these is something that has been lacking in our culture.

Not according to the teenage girls in my neighborhood mall. The opposite, in fact. With the unintended result that, just yesterday, I overheard one saying that if she has to hear another word about Donald Trump or the Junior Prom, she is going to scream. The others replied, I know, right?

But from the looks of her, I don't think she would qualify as a Teen Vogue It Girl, either.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:11 AM on May 11, 2017


Thanks for keeping up the important work of creeping on teenage girls at the mall so you could judge them by their looks. It's just one of the many sacrifices one has to make to be a Man With Opinions On The Internet, a burden that makes it hard to keep such important insights to one's self. You've definitely disproven that teenage girls and the publications that cater to them are capable of political thought and activism.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:23 AM on May 11, 2017 [15 favorites]


My life improved dramatically once I stopped eavesdropping on high school girls at the neighborhood mall
posted by beerperson at 5:26 AM on May 11, 2017 [8 favorites]


IndigoJones, I doubt that the young women at your mall were complaining because they're being educated about global politics and violence against themselves and others--they're complaining because they're being shouted at about Donald Trump. And the Junior Prom apparently.

To get back to the dogpile at hand, which is whether or not mass shootings directed at a particular group count as terrorism--the article isn't exactly concerned with defining terrorism for law enforcement or policy groups. It's concerned with the popular media/information substrate's use of terrorism to describe violent actions by people who look and sound like they might be Arabic(=Muslim)* versus those done by people who look and sound like white men.

For example, Omar Mateen is a terrorist for going to a gay club and shooting people he thought were gay. But Peter Selis (whose shooting doesn't yet have a Wikipedia page) isn't being talked about as a terrorist, and police are adamant that there wasn't any racial bias to take into account in his actions. Is the difference one of degree? The Umpqua Community College shooter, Christopher Harper-Mercer, wrote that he was frustrated that he was a virgin and that he hated black people, but most discussions of his murder of nine people centers on his obvious mental illness, not the fact that he was radicalized by studying the Sandy Hook shooting and the Isla Vista murders. Even though he uploaded a documentary about Sandy Hook to a bittorrent site before the shooting.

White male frustration, desperation, and even mental illness seem to be *understandable* -- not condoned, certainly, but they make a kind of sense to the people who describe them in the aftermath of a mass shooting. There's something about calling something "terrorism" that makes it not understandable, maybe because it aligns the perpetrator with something not American. And you know what worries me the most about this, as I am writing it, is the degree to which those who describe white male violence seem to "get it." I'm reminded a lot of the thread about "Falling Down" previously. Is it easier to empathize with Peter Selis's sadness, despair, and frustration, than to empathize with the black victims whose eye-witness reports aren't even being taken seriously?


*in the popular view
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 6:12 AM on May 11, 2017 [7 favorites]


And you know what worries me the most about this, as I am writing it, is the degree to which those who describe white male violence seem to "get it."

This is not a new phenomenon, unfortunately. This is the steady state of our culture. Our country is literally built upon the licensing of white male violence. (Predominantly male. I don't want to suggest that white women have been saints above the fray. But there is special further privileging to male violence.)
posted by praemunire at 8:10 AM on May 11, 2017 [3 favorites]


In a lot of ways, academics give themselves an impossible task when they try to do things like identify "political" vs. "non-political" violence, especially because those responsible for terrorist attacks, spree killings, and the like are often pretty far removed from what could be considered "coherent reasoning." Someone with the kind of intensity and the lack of empathy needed to take up arms against random strangers probably likely doesn't make a clear distinction between political hatred, racial hatred, or personal hatred. What you instead have is a seething cauldron of intermixed (and very likely conflicting/contradictory) beliefs and emotions.

There is a powerful human need to ask the "Why?" questions. Random violence against innocents is especially difficult to swallow, and having a causal narrative ("The shooter did it because he was crazy"; "The shooter did it because he was radicalized"; etc.) just feels better than saying "The shooter killed a bunch of people and took his own life, and we'll never really understand why it happened." While I'm sure there are unambiguous cases of explicitly political or explicitly non-political violence, the temptation to extend the categories all the way up to some dividing line is a choice made by the observer much more than it is the reality on the ground.
posted by belarius at 8:47 AM on May 11, 2017 [2 favorites]


One more data point for "violence against women=political violence" is when terrorist orgs kidnap girls and use rape/pregnancy as a tool of terror, which they often do. Like with the Boko Haram group, but there are many others.

In my opinion, it's not so much about a triggering event as the root problem that we expect, encourage and excuse violence from men, in every area of our culture. We steep them in it, we look away or minimize it (or approve it) when they act violently, instead of intervening or condemning. Not every man reacts to that programming with violent actions, but many do, and worse, many others shrug when that happens.
posted by emjaybee at 9:34 AM on May 11, 2017 [4 favorites]


However, "winning" a war against "terrorism" when it is defined with nation-states as targets looks a lot different than "winning" a war against "terrorism" when it is defined to include domestic violence and hate crimes.

Nobody was trying to expand the definition of terrorism to include domestic violence and hate crimes as such. The assertion is that they're connected. Terrorizing one woman in private is not terrorism. But committing a public act of violence in order to terrorize all women is.

Just to make it clear that I'm not conflating them, I'll compare and contrast - domestic violence happens in the home, and it's kept secret, because the perpetrator wants to keep doing it. Hate crimes are covered up because the perpetrator wants to get away with it. But shooting sprees are done in public.
-- They're usually planned, not heat-of-the-moment. They're deliberate displays of violence.
-- Normal violence has a goal - to intimidate someone, rob someone, etc. Hate crimes have no goal since in theory they're heat-of-the-moment expressions of hate. But shooting sprees don't accomplish or achieve anything except publicity. They don't serve any goal except a political message.

So when a dude murders a women and dumps the body because he hates all women, it's a hate crime. When he murders nineteen women in public, in such a way that other people see it happen, it's terrorism. He wants women to see themselves being killed. That's not a position any politician can express, but it's still a political message.

Lynchings carried a political message, although they weren't aimed at any state, nor carried out by any state (except when they were). The message was that black people should be afraid. Most black writers I've read have called Jim Crow "racial terrorism".
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 2:57 PM on May 11, 2017 [9 favorites]


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