White terrorist bingo

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It kind of annoys me that mental illness is used as an out for shits like this.

I mean, yeah, they probably are mentally ill! Sane people don’t bear such irrational animosity toward someone for the color of their skin! Sane people try not to be racist. Sane people don’t walk into buildings to shoot people unprovoked. He is all sorts of mentally ill! Most terrorists are probably suffering from mental illness in some fashion - depression, anxiety, persecution complexes, paranoia, anger issues, all sorts of things! Perfectly sane people don’t do these things!

But when a muslim man goes off the rails and thinks that bombing the Boston Marathon is a great idea, we put him to death for terrorism without talking about underlying mental health issues, and when a white guy tries to kill a church full of people, we say “He needs help! He was a nice boy!”

They both need help. They’re both “nice boys.” They’re both signs of deeper cultural illnesses. These things aren’t different. We shouldn’t be dehumanizing either of them.

And that makes it sound like I’m defending this shitty human being, defending his actions, but having a mental illness doesn’t mean you can’t be a shitty human being. It’s a reason, a cause perhaps, but not an excuse, not something that engenders you to extra sympathy.

Of course, that’s not the way the world looks at 'em - they see these things as very different. Once you see these things as shades of the same kind of awfulness, you can begin to treat “terrorists” as the humans they are and not as alien bogeymen, you can maybe start stopping them at their root rather than just panicking and blowing shit up when bad stuff happens.


White shits, and only sometimes.

Up in Canada an obviously mentally ill man killed a soldier, but the government has such a hunger for a terrorist threat that they ignore the fact.

This is great, and needs posting everywhere. Whoever made it left out “lone wolf,” but I suppose they ran out of room.


What? No box for “excitable boy?”


The problem with “mentally ill” is that it generally only gets trotted out for white guys. So we get to hear how Mike Brown was a “thug with a criminal record”. Dylann Roof also has a criminal record, but I haven’t heard that language used for him.


The issue is not “is this guy mentally ill”

If he is or he is not, he latched into a narrative of racism, hate, and racial war that too many interested parties keep selling for profit and because they believe it. He just didnt invent hatred of black people on its own deluded bubble of “mentall illness”.


To make it clear at the outset, I agree with you.

I just wanted to add that the gigantic, overwhelming majority of people who are mentally ill do not harm others.


I think there needs to be four more free spaces for white privilege; one in each corner


This. As @funruly pointed out here (at least as I read it), focusing on mass murderers as mentally ill not only distracts from the problem of white terrorism, it also further stigmatizes mental illness.


I think this is relevant.

It isn’t like there aren’t white people shooting others in crimes. But mass shootings don’t fit the narrative.

Who said there aren’t?

But mass shootings don’t fit the narrative.

Um, which narrative? The “white terrorism” narrative? Because if you mean that narrative, Dylann Roof has already said he was hoping his killings would spark a race war. If someone thinks that doesn’t fit the commonly accepted conception of “terrorism,” I’d really like to know why.


“If something drastic isn’t done right away, it isn’t going to be George McGovern’s America, it is going to be La Raza’s America, it is going to be Uganda, basically. …And get used to your little girls being raped and being pregnant; get used to not being able to go to your national parks because they are being burnt down."
— Anne Coulter, June 5, 2015, promoting her new book

“I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”
– Dylan Storm Roof, June 17, 2015, just before murdering nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church


I am not sure why I said narrative - maybe I meant “the norm”. 9 people die in Chicago over the weekend or 9 soldiers get blown up in Iraq and no one cares. No protests, no national news, no candle light marches. It’s an accepted truth, not matter how horrible it is. People are numb to it and it’s expected. That’s all I’m saying.

I’d agree that what he did is a form of terrorism. He defiantly wanted and succeeded in creating fear.

Also, I just thought about the perfect music they could play in his cell:


I appreciate that you’re struggling with some hard-to-articulate feelings. I imagine that for you, they’re also bound up with the whole debate about guns. If you’ll forgive my armchair psychoanalysis, you also seem to be wondering about just why it is that people care so much about this particular killer and his murder of nine more people, when nine and more people are killed in other ways every day.

Well, people care for a lot of reasons, but I think the main ones are that aside from its scale and concentrated brutality, they also see it as symptomatic of several larger festering problems. It’s a flashpoint that offers a chance to address (among other problems) white racism, white terrorism, the double standard that individualizes white criminals but not others, and (sorry) the ease with which people who shouldn’t have guns can get their hands on them. None of those problems seem to interest you, but I’m glad that they do interest and motivate and infuriate others. I think it’s good that you’re at least willing to acknowledge that what Dylan Roof did is a form of terrorism.


I think it doesn’t. The term has a fairly specific and literal meaning - that of a crime committed for the purpose of instilling fear in people. What distinguishes it from any other crime is intent. With other charges, courts seem to go through some actual effort to determine the intent of the accused, while instead for “terrorism” now there is simply a bogus checklist which does not address intent at all. So the term can be used for other acts such as murder, destruction, assassination, etc which are already illegal under other statutes, but use a different term to exact harsher penalities. Along with the (intentional) problem of increasing the jurisdiction of the military intelligence apparatus. Murder is considered a law-enforcement problem, while terrorism is one of national security.

In reality, most countries today meet the definitions of terrorism. The US definition has become so vague that the US federal government meets its own definition. It has become a catch-all used by entrenched states for the purposes of attacking non-state actors. Whether they are actually interested in instilling feelings of terror or not.

If there is evidence that mass shootings are done to induce fearful emotions, then I would say they qualify literally as terrorism. Otherwise, they do not. I think the distinction is not even very significant. The term is irresponsibly sensationalist and itself actually encourages an over emotional, reactionary climate in society.

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I think you’re wrong about that, I think the media brought up questions about the mental health of the Tsarnaevs. But I also think the media aren’t the most important voices in the room.

Fun fact: during the Clinton years, the DOJ put together a report stating the biggest threat to our internal security was from white Christian right-wing terrorists like Timothy McVeigh. Republican rage hit the roof. The DOJ caved. The report was withdrawn.

Now why would anybody identify with terrorists to that degree? I don’t see any Democrats sticking up for the SLA or the Weathermen.


I think that’s a problem with the media’s use of the term, not the fact of the matter that perfectly sane and stable people - and also the huge majority of the mentally ill! - don’t go around shooting others or flying planes into buildings or planting bombs. They see the humanity in a white guy, they don’t see it in others, they should be seeing it everywhere.

Mental illness can take the form of racism. It can take many forms. Just because he is a horrible racist piece of shit doesn’t make him NOT mentally ill. These things are not mutually exclusive.

…worth repeating!

I wonder if that has to do with the fact that they were “white.” The media suddenly had to figure out how white people could be Muslims because that was news to them.

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One wild and classy guy:

They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

I’ve been thinking about this a bunch, and I think you’ve hit the nail on the head right there.

I think that this is a fundamental human bias, a strong off-shoot of the Fundamental Attribution Bias.

In the Fundamental Attribution error (and other general attribution biases), we tend explain faults of other people by over-blaming their inherent characteristics, while we explain faults of ourselves by over-blaming situational factors.


  1. I cut someone off on the highway because that exit sign appeared too late, or someone tailgated me suddenly, or I was distracted just this moment by something
  2. Someone cuts me off because he’s an asshole and he doesn’t know how to drive

Similarly, I think this can be applied to mental illness: I did something wrong because I had a mental condition (which still feels to us like an external influence — something that messes with our free will); you did something wrong because you’re a hateful loathsome terrorist

Attach this to our well-documented bias towards treating in-group people like extensions of ourselves, and out-group people like the “other,” and I think you have an aura of the fundamental attribution error that extends to other people: this in-group person did something because of an external influence, that out-group person did something because they’re despicable.

I think that’s another way of saying what you said — that when we look at the “in-group” person, we see their humanity. What does that mean other that allowing them the privilege of having their own situational reasons and influences for their behavior, as opposed to the inhuman ideological terrorist who does things just because he is “evil?”