The Poly Spotlight

TRAGEDY: The city of Las Vegas suffered a recent shooting, raising new questions about how the media defines terrorism.

By Kaley Pederson and Kelsey Chamberlain, Staff Writers

The evening of Sunday, October 1, 2017 forced Route-91 Harvest Country Music Festival concertgoers into a state of panic, just hours before the formerly amazing weekend of food, country music, and good times was supposed to end. At 10:08 PM, Las Vegas police received reports of “multiple shots being heard from the direction of the Mandalay Bay,” says Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo. According to the Huffington Post, the night of terror that ensued brought with it 59 deaths and over five hundred injuries. The shooter was later identified as 64 year old Stephen Paddock, who had been staying inside the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel with 23 firearms, a few tripods, several scopes, and 12 rifles with bump stock additions, which are add-ons to a weapon that result in a quick fire of up to 1,000 bullets per minute.

Paddock, a resident of Mesquite, Nevada, had wired thousands of dollars to his girlfriend in the Philippines prior to the tragedy, possibly preparing her for his unprecedented future plans.  Paddock kept 47 firearms inside his home, varying from shotguns, rifles, and pistols. During his stay at the hotel, Paddock brought roughly 10 suitcases filled with firearms and placed several cameras outside the door of his room, giving him a view of who approached outside. Following the shooting, Paddock took his own life inside of his hotel room. Paddock had no background of being mentally ill, but this incident easily pushes him into that category.

Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo described Paddock as a “lone wolf,” and says, “I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath at this point.” U.S. media outlets such as USA Today have also used the term “lone wolf,” as well as saying Paddock “doesn’t fit [the] mass shooter profile.” “He displayed no strong religious or political views, his relatives said, and was not known for any angry outbursts,” said New York Times. Google search “Stephen Paddock” and you’ll find countless articles describing how he was an avid gambler, had a father who escaped from prison, and lived a quiet life. A few articles will inform you about Paddock lashing out at his girlfriend a couple of times or discuss his need for anxiety medication. However, the media has extreme difficulty painting him in any sort of light other than just slightly abnormal before he committed the crime. Many sources agree that if Paddock was a person of color or of Muslim profile, he would be portrayed much more harshly.

The September 2017 London train bombing was committed by Islamic terrorists, and President Trump used this to justify his travel ban from six Muslim countries, according to Independent UK. Following the incident, Trump tweeted, “Another attack in London by a loser terrorist[…]” and later followed up this tweet with another, saying, “The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific-but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!” Trump was quick to call the perpetrators of this attack “terrorists,” and discussed heightening his travel ban. Yet, following Paddock’s attack, Trump made no comment regarding possible gun control laws to make it more difficult to obtain guns, nor did he suggest any other possible solutions. He did, however, say Paddock’s shooting was “an act of pure evil,” although the word ‘terrorist’ was never used to describe him.

According to Merriam-Webster, the textbook definition of a terrorist is “the unlawful use or threat of violence especially against the state or the public as a politically motivated means of attack or coercion.” The definition clearly has no bias towards specific races or religions, and yet it seems the mass media has heavy difficulty plastering this label unto any attacker who is white. A prime example is the shooting that took place at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015, perpetrated by the young, white, and supposedly non-terrorist Dylann Roof. After taking 9 innocent lives in the hopes of starting a race war, Roof was described as a “possible terrorist” by a number of mass media outlets, and Jonathan Gillian of CNN said that Roof probably “[…]has some mental health issues” and that he didn’t know he’d done anything wrong (Washington Post). Post Nation sickeningly displays the refusal to pinpoint anything but mental health issues onto white shooters once again in its article, “‘I’m Just A Sociopath,’ Dylann Roof Declared After Deadly Church Shooting Rampage, Court Records Say.” The article discusses Roof describing his lack of remorse for his deeds, and mentions him poking fun at his psychiatrist’s diagnosis of autism, as he says, “I don’t have autism. I’m just a sociopath.” Senator Lindsey Graham topped it all off by saying Roof is, “[…] one of these whacked out kids.” Where is the word terrorism? How can Roof murder 9 innocent lives simply trying to partake in Bible study, with the intentions of starting a race war, and not be a terrorist, but simply just an autistic and “whacked out” kid?

If this is not a terrorist act then what is? What will draw this to the point of classification towards a terrorist act? Would Paddock have to be of another race or is white the new terror? White shooters are not simply crazy people we can’t control; they are terrorists just like any other shooters. The media portrays white shooters as some sort of rare breed, the odd kid out, the outlier product of a comfy environment, and yet according to CNN, white men commit 64% of U.S. mass shootings. The media’s sugar-coating of the profile’s of white perpetrators must come to an end. Stephen Paddock was a terrorist. He should not be remembered as a neighborly type of guy who snapped one day and lost it. How he spent his life prior to the shooting is irrelevant. He should be remembered as nothing but a purely evil terrorist; this should be the same for all people who cause trauma and scars in these heart-wrenching acts of violence America has come to know so well.

The horrific event shocked our Poly community, as several students and teachers attended the festival. Thankfully, no Poly students or staff were injured during the panic to escape. However, among the dead victims was 2015 Poly graduate Angela Gomez. She had gone to the concert with her boyfriend, Poly graduate Ethan Gonzalez, who helped carry Angie out of the disaster. Unfortunately, when it was time for surgery, Angela’s body underwent excessive trauma and she did not make it. Genuine sorrow is passed along towards the families who lost a loved one on this tragic evening, as well as heavy condolences to Angela Gomez’s family and loved ones.

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