We now know, thanks to Edward Snowden, that America’s National Security Agency planned to use App stores to infect our smartphones with spyware. While we may be outraged by these invasions of our privacy, that has to be balanced with the fact that terror attacks in the US have increased in recent years.
Who is carrying out these attacks? Be honest – you were thinking Islamist cells, right?
Wrong. The latest intelligence assessment, commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security, shows that law enforcement agencies assess ‘sovereign citizens’ as the most serious threat in their communities.
‘Sovereign citizens’ are “carrying out sporadic terror attacks on police, (and) have threatened attacks on government buildings”. Among other things, they formed a 1,000-strong coalition of armed militia-men to face Federal agents in Nevada in 2014.
They are the biggest terror threat in America right now, but have you ever even heard of them?
Also, did you hear about the terrorist who plotted to take out an entire town in New York State last year? No, not Al Qaeda, but Mr. Robert Doggart who planned a violent military-style attack against a Muslim-American community, in concert with nine others. Making the story even more noteworthy, Doggart also ran for Congress last year.
Another case of ho-hum media bias? No. In Doggart’s case, law enforcement officers didn’t send out a press release or hold a press conference. It is a pretty sure bet that if it had been a Muslim planning to take out an entire US town, the story would have been on all the front pages. Doggart did not fit the picture, and so was almost invisible.
Muslims are the folk devils in the 21st Century American narrative, the villains in our frame of ‘threats to our security’. The word ‘terrorism’ is automatically painted Islamic, and ‘Muslim’ is colored with terror. We all see much the same image.
Another example of this automatic attribution of villainy appeared in a Right Side News report about citizen surveillance which said that, although the actions of intelligence agencies may infringe Constitutional rights, “it must not overshadow the fact that these people are our front line at home to protect us from Islamic terrorists”.
Did the Right Side News mean to say that we don’t need protection from anyone else besides Muslims? Of course not, but like many of us, the idea that terrorists can be other than Muslim did not occur to the writer or the editor, and hence there was no fact-checking.
The Director of the National Counterterrorism Center has said that the “development of a US-specific narrative that motivates individuals to violence” is key to the increasing Islamic extremism in the United States. This narrative includes the automatic, incorrect, and dangerous assumption that the main terrorist threat is from Muslims.