Thursday night, a normally jocular Jon Stewart had no jokes to tell during his opening monologue on “The Daily Show.”
Instead, he was stoic and almost dejected as he went off script to talk about the shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina that left nine dead. “This is a terrorist attack,” he said. “I heard someone on the news say ‘tragedy has visited this church.’ This wasn’t a tornado. This was a racist.”
Poignant and timely as Stewart’s speech was, he took a very hard line in labeling what happened on Wednesday night an act of terrorism. Others see it differently, as a hate crime committed by a troubled, racist young man who targeted a very specific group of people that he didn’t like. “By calling the Charleston shooter a terrorist, by using and dignifying this buzzword of our day, by being hyperbolic in the news media, we dehumanize the act,” a Gizmodo writer says in an article posted yesterday.
How should we define what happened in Charleston? As a hate crime? As terrorism? Does it even matter how it’s labeled? Does this incident imply that a closer look is necessary at how we define the words ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorist?’
Bryan Burrough, special correspondent for Vanity Fair. His latest book is called “Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence
Deepa Iyer, is a senior fellow at The Center for Social Inclusion. Her book, “We Too Sing America; South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future,” is forthcoming in November from The New Press. Read her Al Jazeera piece on domestic terrorism.