In a terrifying biological terrorism plot, a pair of radical terrorists motivated by religious hatred designs and builds an X-ray device that they intend to use to unleash lethal levels of radiation on innocent Americans before killing the president. This would seem like a nightmare scenario and given the post-9/11 hyperbolic sensationalism and fear-mongering about terrorism posing an existential threat to the United States, one would have thought that such a plot would attract tremendous attention and arouse universal condemnation. Such a plot did indeed unfold, having been planned and developed in 2013 by Glen Crawford and Eric Freight, a pair in Upstate New York, and Freight has just pleaded guilty and been sentenced to 97 months in prison.
Why then did has this plot drawn almost no media attention, either at the time or now during the sentencing, and why has it not been invoked as an example of the terrorist threat facing America in the weeks since the Paris and San Bernardino attacks when GOP politicians have striven to outdo each other in their racism, inhumanity, and fear-mongering rhetoric about terrorism? The answer – or at least much of it – lies in the fact that Crawford and Freight are white rather than Middle Eastern, that their intended targets were Muslim-Americans rather than “our freedoms,” and that the attack was planned under the aegis of the KKK rather than ISIS or some other Islamic terrorist organization. The X-ray device, which the FBI called a “weapon of mass destruction,” was actually constructed over the summer of 2013 after Crawford, himself a klansman, and his friend Freight, developed it with a little help from an undercover FBI agent posing as a fellow KKK member.
Certainly the fact that the plot was assisted by an undercover FBI agent and the X-ray machine was never actually operable explains part of the media apathy, but even when the entire plots have been created by the FBI in schemes of entrapment, if the would-be perpetrators are Muslim, the media is sure to focus a lot of attention on the plot and incite its audience to panic over some perceived existential threat to Western society. The very inkling of a plot by Muslim terrorists, or even their distributing leaflets or posting on Twitter, is more than sufficient grounds for a fear-mongering media circus if news coverage is anything to go by. And this is particularly true for biological terrorism, so much so that Muslims in close proximity to reservoirs can make the news, and yet here is a group of racially-motivated homegrown terrorists who specifically intended to kill Muslim-Americans because of their religion with a biological weapon, and almost no one in America has even heard of Crawford and Freight.
What the media chooses to cover, and how they choose to cover it, has a dramatic effect on the perceptions and opinions of Americans, most of whom are too apathetic and ignorant to peer much below the surface in searching for news. Thus, when the media throws a fit about a hypothetical riot in Baltimore during the Freddie Gray trials and looks on everything Muslims do as a potential threat but totally ignores KKK terrorist plots, it sets a tone for American society and politics that feeds the proto-fascist anti-Muslim hatred of the mainstream Republican Party, which in turn sabotages everything America stands for.
And, of course, to the limited degree that the media does pay attention to such white, right-wing terrorists, they are almost never identified as such, even when Muslim attackers are immediately identified as “terrorists” as the word acquires religious qualifications and amazing Orwellian power that can be used to justify almost anything. Until the American media ceases its ridiculous double-standards in covering extremism, it will be a tacit contributor to the climate of fear and xenophobia that is pushing America to debate in all seriousness internment camps, the carpet bombing of entire cities, and the intentional murder of thousands of innocent civilians.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.