When my plane landed this evening and I pulled up Twitter, I was greeted to the following CNN Breaking News tweet:
As a reaction, I fired off a quick thought and then grabbed my bag to get off the plane and find a restroom.
The problem is this isn’t the first time that I’ve landed in an airport somewhere to find news of a shooting. It happens a lot.
I got off a plane to be greeted with news of a shooting in Downtown Orlando, just blocks from where I work. I was traveling the day of the Aurora, CO shooting. I was sitting in a hotel lobby waiting for a ride to the airport the day Gabby Giffords was shot.
I’d say shootings have some strange connection to my travel schedule but the truth is they just happen too often.
I’ve been thinking about this tweet of mine all evening and I stand by it.
The FBI defines domestic terrorism as activities with the following three characteristics:
- Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
- Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
- Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.
I did a search on CNN’s website for the word “gunman” and in all but one of the most recient results the word “gunman” could be switching for “terrorist” without issue. All of the stories that took place in the States involved acts dangerous to human life in violation of the law (shooting at people) and all but one were clearly motivated to intimidate or coerce a civilian population. The only one I didn’t mark as a “terrorist” was due to the shooting at officers being reactionary after a domestic 911 call.
There is absolutely no reason to sugar coat the headlines. In fact, in one of the story summaries, CNN uses “terrorist” which makes their use of “gunman” in the headline even more confusing.
Using “gunman” might soften the blow of the headline but maybe it’s time for our country to wake up and see that acts of terror are not just things that happen on the other side of the globe. They unfortunately happen daily by people with guns trying to assert their message.
When someone enters an office with guns and starts shooting, that person is doing so to intimidate and coerce a civilian population. If the FBI would call that person a terrorist, then the news media should do the same.
Let’s just call it what it is.
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