A 64-year-old white nationalist called Stephen Paddock unleashed a blood fury on innocent men and women attending an indie music festival in Las Vegas, US. He killed 50 with his automatic rifle, and injured over 400, even as the US authorities struggled with terming what seems to be the deadliest mass shooting in American history. Yet, this isn’t “terrorism”, not quite, not officially so, not yet.
The Las Vegas gunman fired on a crowd of about 30,000 people from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel https://t.co/r7HxhgfNOw pic.twitter.com/Vo1cKpcH3R— CNN (@CNN) October 2, 2017
At the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel where the open-air music festival attended by 22,000 was on, Paddock opened fire. The concert reminded one of Bataclan theatre attack in Paris in November 2015 and the Pulse nightclub attack in February 2016 in Orlando, Florida.
If this isn't terrorism, what is? Photo: Reuters
The only difference was this wasn’t a Muslim causing mayhem on Americans: this was a white Christian male with a gun.
"Someone shouts 'he's reloading, run!'" - Witnesses to #LasVegas mass shooting, the deadliest in recent US history https://t.co/dcW1Rtnxet pic.twitter.com/XNoPQlm8Ep— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) October 2, 2017
A witness from the shooting in #LasVegas describes what she heard. Live updates here: https://t.co/gCf9s8GyO1 pic.twitter.com/GbdD5fHAgb— BBC World Service (@bbcworldservice) October 2, 2017
Horrifying images from the scene of attack have flooded the social media, prompting many to say that not calling this terrorism was proof how racialised terror profiling and terminologies have become.
That Las Vegas authorities have ruled out terrorism at this early stage is another example of how the idea has all but been racialized.— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) October 2, 2017
Link to the “ruled out terrorism.” https://t.co/V363NnDABc— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) October 2, 2017
Everyone knows (even if won't admit it) that in the early stages of mass shooting, "no signs of terrorism" means: "shooter isn't Muslim." https://t.co/zFWDySMrET— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 2, 2017
Las Vegas police have detained the friend of the gunman, someone called Marilou Danley, while Paddock has been killed in action.
#LasVegas police say have found Marilou Danley, who was travelling with the gunman before the attackhttps://t.co/dcW1Rt5WmV pic.twitter.com/ivsuUfFFPT— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) October 2, 2017
US president Donald Trump has tweeted in response to the las Vegas shooting, but neither has he condemned gun violence explicitly, nor has he called the incident one of “terrorism”. In fact, Trump’s response is exactly similar to the white nationalist paranoia that’s the ideological fount of gun-related white supremacist violence, of which the Las Vegas case was the deadliest ever.
My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2017
Paddock has been called a “lone wolf”, a “solo actor”, but he hasn’t yet been termed a white nationalist terrorist. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said: “Right now we believe it’s a solo act, a lone wolf attacker,” thus essentially admitting that terming someone a terrorist has much to do with his/her religion, most commonly Islam.
Las Vegas sheriff asks people in the area to donate blood for victims of concert shooting https://t.co/JsBcCz8BHo pic.twitter.com/xXPmJKmnL5— CNN (@CNN) October 2, 2017
Nevada Governor @BrianSandoval calls Las Vegas shooting a “cowardly act of senseless violence” https://t.co/4HC73cEqGb pic.twitter.com/gCDSROo3Hb— CNN (@CNN) October 2, 2017
Essentially, the white nationalist violence is being looked at as a law and order problem, not a terror-related problem. The fact that there’s no critical alert issued and the police gloated that the problem was “contained”, even though rifles and several rounds of magazines were discovered at Paddock’s residence, proves that gun violence is being taken lightly by the American authorities.
Muslim shooter entire religion guilty Black shooter entire race guiltyWhite shooter mentally troubled lone wolfLas Vegas #LasVegas pic.twitter.com/cVBibqAFKY— ??Proud Muslimah???? (@shamsaali10) October 2, 2017
In fact, the National Rifle Association (NRA) had released a very controversial and highly criticised advertisement sometime back that openly called for using the gun indiscriminately thinly garbed as self-defence.
It must also be noted that America has seen its sporting celebrities, particularly the NFL players kneeling before the US national anthem to protest the climate of indignity and attacks on blacks, brown and Muslim peoples of the country. What started with Colin Kaepernick’s protest movement against police brutality has now transformed into a direct resistance against President Trump because of his casual and toxic racism.
That the NRA had released a new ad condemning the players taking a knee and that Trump had retweeted it says a lot about the climate of paranoia and tense vigilantism poisoning American socio-political fabric. The Las Vegas shooting must be seen in this context, even as more about Paddock’s own life, and whether or not he was influenced by white nationalist social media groups and fake news spreading xenophobia, is investigated into.
White House-credentialed media outlet falsely accuses 'left-wing loon' of #LasVegas shooting https://t.co/ZqJhbhNV7Y pic.twitter.com/FqLwY7W0vn— ThinkProgress (@thinkprogress) October 2, 2017
To speed this up a bit:Lone wolf Not terrorismThoughts and prayers No gun restrictionsarm more peopleNow back to tax reform#LasVegas— Travon Free (@Travon) October 2, 2017
It matters to say Stephen Paddock was white and that he was a terrorist.This was a terrorist attack by a white male.We are more likely to be killed by white men w/ guns in this country than foreign terrorists who claim to be Muslim.Why is there no ban on them?#LasVegas— Charles Clymer?????? (@cmclymer) October 2, 2017
People are arguing about the semantics of what defines a ‘terrorist’, because he’s white.Killing 50 people is terrorism #LasVegas— Tom Barron (@Tomifonication) October 2, 2017
Angry white men are the USA's deadliest terrorist threat. Every day they are being armed and radicalized by the NRA. https://t.co/t9GCE8Jg7b— John Overholt (@john_overholt) October 2, 2017
There were displays of casual/unwitting racism even within Indian/South Asian Twitter users. A prominent newspaper and noted Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen supposedly tweeted that the shooter was a Muslim, before deleting the tweets when it came to fore that it was a white male. If this isn’t internalised racism, then what is?
Indian newspaper writes #LasVegas shooter was a Muslim. pic.twitter.com/TE2XlhiSvj— Ahmer Khan (@ahmermkhan) October 2, 2017
When you shoot off your mouth & have to delete your tweet. #LasVegas pic.twitter.com/pMDoSxvM4X— Rezaul Hasan Laskar (@Rezhasan) October 2, 2017
Las Vegas shooting should ideally lead to gun control legislations, but it wouldn’t. The NRA is a powerful lobby that has propped up not only an overt racist such as Donald Trump, but could also influence the former Democrat president Barack Obama, someone who had wept while he spoke on Newtown, Connecticut shootout, urging for gun control legislations.
For Trump, a casual tweet that neither condemns violence nor calls out white nationalist terrorism, is enough. But this is expected. This is also the fallout of Charlottesville and the NRA getting a free hand. Guns are okay. And it’s terror only when a non-white is responsible for the violence.