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The Media and the Right on the Planned Parenthood Attack: White Terrorism Falsehoods? It's bleak out there for the right

By       Message Veena Trehan       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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It's bleak out there for the right. The Paris climate conference is yielding scathing testimonies on our future of a scorched Earth. What may be the largest coverup over the police shooting of a black man (teen) has recently come to light. Students are questioning the names of college buildings, and five demonstrators were shot at the #blacklivesmatter protest, possibly with police complicity.

Then comes a gruesome attack at a Planned Parenthood clinic, the sixth in four months. Three individuals, including a policeman, were shot and killed at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood on Friday and nine others injured. The prime suspect, 57-year-old white man Robert Dear, represents a new white poster boy for violent and scary behavior. This is particularly awkward for the right as: 1) the Republicans have been whipping up anti-refugee hysteria by stoking fears of terrorism, and 2) Dear's motivation appears consistent with lies peddled by the right about Planned Parenthood.

From flickr.com/photos/9106303@N05/23409267295/: Welcome to Colorado Springs
Welcome to Colorado Springs
(Image by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)
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Fortunately, the right hasn't had to deal with a Colorado Springs incident where three people were murdered with a gun since, let's see " a month ago. Lax gun laws contributed to the carnage, yet the mayor did not want to tighten "open carry" laws.

The Standard for White Christian vs. Brown Muslim Terrorism?

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This latest Colorado Springs incident has many antecedents. Abortion clinics and providers have been targeted resulting in eight murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings, and 186 arsons since 1977.

One would imagine Dear's act would be an obvious case of terrorism: the use of violence or threat of violence to achieve a political or ideological goal. Yet the media and right wing again mostly suffer from "White Terrorism Falsehoods (puzzlement or sadness response.)" Sadly WTF (posr) is not yet in the DSM, because it's well worth us paying $750 a pill to cure it.

More seriously, we must have a broader, "pro-life" discussion that uses consistent language and standards versus blatant fear-mongering. Terrorism has been the top US priority in the new millennium, with our "Global War on Terrorism" and its aftermath ringing up a $6 trillion price tag to supposedly save many American lives. Yet that wasn't the case: millions have died globally, the world has become more dangerous, our privacy and civil rights have been eroded, and our ability to fund basic services here and abroad greatly diminished. And it has distracted us from focusing on an equal, if not more important priority of right wing terrorism at home.

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The farcical media and political response is illustrative. They've twisted themselves in knots in their attempts to avoid classifying the Planned Parenthood attack as terrorism, demonstrating their blatant double standard for the term. A public killing in the West by a Muslim man or men is immediately called terrorism. Media outlets do not, en masse, cast doubt on the motives of a shooting done by Muslim men. So why wouldn't the "public violence" bar be high enough for a white man (particularly when right wingers kill twice at least twice as many Muslim extremists?) Even worse, this was the targeting of a nonprofit institution subject to increased violence as its activities have been intensely (and often inaccurately) debated. Can we imagine any case in which a Muslim man would target a highly politicized institution, killing several individuals, and it would NOT be deemed terrorism? Finally, explicitly stating one's motive is rarely, if ever, necessary to describe an attack by Muslim(s) as "terrorism." Yet saying "no more baby parts" in this case is apparently not sufficient. Can one imagine a deeply Muslim guy shooting several police men and others at a prominent US synagogue saying, "No more Jews" and the media refusing to call it terrorism?

Let's focus specifically on the target of this violence. Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides a spectrum of women's health needs including abortion (which is not federally funded), is the most politicized institution in this country. The Republicans were willing to threaten a government shutdown over federal funding for Planned Parenthood, despite last one costing $24 billion. A number of states have tried to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. Carly Fiorina lied about a supposedly damning Planned Parenthood video in the September Republican debate. Subsequently Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards was called to testify before Congress where she was interrupted 44 times by Republicans and berated by Rep. Jason Chaffetz over a Planned Parenthood corporate chart that " didn't exist. Various investigations have not found ANY illegal activity, despite candidates' repeated and defamatory suggestions to the contrary. Fortunately, Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders correctly and importantly tied the apparent motives of the attack to Republican rhetoric the next day; Petula Dvorak and others have also.

The Response of the Media and the Right

Broadly speaking, the right has trotted out the explanation they use when white men commit terrorist acts against the minorities or groups they revile daily. The shooter is "deranged" and "mentally ill" (though the threat of removing guns conversely is used to rile up their base.) From the left to the right, the media echoes that we don't know the gunman's motive. One almost expects the mainstream media to speculate that he said, "no more baby stroller parts," accidentally ending up at Planned Parenthood instead of Babies "R" Us.

So too to date have most politicians and mainstream media avoided discussing the fact that 99 percent of mass shooters are men, many with issues about their masculinity. Even though journalist Amanda Marcotte tweeted: "As soon as I heard about the shooting, I said, 'Middle-aged man, romantic failure.' Why I was able to predict it."

The media also used the softer words for white "gunmen." A New York Times breaking news alert on Tuesday titled their article, "The suspect in the Colorado rampage was a recluse who longed for women, and mixed religion with rage." Ironically, the article itself discusses him raping a woman who wasn't interested in him, violently abusing a wife on multiple occasions, buying a gun, gambling, and expressing extreme anger, as well as calling those who attacked abortion providers "heroes," and saying they are "doing God's work."

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The Presidential Candidates' Responses

The security-promoting Republican presidential candidates also have little to say on the relevance of terrorism or guns. This is despite one study that showed Americans are seven times more likely to be killed by a right wing terrorist than a Muslim extremist, and another that found similar countries have 5 percent as many homicides using guns as the U.S.

Instead they've gone from excoriating Planned Parenthood to more of the same and WTF (posr).

In the September debate, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina talked about having seen the harvesting of fetal tissue while "a fully formed fetus [lies]on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking." While this was shown to be a total lie, the killer's motive is entirely consistent with such a myth. Now Fiorina calls the Planned Parenthood attack "a tragedy, especially on a holiday weekend" (?!) by someone who was "deranged" and talked about how the "left wing" should not be "demonizing the messenger." As a messenger delivering lies to 23 million Americans about a nonprofit that has been the victim of numerous terrorist attacks, Fiorina deserves to be demonized.

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Veena Trehan is a DC-based journalist and activist. She has written for NPR, Reuters, Bloomberg News, and local papers.

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