Thought Catalog
January 22, 2015

Other Times People Were Murdered By Terrorists, And Things That Didn’t Happen Then

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On May 31, 2009, Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed in cold blood by Scott Roeder, a religious extremist, for the legal act of providing abortion services.

No high-ranking politicians called upon President Obama to condemn “radical Christianity.” No sanctions were levied against organizations that Roeder was involved with, such as Operation Rescue.

News organizations across the world did not tweet into a hashtag #IAmDrTiller. Public figures such as Bill O’Reilly who had used inciting language such as “Tiller the Baby Killer” or Ann Coulter who, after Tiller’s death, joked about it as “terminated in the 203rd trimester” kept their jobs.

There was no massive influx of funding from wealthy donors at Google or other major corporations in support of Tiller’s clinic after his death. The clinic remained closed for four years, and continues to struggle to stay open today.


On July 22, 2011, Anders Breivik used explosives and gunfire to kill 77 people, many of them children, and injure at least 110 more, the deadliest single attack in Norway since World War II and the deadliest attack by a single gunman in the world. His written manifesto stated he was motivated by his desire to maintain the purity of white Christian Norwegian culture.

No high-ranking politicians called upon either President Obama or Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, to condemn “radical Christianity.” Discussion of Breivik’s manifesto focused heavily on his “mental illness.” No sanctions were levied against organizations that Breivik was involved with, such as the right-wing Progress Party.

American coverage of the attack focused on Breivik himself; the fact that the victims were attending summer camp with the Workers’ Youth League (AUF) was not prominently featured. Few mentioned that the AUF was a democratic socialist organization affiliated with the Labour Party or that Breivik was motivated by his hatred of “Cultural Marxism.”

News organizations across the world did not tweet into a hashtag #JegErAUF. Little effort was made to copy and distribute materials from AUF’s political platform. Public figures such as Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller and Ayaan Hirsi Ali who were cited as direct inspirations for the manifesto kept their jobs, as did Glenn Beck, who after the shooting smeared the victims as “Hitler Youth.”

There was no massive influx of funding from wealthy donors at Google or other major corporations in support of the AUF or the Labour Party. Labour lost the next election in 2013 and a right-wing coalition led by Breivik’s Progress Party took control, and retains control today.


On May 23, 2014, Elliot Rodger murdered six people and injured 13 others before killing himself. His manifesto, both in written format and in the form of a YouTube video titled “Retribution,” directly blamed the attack on Rodger’s failure with women and on the feminist agenda making life as a man intolerable.

This manifesto bore noted similarities to similar manifestoes penned by Marc Lépine, the École Polytechnique killer, in 1989 and the George Sodini, the LA Fitness killer, in 2009. Rodger’s rhetoric was directly lifted from the online subculture known variously as “redpill,” “men’s rights activism,” “pickup artists,” or the “manosphere.”

No high-ranking politicians called on President Obama to condemn “radical men’s rights activism” or “radical masculinity.” Initial media coverage of Rodger’s crime, before “the Twitter feminists” got involved, focused on his “mental illness.” No sanctions were levied against organizations that Rodger was involved with, such as the PUAHate online community.

News organizations across the world did not tweet into a hashtag #IAmAFeminist. A hashtag #YesAllWomen was created, in response to a previously trending hashtag #NotAllMen, explicitly denying any wider social meaning to Rodger’s actions.

Media coverage of #YesAllWomen repeatedly referred to it as a “debate.” Media appearances — like the Don Lemon appearance I did — focusing on #YesAllWomen tended to frame it as a debate, with male commentators on one side and female commentators on the other. (In the one I did, I was the lone male exception.)

Michael Kupperman and David Rees wrote a cartoon for The New York Times explicitly blaming the Rodger attack on the men’s rights movement; the cartoon went unpublished because the subject matter was “too sensitive.”

#YesAllWomen spawned a few interesting side projects but for the most part remained a hashtag. There was no massive influx of funding from wealthy donors at Google or other major corporations in support of any of the organizations founded in the wake of #YesAllWomen. The year 2014 would end up being notable for a number of online threats against women’s safety that were repeatedly dismissed in the press as being false simply because they were online — with no apparent harm to the reputation of the press in the process.

A Voice for Men, one of the leading men’s rights advocacy organizations, held their International Conference on Men’s Issues in Detroit one month after Elliot Rodger’s murders. They continue to grow in membership and funding to this day.


Yes, I know you’re out there coming up with all kinds of objections and waiting to shout “False equivalency!” over this or that detail.

I don’t care. It’s always been pretty clear to me from people’s actions that when people self-righteously say they’re in favor of free speech at all costs, no matter how repugnant, they’re still mostly defending speech others find repugnant, not speech they themselves find repugnant.

Yes, it’s true that in all three of those cases everyone important — including people allied with the political cause the killers were espousing — openly condemned murder. Condemning murder is sort of the bare minimum decency requirement for existing in the public sphere.

But the news media Establishment as a whole didn’t feel the need to go beyond condemning murder in those cases. Nobody argued that in order to truly be in favor of free speech you had to stick up for the victims’ causes, disseminate the victims’ message, and loudly, unambiguously oppose everyone allied to the killer.

Why not? Because too many of the Respectable People were on both sides for that to happen. Feminist writers aiming for a feminist audience could bluntly condemn Roeder. Everyone else knew that the issue of abortion rights was “controversial” and “sensitive” and therefore tried not to “take sides” on the “political” topic even as they were condemning Tiller’s killer.

The “abortion debate” is political enough that the “sensitive” thing is to stay out of it, even when a zealous operative for one side has just gotten done murdering an innocent man on the other side. Same with the socialist economics and open-immigration policies AUF espoused. Same with the feminists Rodger lashed out against — no matter how heinous the actions of an anti-feminist, the very word “feminist” remains “controversial” in mainstream news.

All of those things are controversial, political, sensitive, and therefore news outlets must handle them very carefully and “neutrally,” even when there’s a dead body cooling on the ground.

You know what apparently isn’t controversial, political, or sensitive? Disrespecting the Muslim faith. It’s apparently bad form to diss all right-wing pro-life Christians just because one of them was a cold-blooded murderer — but we are not only allowed but required to mock Muslims after a Muslim carries out a mass murder.

Think about that for a second, then think about why “moderate Muslims” aren’t particularly eager to tweet #JeSuisCharlie. TC mark

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