By accepted definition, a terrorist is a person who uses violence and intimidation against civilians to facilitate a political agenda.
Under common colloquial, the term terrorist typically characterizes a person that is a member of some organization that possesses a shared set of extremist beliefs.
Then of course to some Americans, the word terrorist is synonymous with radical Islamic extremist.
Under all of these varying designations, Stephen Paddock, the man responsible for killing 58 concertgoers and injuring 500 additional innocent men and woman, on October 1st, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada, would presently not be considered a terrorist.
Overwhelmingly, by the media, politicians, and law enforcement, Paddock has been described by terms such as mass murder, lone wolf, or any similar combination of phrases that denote a type of person who could engage in indiscriminate cold-blooded murder.
Presently, no motive has been determined for why Paddock engaged in his insidious crimes. As such the majority of citizens have accepted that fact that the most prolific mass murder in modern American history does not meet the criteria for being a terrorist. Only a sub-segment of the American public has declared that indeed Stephen Paddock's name should be recorded in history as being the epitome of a terrorist.
Consistent with every other mass shooting in America, instead of coming together in the wake of tragic events, Americans have only drifted farther apart as the inevitable conversation of gun-laws in America becomes a heated topic of discussion (I use the term discussion very loosely).
As the public’s compassion for their fellow citizens freezes over and our political glaciers drift further apart, people latch onto anything they can take hold of to claim for their partisan stake on. As a result, whether a mass killer is a terrorist or not, simply becomes the fodder for weaponized partisan beliefs. Often Conservatives seize the “mass killer” title and Liberals cry out “terrorist” at their red-colored arch rivals.
In light of the fact that we Americans, cannot even agree on what to call individuals who senselessly commit wicked and violent crimes; I declare that Stephen Craig Paddock absolutely is a terrorist and it is a title that we all should agree to assign to him. Here is why:
First of all, Nevada state law defines an “Act of terrorism” as “any act that involves the use or attempted use of sabotage, coercion, or violence which is intended to: (a) Cause great bodily harm or death to the general population.” (NRS 202.4415).
Very explicitly, Paddock’s actions fit the necessary requirement for being a terrorist under Nevada state law. Had Paddock been captured alive, he would have been prosecuted under terrorism laws by the state.
Now when it comes to Federal law things get a little more bizarre.
Under U.S. Code Title 22 Chapter 38 the definition of terrorism is “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents. Title 22 of U.S. Code pertains to the Department of State.
Conversely, Title 18 of United States Code, and the U.S. Patriot Act of 2001, “domestic terrorism” means activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; appear to be intended – to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping. Title 18 relates to Federal criminal acts and criminal procedure.
Essentially, these two definitions of terrorism in the United States code, create a tumultuous and ambiguous definition of what terrorism actually is. Under Title 22, Paddock would presently not be considered a terrorist. Conversely, under Title 18, Paddock would easily fit the bill for being a domestic terrorist.
As if that wasn’t confusing enough U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, the Department of Defense, FEMA, the National Counterterrorism Center, U.S. National Security Strategy, and the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, all offer their own varying views of what defines a person to be a terrorist. Then, of course, the assorted federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies all independently decide which U.S. code or agency’s definition of terrorism they subscribe too.
Honestly, when you consider it in context, it is fairly remarkable that the United States hasn’t faced more acts of terrorism. The public cannot agree what a terrorist is. The federal government defines terrorism one of 430 different ways. I mean if none of us can agree on what exactly a terrorist is, then how the hell can we possibly prevent terrorism in the first place?
Now, I could debate the merit of Nevada’s state law and the 10th Amendment to the Constitution and how it would clearly demonstrate that Stephen Paddock is a terrorist. However, presently for most of America, the word “debate” looks about like a 16-year-old showing up to prom with their 4th period Science teacher as their date.
Instead, I will try to express why we should all, collectively agree that Stephen Paddock is indeed a terrorist.
We like to believe that words hold no value or meaning. That words are simply just slashes, dots or swirls that provide us with a way to communicate. That words inherently defy the laws of gravity and bear no weight. However, the weightlessness of words couldn’t be any further from the truth. Words carry a considerable amount of weight…
When it comes to the word terrorism, the most significant defining factor of how one expresses it comes from a word that is only slightly more unpleasant that terrorist.
Indeed, the inclusion of the word political is what creates the conflict with mass murders like Stephen Paddock from being called a terrorist. Let’s examine that for a moment.
The word political means anything relating to a government or the public affairs of a country.
Now, you may not see it just yet, however, I’m Demi Moore, Political is Patrick Swayze, my point is the clump of clay, and Unchained Melody just started playing… Basically, my point is about to take shape.
The categorical difference between the variances between federal and state laws, or government agencies regarding who is or isn’t a terrorist relates to whether or not the ultimate goal of one’s heinous actions is directed at the United States government or not.
Consider this for a moment, the lives lost are the same in both interpretations of the word. It is civilians or non-combatants who are targeted. The terror that occurs after a mass killing event is the same whether it is ISIS who does it or Stephen Paddock; who right now seems to have callously murdered, simply because he could. Essentially, when it comes to the American public, the stress, anxiety, and grief are the same regardless of who or what inspires one’s crimes.
The only difference is that the entire governing body of the United States of America adds itself to being a victim based on the current acceptable standard of what is terrorism.
Is this a big deal? Oh Yeah!
Now, I’ve brought up Justice James Wilson several times in the last few weeks. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to keep beating people over the head with ole Justice Wilson, however, when it comes to the foundational principles of the United States of America, Justice Wilson spits fire.
Before he drops the mic, the background on Justice James Wilson is that he was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, a signatory of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. He was elected to the Continental Congress twice and was one of the six original Supreme Court Justices appointed by George Washington.
In his 1793 ruling on the Supreme Court case of Chisholm v. Georgia, Justice Wilson said, “If one was to propose a toast to the United States of America and not the people of the United States, they would be politically incorrect.”
Indeed, Justice Wilson was the man who coined the phrase “political correctness.” Unlike, the phrase's contemporary negative connotations, Justice Wilson’s original meaning of political correctness was to say, that the United States government should never place its own institutional importance over that of the people. Now, before you start laughing, Justice Wilson wasn’t an idealist, rather he was a realist. Indeed, this was the overall theme of America going back to 1776.
This is where the first issue emerges in how one titles a person or event as being the work of a terrorist or a mass murder. Essentially, the government, by denoting an event as terrorism is saying that when American citizens are senselessly killed, that’s kind of a bummer. However, when innocent Americans are killed AND one says “Death to America” while doing it and waving an ISIS flag, “Ohhhh hell no! It’s on now!”
Now, you’re thinking, “Ok, I see what you’re saying. However, does it really make a difference?”
Oh yeah! Sure does…
For one thing, consider the response when a formally declared terrorist event occurs. If the U.S. is attacked by terrorist, hell hath no fury like the federal government scorned.
We will declare war if the government feels threatened by terrorists. There will be hellfire missiles flying out of unmanned aerial drones like chaff flares by dinner time. For breakfast, a SEAL team will be blowing the doors off some poor bastards home in Yemen. Hell, we’ll water-board your children and grandmother if we need to in order to protect us from terrorism.
Like a Billy Mays’ commercial selling Terror-Clean… “But Wait! There’s more!”
The government will create entirely new agencies to combat terrorism. We’ll create sub-divisions, within divisions of already existing federal agencies in order to stop terror. We’ll pass federal laws that let the government spy on its enemies, allies, neighbors, and citizens. Don’t even bother clearing out your search history or going incognito Ted Cruz… We KNOW what you were really doing.
It doesn’t even stop at the federal level. Every major law enforcement agency across the U.S. will have specific counter-terrorism units. A bright-eyed college kid will even be able to enroll and get a Bachelors of Science in the academic discipline of anti-terrorism. If lucky, that student can someday rise to the heights of being a counter-terrorism expert. Lastly, we’ll pay millions of dollars to terrorists to fight other terrorists on our behalf.
Conversely, when it comes to “mass murder” or “lone wolf” attacks, the response from the government is, “Meh…”
It doesn’t matter what topic of a debate you would like to bring up; gun control, mental health, or even the government’s inability to invest in stopping mass murder, the response from the government is to look over its shoulder and say, “Shhhh… Will you keep it down over there!?! You’re going to wake up the kids.”
Have you ever heard of a “Counter-Mass Murderer Unit?” A declaration of war on mass murders? An investment in overall understanding and availability of mental health services in America? Any discussion over legislation, funding, or anything at all to help detect and protect citizens from people who want to inflict mass causalities upon them?
No… none of that has ever happened.
In fact, we all just eventually give up and start to believe that there just isn’t anything we can do to stop it. I’ve seen this sentiment over and over this entire week. “There is nothing we can do to stop evil.”
Well hell! If that’s the case, why are we talking about building a border wall? What’s the purpose of a travel ban? In fact, what the hell is the principled basis behind the whole, “well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state.” Why bother? We can't-do anything to stop evildoers. Should we find ourselves confronted with inevitable evil, let’s just throw our arms in the air and great our maker.
Ultimately, We The People MUST call Stephen Paddock a terrorist.
We need to require our government to call Stephen Paddock a terrorist. There is no distinction between Omar Matten who pledges his loyalty to the Caliphate before murdering 49 people in an Orlando club and Stephen Paddock to doesn’t say a word and then goes on to kill 58 innocent people. In both instances it is us, the American citizens, who ultimately are the ones that absorb the pain and loss of life.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not sitting here bashing the Federal government of the United States. Nor am I suggesting that the disparity in response to mass murders vs. terrorists is intentional. If I believed that, I wouldn’t even be writing this because it’s equally as depressing to suggest that our government knowingly doesn’t care unless their name is added to the list of insults along with citizen’s deaths.
Rather, the collective system we have allowed ourselves into today is one that treats mass murder like a slapstick insult towards the government. Meanwhile, terrorism is equivalent talking about the government’s mama, and then releasing an accompanying diss-track.
At the end of the day, we are morally obligated to each other and the lives that have been lost to make sure their deaths are equally as important as they would be if someone simply added the phrase, “America sucks” when they did it.
Finally, we are fundamentally obligated to call Stephen Paddock a terrorist because of the principles on which this country was founded on. The moment someone gives a toast to the United States, we are supposed to remind them they are wrong. The correct view in America is that the toast should be to the people of the United States.