Vox asks and answers one of the most pressing questions about the continued rise of right-wing terrorism in America: Why won't the cable news networks say so? Actually, that's not entirely true. The article title says Domestic terrorism is on the rise while the article makes it clear that we're talking about a rise in exclusively right-wing violence.
And there, I believe, lies the biggest hint as to why it's not being reported on accurately. As a writer, I can tell you from experience that the title you see is not always the one the writer originally submitted. I would hazard a guess that author Todd VanDerWerff might have originally submitted the title, "Right Wing terrorism is on the rise. Why won’t cable news networks say so?" but it was changed by his editor in order to appeal to a wider audience because white Republican voters (especially white male Republican voters) are some of the most fragile creatures to ever walk the earth. A fact VanDerWerff touches on:
In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis published a report, meant for internal use only. The report argued that the future of terrorism threats against the United States would be in homegrown, domestic terrorism, spawned from the right fringes of the political spectrum. Indeed, the 2008 election of America’s first non-white president, combined with the economic collapse of 2007 and 2008, had created fertile ground for hateful, right-wing extremism.
Republicans reacted angrily, demanding that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano rescind the report. Eventually, it was withdrawn, and by 2010, the DHS no longer had any intelligence analysts working in the field of domestic terrorism, as Daryl Johnson, the report’s primary author, detailed for the Washington Post in 2017.
I remember this screaming hissy fit well. The right hollered that the report said the entire right wing was violent and that returning vets were extremists. It said nothing of the sort, of course, but Republicans knew they couldn't afford to have anyone looking too closely at what was then their fringe.
The media played along, presenting "both sides" of the debate when there was only the truth and hysterical lies. They had to because if they didn't, white Republican voters, those most fragile of creatures, would have crumbled to the floor in apoplectic outrage. They're the victims, you see. Always the victim.
Even now after an unprecedented week of right-wing terrorism, white Republican voters are outraged, outraged!, I tell you!, at the media for talking about the right like they're to blame. They want to talk about the guy who shot Rep. Scalise a year ago. Or some random person who was arrested for making threats. Or that time someone yelled at Mitch McConnell while he was eating dinner.
And as Vox points out, cable news is struggling to even call this last week terrorism. Again, this is because the right will not tolerate the accurate labeling of itself as producing terrorist after terrorist after terrorist.
But it's more than that. Right-wing terrorism never threatens the status quo for the rich and powerful. I've discussed this before. Shoot up a church full of black people and the power structure stays the same. Murder 11 Jews in a synagogue and Republicans will still push tax cuts for billionaires. Send the Proud Boys out into the streets to beat up protesters while the cops stand by and do nothing, and corporations will still buy politicians. It's not "real" terrorism when it doesn't scare the people with the money and power.
Left-wing violence, on the other hand, scares the shit out of the rich and the powerful. When the left plants a bomb or pulls the trigger, they don't shoot at imaginary enemies like Jews or immigrants or black people. They go for the politicians taking away their rights and the CEOs destroying their futures. In other words, when the left is moved to violence, the people who matter are the ones in danger so the media is quick to call it terrorism.
VanDerWerff says that the inability of cable news to call terrorism terrorism stems in part from the need to keep people watching TV; that they don't want to offend their conservative viewers. But that's not a consideration reserved for liberal viewers. Only the right gets the kid's gloves. Yes, the right has spent decades gaming the refs but it is inescapable that America treats left-wing populism very differently than right-wing populism.
Just the faintest whiff of success from the Occupy movement was enough to set the media into overdrive to discredit it. Compare that to the fawning coverage of Tea Party gatherings a fraction of the size. Compare that fawning with the almost total lack of coverage of Kremlin Annex protests that have been going on every night for over 3 months now right outside the White House. Did you even know they were still going on? Did you know Trump is trying to make such protests illegal in direct violation of the First Amendment? Weird how little airtime they're getting. Almost like we shouldn't be paying attention to it.
I recently wrote an article saying that we need to start talking about white male rage. We do. But we also need to start a real national dialogue about right-wing terrorism in America. This cancer has been growing for over a decade and after Republicans get stomped into the ground next week, it's going to get much, much worse. If we continue to allow the media to avoid calling out the right wing for effectively being a state sponsor of terrorism, the number of innocent victims will continue to rise. Is that really the kind of country we want to live in?