Vegas shooter: Terrorist or not? Does Race Play A Role in Suspect Labeling?

Juliana Marquez, Editor-n-chief

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Is Stephen Paddock, the 64 year old Las Vegas shooter, a “terrorist”?
On October 1, 2017, Paddock, from his window on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel started shooting at a country music festival going on below. Fifty nine people were killed, including, the shooter. Over 500 were injured by gunshot wounds. Yet Paddock’s rampage, from what we know, was not labeled a hate based crime by members of the criminal justice system.
There is no doubt that the shooting was a tragic event. The Google definition of terrorism is “a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” Knowing the definition of a terrorist, should the public consider Paddock a terrorist? I know what you’re thinking, “of course he is a terrorist, he shot over 500 people, killed 58 of them, and terrorized hundreds of people.” Yes, this is true, but technically, he doesn’t exactly fit the definition of a terrorist because he had no political aims that we know.
Clairemont High School Student-teacher Sara Carver said, “I think anyone, no matter their ethnicity or religion, is a terrorist when they instill fear in and terrorize people.” Carver added that she thinks the Google definition of terrorism is a political definition.
She’s not alone in this sentiment, maybe it’s time for us to think about what we define as terrorism. People who weren’t shot will probably live the rest of their lives in fear of something horrific like that happening again.
In addition, there has been a lot of controversy about the way that journalists are labeling Paddock. Many people on social media are claiming that the news doesn’t want to label him a terrorist because he’s “white privileged.” If this attack were committed by a member of a minority group, would the media still label him as a “lone wolf”? Would they have been quicker to label it a “terrorist” attack?
There does seem to be a trend in America where white males go crazy and cause tragedy in a public place, yet few are labeled terrorists.
In August of 2017, “terrorist,” James Alex Fields drove his car into a crowd of people counter protesting the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA. One person was killed and 19 were injured ( Fields was never labeled as a terrorist by the mainstream media nor the legal system. This is curious, given that he clearly had a political motive. He was, however, labeled a terrorists by smaller, liberal websites.
This raises the question: Do white men who commit horrendous acts get the privilege of being humanized in headlines?
All in all, there is no single way to label Paddock or Fields. The judicial system uses its criteria. The mainstream media follows its own norms and individuals in cyberspace use their own distinct criteria.
Some base their terminology on morality others on legalistic precedents.
The larger point is, there may be racial and
or cultural stereotypes that come into play when the legal
system, the media and individuals online label shooters.