In case you haven’t seen Baton Rouge shooter Gavin Long’s alleged manifesto, I’ve included it at the end of this post. It's an interesting document.
His manifesto doesn’t provide a lot of leverage for shoehorning him into the “panty-stealing PTSD-addled deranged shooter” frame that Micah Johnson got for his attack on policemen in Dallas, despite Johnson’s overt interest in black nationalism of the cop-assaulting variety.
Long had a plausible if extremely alarming thesis: that indiscriminate killing good and bad cops would compel good cops to police the bad cops to improve their behavior.
That’s also textbook terrorism, at least according to the FBI.
"Domestic terrorism" means activities with the following three characteristics:
- Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
- Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and
- Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.
However, no designation by the government of Long as a domestic terrorist or, for that matter, calls for such a designation by enemies of the administration, despite the fact that excoriating President Obama for his reluctance to employ the phrase “Islamic terrorism”, especially in the matter of the Orlando shooting, has been the order of the day for the GOP.
Playing politics with a domestic terror attack by a black radical could very well “heighten tensions” as we say, contributing to retaliatory and copycat atrocities by both sides. I think the FBI is working doubletime in its unacknowledged and borderline extra-legal task of surveilling, infiltrating, and entrapping radical groups on both sides of the racial aisle. All hands on deck. Gotta keep a lid on things.
And I think that priority has been communicated, not only to sympathetic media to shape their coverage, but also to Donald Trump.
After the Dallas shooting, Trump made an uncharacteristically un-Trumpy statesman-y statement, presumably dictated by the establishment voices in the GOP, that actually referenced (if not named) the killings-by-cops victims Philandro Castile and Alton Sterling. Trump got the Obama memo, I think.
I think the White House is extremely concerned about a heightened atmosphere of racial confrontation, one in which the President of the United States would be hamstrung in restraining any genocidal element in the white majority because he’s, well, black.
I suspect not even the GOP at this stage wants to escalate tensions by throwing declarations of black nationalist terrorism into the national mix. If so, Good for them!
Well, let me walk that back a bit.
Donald Trump, perhaps chafing under the restraints imposed by his Dallas statement, took President Obama to task for what he alleged was uncomfortable body language during the President's televised remarks on Baton Rouge:
"I watched the President and sometimes the words are OK, but you just look at the body language, there's something going on. Look, there's something going on, and the words are not often OK, by the way…. There's just bad feeling, and a lot of bad feeling about him. I see it, too," Trump responded. "There's a lot of bad feeling about him. We have a country that has not been like this since I can remember it."
This was Trump’s way of saying that President Obama’s mourning as Cop-in-Chief for the dead and wounded law enforcement officers was apparently tempered by his understanding as a person of color that cops do sh*tty things disproportionately to people of color.
The President’s response, in other words, was to call for Americans to recognize their divisions, and not confine himself to calls for the angels of vengeance to rain hellfire on the heads of the perpetrators:
It is so important that everyone -- regardless of race or political party or profession, regardless of what organizations you are a part of -- everyone right now focus on words and actions that can unite this country rather than divide it further. We don't need inflammatory rhetoric. We don't need careless accusations thrown around to score political points or to advance an agenda. We need to temper our words and open our hearts -- all of us.
Invoking wrath is Trump’s job, of course. He has defined himself as the unequivocal cop-supporting law and order candidate in the wake of the shootings. And he made the “body language” statement to highlight his full-throated cop-love with President Obama’s ambivalence.
Also, it allows Trump to draw attention to the undeniable yet extremely awkward fact that black activists feel more empowered to confront the authors of injustice when there is a black man in the White House. “Blame Obama for stirring up racial divisions instead of blithely disregarding them” is GOP Obama-hate 101.
But Trump has yet to call for a designation of Gavin Long’s actions as a domestic terrorist attack. Which leads me to believe his main interest is in playing “law and order” politics as a champion of white conservatives, the man who’ll fix the country the black president messed up by rolling back minority favoritism, rather than a fascist seeking power by igniting a race war.*
So, some very situation-specific reasons why “domestic terrorism” is not being bandied about in the matter of Gavin Long and the Baton Rouge shootings.
But another good reason not to toss around the “domestic terrorism” tag is that it has already been politicized to the point of uselessness.
People with long memories (nobody, including me; had to look it up) will recall the uproar at the onset of the Obama administration in 2009 when the Justice Department ventured to conclude that the U.S. was chockablock with domestic terrorists of the white nationalist persuasion, many of whom were apparently riled up by the appearance of President Obama in the White House. It was unlikely to be killed by a terrorist in the United States but if it did occur, death was more likely to come at the hands of white radicals of various persuasions—racists, anti-Semites, anti-abortionists, sovereigntists-- rather than Islamic jihadis or, for that matter, black nationalists.
In 2015, the Southern Poverty Law Center provided an in-depth look at the phenomenon in a report titled “Lone Wolf” and described what happened in 2009:
There, it was pilloried, with right-wing pundits and groups like the American Legion falsely claiming that it attacked military veterans, conservatives and others on the political right. That was clearly not true — in fact, the report was remarkably accurate in its analysis and warnings (which included the assertion that the threat of lone wolves and small cells was growing) — but enough of a political firestorm was created that then-DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano renounced its findings. The team that wrote it and lead analyst Daryl Johnson were falsely accused of failing to follow DHS’ procedures and were criticized by Napolitano and others in public.
Long story short, if you can’t characterize the majority of domestic terrorist actions as “domestic terrorism” for fear of white conservative backlash, it’s politically selective pandering to apply it just to actions that white conservatives believe merit condemnation.
As a result, apparently nobody merits a domestic terrorist designation nowadays. Not white militants, not Islamic militants (not even the San Bernardino killers got their "terrorist" ticket punched), not black militants.
I’m good with that!
In my opinion, the primary purpose of a “terrorist attack” designation is to confer the mantle of “blameless victim” on the casualties—it is a proven fact no *sshole has ever died in a terrorist attack—and also on the afflicted government.
In other words, if the Eiffel Tower gets lit up in your national colors, no need to worry about having to explain blowback from brutal overseas military operations, oppressive domestic enforcement, incompetent police work, or clumsy extralegal incitement by security forces.
That's politically convenient but socially disastrous, in my opinion.
America is an extremely violent society and violence plays a big role in social control and resistance. As I put it elsewhere, America is not “torn apart” by violence; it’s held together by violence.
And moving beyond “America is under attack by terrorists” to “America as a nation permeated by violence” might get us thinking more about the causes, and our responsibilities as perpetrators and enablers, not just passive victims.
There are no "domestic terrorists" in other words; there's only us.
*A brief fascism note:
Accusing Trump of fascism is flavor-of-the-month on the left. But in my opinion, Trump's exploitation of racial tensions fit with my perception of Trump as a traditional American demagogue and not avatar of American fascism.
I have a more parsimonious view of fascism than most, informed by my perception of what goes on in Ukraine where people actually call themselves fascist and eliminate the guesswork. My definition involves creation of a centralized political and military movement designed for the extra-legal seizure of state power.
American fascism will arise, in my opinion, after Trump is defeated (assuming Hillary Clinton does not manage to drive her tedious, over-triangulated campaign into a ditch) and some white conservatives come to terms with the fact that they will probably never be able to elect a president of their color and inclinations again. Then it’s time for Plan B, seizing control of the GOP from the traitors that crippled Donnie’s campaign (I’m thinking Cruzstosse), then who knows? A nationwide white-protection militia movement? Fomenting a race war and a security-centric panic? Bullying the national government to enact otherwise unenactable laws?
That’s my take, a view not popular on the left, right, or anywhere. Deal with it!
Here is Gavin Long's manifesto. It should be read.
I know most of you who personally know me are in disbelief to hear from media reports that I am suspected of committing such horrendous acts of violence. You are thinking to yourself that this is completely out of character of the MAN you knew who was always positive, encouraging, & wore a smile wherever he was seen. Yes this does seem to be out of character but I ask that you finish reading before you make that decision.
I know I will be vilified by the media & police, unfortunately, I see my action’s as a necessary evil that I do not wish to partake in, nor do I enjoy partaking in, but must partake in, in order to create substantial change within America’s police forces and Judicial system.
Right now their is a unseen & concealed war within America’s police force between Good cops & Bad cops. And the way the current system is set up, it protects all cops whether good or bad, right or wrong, instead of punishing bad cops & holding them accountable for their actions.
And when good cops do try and stand up, speak out, & point out the wrong’s & criminal acts of a bad cops they get reprimanded, harassed, blackballed or blacklisted or all of these and more. Thus creating a perpetual systematic fertile ground for bad cops to flourish, excell, & go unpunished in.
Therefore I must bring the same destruction that bad cops continue to inflict upon my people, upon bad cops as well as good cops in hopes that the good cops (which are the majority) will be able to stand together to enact justice and punishment against bad cops b/c right now the police force & current judicial system is not doing so.
Therefore now if the bad cops, law makers, & justice system leader’s care about the welfare, familie’s, & well-being of their fellow good cops, then they (bad cops) will quit committing criminal acts against melanated people & the people in general. If not, my people, & the people in general will continue to strike back against all cops until we see that bad cops are no longer protected & allowed to flourish. B/C until this happens, we the people cannot differentiate the the good from the bad.
Protected & unpunished bad cops forces melanated people to label the good cop as potential threats to the safety & well-being of our women, family, & children. Good cops I ask that you help change this situation that we find ourselves in by starting from within the force & making an impact in their.
For the sake of preventing future loss of life rather it be from the hand of bad cops upon melanated people, or from the hand of the people upon good cops, I do not ask but order (With & By the power of the people behind me) for all bad cops to be punished swiftly, completely, & unhesitatingly; & for all unethical police practices & procedure’s to cease immediately.
Condolences to my people & their loved ones who have been victims at the hands of bad cops for decades. And condolences to the good cops & their families as well.
And special salute $ thank you to the brave cops that have already identified & spoke up against bad cops and racist unjust practices.
The list of good cops include but are not limited to: Officer Edwin Raymond & to the approximate 10 other officers who are coming forward against illegal practices of the NYPD targeting my people unethically.
Salute to Officer Nakia Jones Officer Joe Crystal Fellow Marine & EX-Cop MIchael Wood. Retired Captain Ray Lewis. Former Police Chief Norm Stamper.
Officer Billy Ray Fields. & Officer Frank Serpico.
And every other officer who stands up & protects & serves, and upholds their oath, even if it’s protecting the people from one of their fellow officers.
Sincerely, Love Cosmo
A sacrifice for my people, & a sacrifice for the people.
-LOOK UP, GET UP, & DONT EVER GIVE UP!"