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The Las Vegas Shooting, Stephen Paddock, and the White Privilege of the ‘Lone Wolf’

The Las Vegas Shooting, Stephen Paddock, and the White Privilege of the ‘Lone Wolf’

Rabat – Stephen Paddock. He has already become a household name amongst Americans. As the Washington Post put it, he was a 64-year-old man who “enjoyed gambling and kept to himself before the massacre.” On the night of October 1, 2017, he committed the largest mass shooting in United States history.

Las Vegas, Stephen Paddock, US shooting, Terrorism
An undated photo of Stephen Paddock, suspected gunman in the Oct. 1, 2017, Las Vegas mass shooting. Photo credit: CBS.

Something missing from the media discussion of Paddock is the lack of the words “terrorism” or “domestic terrorist” that would usually be highlighted by United States news outlets. By all definitions of the term domestic terrorist, Paddock meets every requirement. But as Trump says, “we are dealing with a very, very sick individual,” and called Paddock “a sick man, a demented man.”

According to Sheriff Joseph Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan police department, Paddock was a “Lone Wolf.”

This poses a problem in the treatment of how the American news outlets portrays white terrorists versus their browner counter parts. According to the FBI, 94 percent of terrorist attacks from the 1980s to 2005 have been committed by non-Muslim terrorists.

Many fake stories associated Stephen Paddock with ISIS because they had claimed the attack, but the FBI later concluded that there was no relation and that the attack was not done in the name of radical Islam.

So why is this an issue of how news outlets portray white shooters versus their brown or Muslim attackers? The issue comes in part to the way in which we view race, religion, and privilege. White shooters are granted a pardon due to their apparent emotional or mental issues. They are given the privilege of being seen as a lone actor, uninfluenced by the world around them. They are also not seen as a threat once they have passed. They give them a name, notoriety for their heinous crimes. They are famous for their acts of terrorism but are never once called domestic terrorists. Muslim actors are seen as the larger issue.

As Trump has said after the Orlando shooting, “appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness and vigilance. We must be smart.”

Here he is referring to the “Muslim” travel ban. The difference between the way the media and the president refer to the Orlando shooting comes down to individuality. Stephen Paddock is seen as a one man wonder; he is a man that does represent the many, but as a man who was sick and acted on his own, “a lone wolf.” Omar Mateen represents the whole of Islam, a representative of an ideology, a man who speaks for more than 1.3 billion people. He is not a lone wolf; he is a cancer that will spread amongst others who believe in his faith. This effects the American media framework. We speak about Mateen as a domestic terrorist who was not sick, but acted as he should, as he is meant to, because many see that he is inherently going to be a terrorist due to his religion and race. On the other hand, Stephen Paddock acted outside of the norm; he was sick, he was demented and he stands alone, a white privileged man who is and always will be a Lone Wolf.

 

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