columnist Susan Nielsen
on Sunday took a whack
at explaining the difference between the Pioneer Courthouse Square
Bruce and Joshua Turnidge
are right-wing fanatics who spew anti-government rhetoric. They are charged with setting a bomb at a Woodburn bank in 2008 that killed two police officers.
Mohamed Osman Mohamud
is a Somali immigrant who spews anti-government rhetoric. He allegedly tried to blow up Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square last month with a fake bomb the FBI gave him.
The Turnidges are being tried in state court on murder charges, and almost no one outside Oregon is aware of the case. Mohamud is up on terrorism charges in federal court and is in the middle of comment by national pundits.
Nielsen writes that the difference "may seem arbitrary or racist." But she argues it's actually based on "the basic human struggle to figure out what to fear."
Retired political science professor Michael Munk
of Southwest Portland has a different take in a Dec. 7 letter he wrote to The O
and copied to WW
. Munk says the media can't deny its responsibility for shaping public perception of the two cases.
Here is Munk's letter in full:
To the editor, The Oregonian
Susan Nielsen raises a very important question but fails to answer it adequately. She asks why an actual bomb that kills two lawmen is perceived by the public as a simple bank job when carried out by a white middle-aged far right ideologue and his patsy son.
In the other case, a FBI fake bombing in which the only violence is visited on innocent Muslims as a consequence of the story is perceived as another scary terrorist plot.when the FBI finds a foreign-born teenage Muslim to carry out their scheme. For Nielsen, the answer is "just human" [nature?].
Really? Then on what do humans rely to form those perceptions? Better look to how the media--including The Oregonian—present the two "Oregon bombs,"one real, the other fake. The Woodburn murders are not covered as a terrorist bombing trial of a because a county prosecutor choose to downplay the ideology of the defendants. But the Christmas tree non-bomb is reported as a federal level terrorist plot against thousands of innocent Oregonians by a Muslim jihadist brainwashed by foreign websites.
Perhaps the larger reason the Woodburn bombers are not depicted as terrorists is because their ideology actually reflects that of a significant minority of American opinion which the media and the prosecutor cannot afford to challenge, while the foreign born Muslim fits the media-constructed symbol of a marginalized but frightening "enemy" perfectly.