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US Media Mostly Ignore Bomb Exploded Outside NAACP Office in Colorado Springs

A bomb was detonated late in the morning on January 6 in Colorado Springs against the exterior of a building, where a local NAACP chapter’s office is located. The FBI, including the agency’s own Joint Terrorism Task Force, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives were on the scene very soon afterward to investigate the explosion. And, yet, this attack was not immediately headline news for all Americans.

Searching through transcripts, it does not appear that CNN or MSNBC reported the bombing during any of their January 6 broadcasts. It was not mentioned by local news network affiliates during their broadcasts (except for in the region local to Colorado Springs). It was reported by the Associated Press, but the New York Times used a paragraph summary from the AP instead of producing their own coverage.

The Washington Post published a report from AP, however, eventually the media organization published a post on the kind of context this type of incident deserves: the history of violence against the NAACP for its work to achieve civil rights for black people.

There were no injuries from the blast that went off. The wall of the building was charred. An individual had placed a gas can next to an explosive but FBI officials said the gas can had not been ignited by the explosion.

Neighbors nearby “saw a Caucasian gentleman get into a white truck,” according to Gene Southerland, the owner of Mr. G’s Hair Design Studios, which is in the same building as the NAACP office. The FBI indicated it was searching for a “balding white man in his 40s who may be driving a dirty, 2000 or older model, white pickup truck with paneling, an open tailgate and a missing or covered license plate.”

As noted by the Post’s Lindsey Bever, the NAACP has survived numerous violent attacks against its organization since it started in 1909, particularly from the Ku Klux Klan. A founder of the NAACP’s Florida State Conference, Henry T. Moore and his wife, Harriette, were assassinated on Christmas night in 1951. They were both schoolteachers and had been fighting against lynchings, police brutality and segregation in schools.

Henry Allen Jr., who is the president of the NAACP chapter, declared after the bombing, “We don’t give up the struggle, apparently we are doing something correct. Apparently, we have the attention of someone that knows we are working for civil rights for all. That is making some people uncomfortable so, therefore, they feel the need to target.”

Why wasn’t this featured more prominently during television news broadcasts yesterday? Is it merely because no one was killed or injured and there was fortunately no blood shed?

How come this isn’t being reported by US media as an attempted act of terrorism? Does it have anything to do with the fact that the person suspected of setting off what the FBI called an “improvised explosive device” is not a brown-skinned Muslim man?

It does fit a kind of pattern. Last year, a white middle-aged gunman who was anti-immigrant went on a rampage firing 100 rounds at downtown buildings in Austin around 2 am. He tried to torch a Mexican consulate building before being shot and killed by police. He somehow injured nobody. And not a single US media outlet suggested this was terrorism.

In September, a white Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) contractor named Brian Howard used his “intimate knowledge” and set fire to an air navigation facility. “He cut every radar feed to FAA air controllers before setting gas-soaked rags on fire near sensitive equipment and also damaged the communications system,” ABC News reported. He then tried to kill himself.

The attack wound up canceling or delaying thousands of flights in and out of Chicago, but a police chief labeled the act an “isolated incident” and not a “terrorist act.” Media accepted it was not terrorism.

Facebook postings from Howard show what drove him to attack the facility was his belief that the US government is currently a government “by the people, for the people and of the people which right now equates to immoral and unethical acts. That’s why terrorists and 3rd world nations hate us, because our tax dollars go to more unrest than rest.”

The Justice Department has used this type of political view against poor, young Muslim men who never even came close to carrying out any sort of attack but were targeted by FBI sting operations. This view has helped the government cast these individuals as terrorists but somehow this man is just a mentally ill and disgruntled contractor.

It would seem there is a white privilege to engage in violent attacks, whether they be against the NAACP, FAA or Mexican consulate, and not be immediately labeled a terrorist or accused of terrorism.

Another point worth making relates to the restraint or ignorance of US establishment media. The natural question to pose in the immediate aftermath is, does this mean civil rights groups have to fear more attacks? A person from the FBI or a pundit could appear on television to break down any threat that may have escalated since groups began to escalate their activism since Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, etc, were killed by police.

There is all this focus on the “Blue Panic,” how police officers all over the country fear that they are now going to be targeted and killed. Pundits are commenting on whether it is appropriate for police to not do their job because they cannot be safe and people are even going so far as to blame protests against police violence.

If the issue of whether protests have inflamed the population against police and convinced individuals to attack officers is worth highlighting on television, then it is most certainly reasonable to expect the same attention to be given to whether there is reason to fear an uptick in violent attacks from racists or white nationalists.

This issue should be explored and media should even be asking why police and the FBI are not cracking down on more racists or white nationalists who may be using social media to threaten violence against individuals or groups involved in organizing against police brutality. After all, they have been cracking down on people who engage in extreme anti-cop speech online, fearing any of them could assassinate a police officer if they are not arrested and stopped immediately.

The same caution should be applied to extremists threatening acts against people they see as organizing against police or else these arrests—many of them questionable because they appear to undermine the First Amendment by criminalizing speech—should not be occurring.

Finally, individuals are just as likely to attack police as they are to set off bombs against civil rights groups. Media should recognize this fact and adjust their focus on all of the above mentioned issues accordingly.

Creative Commons Licensed Photo on Flickr by Jason Valas

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."