San Bernardino Terrorism: Part Dos

I’m aware that I could by now have revised my previous post in light of the fact that the assailants were in fact Muslims. However, I think that would diminish from my point – we need to retain a focus on the real issues. So far, authorities and the media are unsure if they want to refer to this as terrorism or as workplace violence or both. Frankly, I’m not opposed to calling it terrorism as long as we call all mass shootings an act of terrorism, regardless of the faith or ethnicity of the assailants.

We also need to retain focus on sensible gun control and law enforcement. I’m personally not convinced that additional gun legislation will be effective unless we have adequate funding for the agencies to enforce any existing and new legislation. What we need not focus on, in this specific case, is Islamic terrorism because, supposing these individuals were fully indoctrinated by and working for ISIS, they nonetheless procured and amassed (legally if I’m not mistaken) all of their necessary tools of destruction. In that regard, whether this couple was acting for ISIS or were just an angry white American (i.e. Planned Parenthood’s Mr. Dear), solving the issue of amassing these weapons of destruction will work toward mitigating either.

Supposing this couple was anti-social and were possibly on edge about popular American society then how does one know to inform any authorities about these types? Let’s clear our minds of imagery of Islamic terrorists or Muslims or whoever. As we’ve seen in the past two weeks, your crazy Uncle Dear or your crazy Brother-in-Law Farook could find themselves being your latest mass shooter. Without any evidence or suspicion beyond a feeling or idea that “he just ain’t right”, how does one know to take the next step and inform law enforcement? What do you say?

  • Concerned Relative: Hello. My brother-in-law seems off.
  • Law Enforcement: What do you mean? In what way?
  • CR: He just seems a bit crazy, kinda anti-social. I’m concerned.
  • LE: Is he displaying threatening behavior?
  • CR: No. He just seems angry at the world. He sometimes talks about how he doesn’t like his co-workers (Or, he sometimes talks about how he hates abortions and people that kill babies. Or, he sometimes talks about how he hates American foreign policy in the Muslim world).
  • LE: Is there an immediate danger to anyone? Has he made any threatening statements or gestures?
  • CR: Not that I know of.
  • LE: Ok. Please provide further contact info and we’ll follow up.

Perhaps in a world of unlimited funding everyone can call the authorities on anyone in their lives that seems a bit angry at something in the world and someone will follow up promptly. Seeing as we need search warrants and the NRA has successfully blocked any attempt to maintain gun ownership databases, I have no idea what law enforcement would find unless there is evidence being provided by the Concerned Relative.

The fact is that we live in a finite world and we’ll never have a future-crime police force a la Minority Report. If we acted on anyone’s fetish to detain all Muslims for being suspicious then there would be no logical means to prohibit acting the same way against anti-abortionists or anyone else that, as a group, may be deemed threatening. If we turned most of our attention against Muslims, how would that prevent the next Planned Parenthood shooting? Or the next South Carolina church shooting? Or the next Oregon community college shooting? Or the next Colorado/Louisiana movie theater shooting? Or the next Sikh temple shooting? Or the next Jewish community center shooting? Or the next school shooting?

In these times where popular political rhetoric against Muslims is very literally sounding like Nazi Germany against Jews, we must remain sober-minded about how to mitigate these tragedies. To unduly focus on Muslims now is to give Mr. Dear and 353 of the 355 mass shootings in the US this year a pass. And to expect Muslims to somehow know who is harboring some malicious intention is to vastly overestimate anyone’s ability to predict future behavior. In the case of San Bernardino, and similar to Oregon, or Sandy Hook, and too many others, the assailants seemed to be going about their day as normal.





San Bernardino Terrorism

Oh wait, this isn’t terrorism. No Muslims. We don’t know yet what group or ideology is in play, but so far, without any scent of Muslims there can’t be any terrorism. Funny how the media says it quite plainly: “We don’t know yet if this is an act of terrorism.” I’m sure all of those wounded and dead weren’t being terrorized as bullets were flying, fearing for their lives. They were scared, perhaps, but not terrorized. I’m sure they were comforted with thoughts of “I’m bleeding to death, but thank God it’s not Muslims that shot me.”

This is amazingly crazy. We’re told to be fearful and paranoid against a group of people that are statistically peaceful in the US (yes, Muslims – as judged by crime stats, mass shootings, incidents of terrorism based on FBI metrics, and any other metric you want) but we don’t think anything of the ubiquity of guns and the ease of which to procure them.

Our national conversation isn’t about the under-funded Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (the ATF) that is responsible for enforcing many of our gun laws. Instead, we allow ourselves to get caught up on whether to enact more legislation (there’s already plenty; there’s just insufficient funding to enforce). We could pass legislation all day but if we don’t fund anyone to enforce our laws then, like a speed limit, it’ll often be broken with impunity.

Since I’m writing this before we know much about the events that transpired today, we could very well find out that it was a few extremist Muslims with an extremist agenda. What I am pointing out right now is media bias; suddenly and unabashedly, the shootings today will be revised into an act of terrorism. The discussion that could have been on guns will then focus on the 1-2% of the American population that is Muslim. We’ll pick on that group and disregard the actual root causes, means, and mechanisms that allow this event to happen. And if the wildest extremist fantasy of getting rid of all Muslims were to come true then all you’ve done is fix 2 of the 355 mass shootings that have happened in the US this year. If only we can get rid of all white, black, and Latino people as well, then we’d take care of the other 353 mass shootings.

Playing the odds, it may be appropriate to point out that White Americans are the biggest terrorist threat in the US. If that makes anyone reading this angry, then your response was also predictable. At this point, one can either continue to believe that Muslims are America’s biggest terrorist threat or one can pay attention to the data and address the quantitatively higher risk.

This isn’t about blaming white Americans or any ethnic or religious group specifically. This is about looking at data and acting soberly. There are gun and gang problems in our cities. There have been incidents of mass shootings every day in the US. All of these have involved people of various ethnic groups. The point that this blog is making is that Muslims, statistically, are far from the biggest internal or external threat to anyone’s safety in the US.