Las Vegas massacre: Can a home-grown white male be a terrorist?

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'Lone wolf' Stephen Paddock (screen shot via YouTube).

The suspect of the Route 91 Harvest music festival shooting, which left at least 59 people dead and injured over 500, is an American white male and therefore he is not described as a 'terrorist', writes Julia Conley.

Stephen Paddock was named as the suspect in the Sunday night (1 October) shooting on the Las Vegas Strip which killed nearly 60 people and injured more than 500.

As law enforcement officials release more information about Stephen Paddock – the suspect in the Las Vegas shooting that killed nearly 60 people and injured more than 500 Sunday night – much of the reporting on his identity has focussed on the fact that he is a "local individual" and a "lone wolf", terminology that critics say has been used to signify that Paddock was a white male and therefore not a terrorist.

Paddock resided in Mesquite, Nevada, about 80 miles away from the hotel on the Las Vegas Strip where he opened fire on a crowd at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival just after 10 pm.

Omar Mateen, the shooter in the June 2016 shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was by definition a "local" as well — living 120 miles from the attack site. That attack was classified as an act of terrorism by President Barack Obama within 12 hours of it taking place due to Mateen's pledge of allegiance to ISIS during the shooting.

Though the Associated Press reported Monday morning that ISIS had claimed responsibility for the Las Vegas attack, as of 12 pm, the FBI was reporting that it had found "no connection with an international terrorist group" after searching Paddock's home.

Still, journalists and other observers spoke out on social media about the reluctance of local and federal officials to call the attack – now the deadliest mass shooting in American history – an act of domestic terrorism.

In the Washington Post, Aaron Blake wrote that "the vast majority of members of Congress" have not used the words "terror" or "terrorist" in relation to the shooting.

He wrote:

'Perhaps they don't want to get ahead of the evidence, but some argue that this is giving the shooter the benefit of the doubt in a way that simply isn't afforded to Muslims who commit such acts.'

At Vox, Jennifer Williams highlighted just a few of the major attacks that have taken place in the U.S. so far this year, all carried out by white men.

She wrote:

'In the eight months since Trump took office, more Americans have been killed in attacks by white American men with no connection to Islam than by Muslim terrorists or foreigners ... In fact, between 2001 and 2015, more Americans were killed by home-grown right-wing extremists than by Islamist terrorists, according to a study by New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C.'

This article was originally published on Common Dreams and has been republished under a Creative Commons licence.

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