I recently read a rather interesting post on the personal Web site of Steven Johnson, www.stevenberlinjohnson.com, about an experiment he conducted.
Johnson entered the search words “bin Laden” into Google to see how many of the sites also contained the word “terrorism.” The answer: 25 percent.
He then repeated the process for Eric Robert Rudolph. Of the links returned, only two percent also contained the word “terrorism.”
The experiment seems to verify the common conception that terrorism is associated with foreigners rather than Americans, even though Rudolph was on the same FBI most-wanted list as bin Laden.
Rudolph was recently apprehended and now awaits trial for bombing an abortion clinic, killing two, and the bombing of the Olympic Games in Atlanta, where 150 people were injured.
While he has not killed as many people as bin Laden, he has planned and executed more attacks on American soil with a clear agenda. Rudolph is undoubtedly a terrorist, so the question of why nobody denotes him as such, remains.
Johnson also questions why other far-right extremists are not targeted in this “war on terrorism.”
It once again shows the clever marketing of the Bush administration. The war on terror is not as sweeping as it seems, as it does not apply to all terrorists.
People like Rudolph have a clear political agenda and pursue this agenda by committing acts that kill or injure others or are intended to instill fear in sectors of the population Rudolph disapproves of, such as an abortion clinic’s staff. If this is not the very definition of political terrorism, what is?
Yet such people are not targeted, as they do not fit the bracket of foreign extremists and after being in hiding for several years, Rudolph was arrested only after a chance encounter with a rookie policeman.
The overly zealous correlation of terrorism with foreign nationals is hardly a new thing. Officials were quick to attribute the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City to an extremist foreign terrorist group and searched for the usual suspects: Middle Eastern males in their twenties.
It later turned out to be Timothy McVeigh, an anti-government militia member who could be described as far-right and as American as apple pie.
So why does the Department of Homeland Security not focus on such people? After all, the war on terror is supposed to make us all feel safer, right?
Maybe it has to do with the people organizing the war on terror and their affiliation with a party that receives votes from the right. Perhaps Attorney General John Ashcroft and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge do not want to alienate their voters by hunting down people that, although extreme, stand for issues with which their voters agree.
Rudolph, for example, bombed the abortion clinic under the pretense of being pro-life (doesn’t that seem ironic?), an agenda many conservatives also share.
Naturally, not every conservative is a terrorist, but the hundreds of Muslims arrested or harassed just for being of that particular faith are not all terrorists either.
Malcolm X was, after all, considered a potential terrorist purely based on his Muslim faith. Today, his birthday is commemorated each year because he helped point out civil injustices in the United States.
Clearly, the United States cannot ignore the threat from abroad, but before we accuse other countries of harboring terrorists, we must pursue American terrorists as well. That way we could feel both safer and less hypocritical.
Sebastian Meyer is the Oracle Opinion Editor firstname.lastname@example.org