On CNN, Wash. Post's Janell Ross Explains Why White Oregon Occupiers Weren't Automatically Labeled Terrorists

Ross: The Words “Terrorism” And “Insurrection” Aren't Used To Describe Occupation “Because We're Talking About White Americans Who Are Presumed To Be Innocent”

From the January 4 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin:

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BROOKE BALDWIN (HOST): OK, so to your point why aren't they being labeled terrorists? Why?

JANELL ROSS: In all fairness, I think that there are many labels that might be applicable here. I think the real question is why is there such speed to labels such as terrorist or thug or any other number of labels when those involved in protests or even those who are interlopers on a peaceful protest, I guess, are on Americans' TV screens. At the same time there seems to be this real reticence and sort of slow pace at which we arrive at the point at which, for instance in South Carolina after events there last year, a mass shooting, there was extended debate about whether that was even a racial crime and then whether or not that was domestic terrorism. And meanwhile, we do have a significant issue in this country with domestic terrorism, it outpaces just slightly Islamic terrorism, which we spend a lot more time talking about, and then --therefore, I'm saying to you that, again, there may be many words that are applicable and reasonable here. Some people may feel that the proper word for what's happening in Oregon is terrorism, perhaps sedition, insurrection, etc., but we don't use that word because we're talking about white Americans who are presumed to be innocent, they're presumed to be individuals with their own minds and their own opinions that don't apply to an entire group, and we certainly don't assume them to be violent from the get-go. 

BALDWIN: I think words are important, I think from a law enforcement perspective, from a charging perspective, and just from a societal perspective. I want to just quote you, because you make this point: “It is hard to imagine that none of the words mentioned above -- particularly ”insurrection" or “revolt” -- would be avoided if, for instance, a group of armed black Americans took possession of a federal or state courthouse to protest the police. Black Americans outraged about the death of a 12-year-old boy at the hands of police or concerned about the absence of a conviction in the George Zimmerman case have been frequently and inaccurately lumped in with criminals and looters." You also make the point, if it were a group of Muslims as well this would be a totally different story. 

ROSS: I think so. It seems to me, based on recent events, that at minimum the progress at which we would get from wondering what happened and what might be motivating these events to a series of very serious and in some cases deeply insulting labels being applied to people automatically because of who they are, not because of what they are doing. 


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