On his show last night, Fox host Bill O’Reilly (12/15/14) weighed in on the value of torture and the hostage situation in Australia:
In Sydney, Australia today, a Muslim fanatic apparently kills two, injures four others, before police shoot him dead. Another lone wolf terror attack that was seen all over the world. So far all the wolves have been Muslims.
The suspect in this case was Muslim, though that would seem to be just part of the story; he faced “22 counts of aggravated sexual assault and 14 counts of aggravated indecent assault,” as the Guardian reported (12/15/14).
But is it really true that every “lone wolf” terrorist is Muslim? No.
Back in 2011, pundits claimed the Arizona mass shooting carried out by Jared Loughner should be considered an isolated incident, disconnected from any particular political movements or rhetoric he may have espoused. But as Jim Naureckas (FAIR Blog, 1/12/11) showed, using a list from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, this argument requires treating many acts of political violence as the work of “lone nuts.”
The first entry would be particularly relevant to O’Reilly:
July 27, 2008–Jim Adkisson shoots and kills two people at a progressive church in Knoxville, Tennessee, wounding two. Adkisson calls it “a symbolic killing” because he really “wanted to kill every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg’s book,” but was unable to gain access to them.
Goldberg is one O’Reilly’s most frequent guests.
The problem is that media–not just Bill O’Reilly–mostly don’t categorize non-Muslim terrorism as terrorism. So when a white supremacist in England kills a Muslim–an 82-year-old grandfather, to be more specific–it hardly makes the news (FAIR Blog, 11/1/13), even when the killer admitted that he “would like to increase racial conflict.”
When a married couple in Las Vegas who were connected to far-right movements killed two police officers and a bystander, media shied away from calling it terrorism (FAIR Blog, 6/13/14)– even though early reports indicated the pair had left a note declaring, “The revolution is beginning,” along with a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.
When a former KKK leader shot up Jewish community centers–killing three people and yelling “Heil Hitler!” after being arrested–the media did not call it an act of terrorism (FAIR Media Advisory, 4/15/14).
And sometimes a massive terror attack is considered “Muslim” even when it is not–like when far-right terrorist Anders Breivik killed 76 people in Norway in 2011. When the attacks started with bombs in Oslo, O’Reilly guest host Laura Ingraham declared the attacks were “what appears to be the work, once again, of Muslim extremists” (FAIR Media Advisory, 7/25/11). Breivik’s manifesto was explicitly inspired by right-wing Islamophobic bloggers (Extra!, 9/11).
There are other examples of right-wing, non-Muslim domestic terrorism that seem to have escaped Bill O’Reilly’s mind (FAIR Blog, 3/11/11).
But O’Reilly’s point is not to accurately explain reality; he needs to invoke these acts to justify torture and never-ending war:
So again, if you’re not going to use drones, tough interrogations, ground troops or detention centers, how are you going to stop the madness? The answer is you’re not going to stop the madness. The jihadists are going to continue to attack, and you are going to have to absorb the punishment they distribute.
Of course, drones have killed thousands of people over the past decade. We’ve recently gotten the grisly details of the kind of “tough interrogations” the US has conducted, more accurately described as torture. The United States has sent 2.6 million troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, about a million of whom have come back with injuries requiring medical treatment. The “detention center” at Guantanamo still has 148 inmates, more than half of whom continue to be held despite being cleared for release by the US government.
And yet “the jihadists…continue to attack.” Could it be that O’Reilly is confusing the cure with the cause?