The Republic of T.

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Two White Guys + X-Ray Gun = Terrorism?

This CNN story about the guys who planned to build an x-ray gun is about as strange as anything I’ve heard today.

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Two men have been charged in the Albany, New York, area in a bizarre plan to use a device loosely described as a ray gun to “target people they didn’t like,” a federal law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation said Wednesday.

Glendon Scott Crawford, 49, and Eric J. Feight, 54, were arrested Tuesday after an undercover operation by the Albany FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. They were charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.

The suspects intended to use the device to harm and kill enemies of Israel, a Department of Justice news release said. If convicted, each faces up to 15 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and five years of supervised release.

The suspects, expected to appear in federal court Wednesday, apparently planned to use the homemade X-ray machine to attack high-ranking government officials and other targets with radiation, the source said.

They do not appear to belong to any terror group or subscribe to any particular ideology, the source said.

Well, I can guanrantee you one thing. Nobodys’ going to utter the “T-word” in regards to this.

“They do not appear to belong to any terror group of subscribe to any particular ideology.”

Really? Let’s see. One of them introduced himself as a member of the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. (And the knowldge helped lead to his capture.) If the Klan doesn’t qualify as a “terror group,” and if being or claiming to be a member of the Klan doesn’t count as “subscribing to any particular ideology,” I don’t know what does.

There’s more. A US News/NBC report says the men got as far as building a trigger for the device, and even scoped out Muslims (whom one of them men reportedly referred to as “medical waste”) and other groups as potential targets. They began searching for parts to build the weapon in April 2012, one of them supposedly traveled to North Carolina to seek funding from alleged KKK members. The same one reportedly walked into a synagogue and asked for help with technology that count kill “enemies of Israel” as they slept.

And, sure, building an x-ray gun for the purpose of killing people with radiation poisoning does sound a bit far fetched, and more than a little crazy. Once upon a time, so did flying planes into skyscrapers, and turning pressure cookers into bombs, but here we are.

As crazy as it sounds, ask yourself this: Suppose two Muslim men had done this.

Suppose two men committed separate acts of extremist murder in the United States within a month. Suppose the gunmen attacked a church and a national landmark, motivated by politics and religious prejudice, targeting a nationally controversial figure and innocent civilians. Suppose there was a history of attacks by similarly motivated men in America, ranging from individual shootings and bombings to an act of spectacular violence that destroyed a federal office building.

Suppose two Muslim men had done this.

Is there even a question that we would be using a particular term to describe this behavior? Might reporters and news anchors be terming these horrible acts, say, “terrorism”?

The Webster definition of terrorism is “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.” Now, one could argue that the shooting at the Holocaust Museum and the murder of Dr. George Tiller were not systematic acts. But they were no less systematic than other acts of “disturbed individuals” that are routinely described as terrorism. When some embittered sad sack is convicted for hatching a fanciful, possibly unexecutable, “aspirational rather than operational” plan to knock down the Sears Tower, or buy missiles, or blow up an airport, we go to the term “terrorism” quickly.

One could also argue that these two men, rather than representing a single movement-right-wing terrorism-were two different individuals with different backgrounds, beliefs and motives. Sure. Much like Sunnis as opposed to Shi’ites, Hezbollah as opposed to Al Qaeda, Saddam as opposed to bin Laden.

So if the decision not to call these murders “terrorism” is not a matter of the scale of the acts or of the disparate belief systems of the actors, then what is it? In part, it’s probably a function of the fact that the media follow authority in situations like these; and-as opposed to after 9/11-there is not a dominant authority voice trying to define the violence as domestic terrorism.

I refer back to Tim Wise for the answer.

White privilege is knowing that even if the Boston Marathon bomber turns out to be white, his or her identity will not result in white folks generally being singled out for suspicion by law enforcement, or the TSA, or the FBI.

White privilege is knowing that even if the bomber turns out to be white, no one will call for whites to be profiled as terrorists as a result, subjected to special screening, or threatened with deportation.

White privilege is knowing that if the bomber turns out to be white, he or she will be viewed as an exception to an otherwise non-white rule, an aberration, an anomaly, and that he or she will be able to join the ranks of pantheon of white people who engage in (or have plotted) politically motivated violence meant to terrorize – and specifically to kill – but whose actions result in the assumption of absolutely nothing about white people generally, or white Christians in particular.

Among these: Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols and Ted Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph and Joe Stack and George Metesky and Byron De La Beckwith and Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton and Herman Frank Cash and Robert Chambliss and James von Brunn and Lawrence Michael Lombardi and Robert Mathews and David Lane and Chevie Kehoe and Michael F. Griffin and Paul Hill and John Salvi and Justin Carl Moose and Bruce and Joshua Turnidge and James Kopp and Luke Helder and James David Adkisson and Scott Roeder and Shelley Shannon and Dennis Mahon and Wade Michael Page and Jeffery Harbin and Byron Williams and Charles Ray Polk and Willie Ray Lampley and Cecilia Lampley and John Dare Baird and Joseph Martin Bailie and Ray Hamblin and Robert Edward Starr III and William James McCranie Jr. and John Pitner and Charles Barbee and Robert Berry and Jay Merrell and Brendon Blasz and Carl Jay Waskom Jr. and Shawn and Catherine Adams and Edward Taylor Jr. and Todd Vanbiber and William Robert Goehler and James Cleaver and Jack Dowell and Bradley Playford Glover and Ken Carter and Randy Graham and Bradford Metcalf and Chris Scott Gilliam and Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder and Buford Furrow and Benjamin Smith and Donald Rudolph and Kevin Ray Patterson and Charles Dennis Kiles and Donald Beauregard and Troy Diver and Mark Wayne McCool and Leo Felton and Erica Chase and Clayton Lee Wagner and Michael Edward Smith and David Burgert and Robert Barefoot Jr. and Sean Gillespie and Ivan Duane Braden and Kevin Harpham and William Krar and Judith Bruey and Edward Feltus and Raymond Kirk Dillard and Adam Lynn Cunningham and Bonnell Hughes and Randall Garrett Cole and James Ray McElroy and Michael Gorbey and Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman and Frederick Thomas and Paul Ross Evans and Matt Goldsby and Jimmy Simmons and Kathy Simmons and Kaye Wiggins and Patricia Hughes and Jeremy Dunahoe and David McMenemy and Bobby Joe Rogers and Francis Grady and Cody Seth Crawford and Ralph Lang and Demetrius Van Crocker and Floyd Raymond Looker and Derek Mathew Shrout and Randolph Linn.

Ya know, just to name a few.

And white privilege is being able to know nothing about the crimes committed by most of the terrorists listed above – indeed, never to have so much as heard most of their names – let alone to make assumptions about the role that their racial or ethnic identity may have played in their crimes.

Yet, no one will call it terrorism. In fact, the media bends over backwards to make it clear these yahoos are not terrorists, or even wannabe terrorists.

Just my opinion, but if these guys has been Black, Latino, Muslim, or anything else not-white, the rooms would already be booked on Capitol Hill for the inevitable hearings. And these two would have been bunking next door to the surviving Boston bomber.

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