Washington D.C. Hit By Terrorist Attack!
An office building at 453 New Jersey Ave SE in Washington, D.C. was emptied when it became the target of a terrorist attack yesterday.
An envelope mailed to the building contained a white powder and a note reading, “Die a painful death, Muslims.” The building contains the offices of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines terrorism as “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion”.
Of all the journalists writing about this event, though, only one publication chose to refer to it as an act of terrorism: France 24 called it a “terror threat”. Other journalists described the attack as a reaction to terrorism rather than as an instance of terrorism.
Tal Kopan of CNN, for instance, wrote that “The evacuation comes amid rising tension in the U.S. over terror threats” – but never acknowledged that the evacuation was itself a terror threat. Instead, Kopan referred to the incident merely as “hate mail”.
The mail didn’t just express hatred, though. Hate mail might have said something like, “Muslims are vile dogs.” Instead, the letter described a “painful death” for Muslims, and contained a white powder.
In the past, envelopes with white powders containing deadly biological weapons or chemical weapons have been sent by terrorists. In this case, initial field tests indicate that the envelope did not contain any deadly materials. The point is, though, that the terrorist sought to create the impression that something like anthrax or ricin might be in the envelope, thus creating a threat of violence in the future. The attack thus instilled terror, for political aims, as a means of coercion. It was a death threat. It was terrorism.
What kind of person uses terrorism in response to terrorism?
Other acts of terrorism in the United States yesterday, none described by reporters as terrorism:
– Warren Central Junior High School was evacuated after it was discovered that a student had brought a bomb to school
– a pipe bomb exploded inside a home in Northfield, Vermont, injuring four people
– Fairborn High School in Dayton, Ohio, was evacuated after receiving the threat of a bomb attack