Stuart Wexler writes: From Charleston to Chattanooga to Lafayette, a series of mass murders has reignited debates over the nature of terrorism and how it is covered by the media—over whether these are terrorist acts to begin with, and—the latest wrinkle—whether or not they might be acts of religious terrorism.
In many ways the controversy has become part of a culture war. Those on the Left argue that an implicitly racist media too often dismisses mass violence by white men as the byproduct of mental derangement; Islam is seen an acceptable predicate for terrorism, but not white supremacy. Those on the Right argue that liberals, especially those in the Obama administration, are too quick to sugarcoat acts of Islamic terrorism as mere extremism devoid of religious impulse—jeopardizing security in the name of political correctness.
But if Americans want to understand and possibly even prevent domestic terrorism in the future, then they may have to abandon neat labels and presuppositions and start to deal in nuance. [Continue reading…]