Was last week’s synagogue shooting a terrorist attack?

International media coverage has faced criticism over its failure to refer to last week’s Pittsburgh synagogue shooter as a ‘terrorist’. How do people in Cardiff view the media’s response, and the coverage of terrorism more generally?

A vigil is held outside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh to mourn the 11 victims of Saturday’s shooting.

Eleven victims were gunned down on Saturday morning when an attacker opened fire in a US synagogue.

Robert Bowers entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh at 10:00am armed with three handguns and an assault rifle, killing people as they got together for their weekly congregation.

The victims included 8 men and 3 women, the oldest of whom was 97-year-old Rose Mallinger. A further 6 people are still being treated for injuries in hospital.

In the week since the attack there has been criticism online and in several newspapers over the media’s failure to label it as terrorism, despite Bowers’ long history of anti-Semitism and the fact his attack fits the legal definition of terrorism in the US.

Here in Cardiff we talked to people on the street to hear their opinions on whether or not the media should be referring to it as a ‘terrorist attack’, how they feel about the coverage of terrorism more generally, and what actually defines ‘terrorism’.

Ondrea, Cardiff, trainee actor

“How can people not call this not a terrorist attack? I think the media likes to take people from certain backgrounds, often Muslims, and paint them as terrorists. But terrorists can be anyone from anywhere. If you’re terrorising people by committing an act of violence then you are a terrorist. But unfortunately white people committing acts of terror aren’t really described as ‘terrorists’ by the media.”

Carsten, Cardiff, university lecturer

“No, the media should not refer to this as a terrorist attack. He [Bowers] is a murderer and should be treated as such. Labelling it as ‘terrorism’ gives the attacker a sense of authority and plays into his hands. However, there is a risk that those affected by attacks such as this may feel they are not being treated seriously enough if the press fails to refer to them as ‘terrorism’, as this term is used so often by the media at the moment.”

Corin, Oxford, university student

“Yes, the media should definitely refer to this event as a terrorist attack. My understanding of a terrorist attack is someone setting out to cause harm and terror, regardless of the background of the attacker or victims.”

Sam, Newport, market retailer

“Yes, it should be labelled as terrorism. If there were different circumstances or it were the other way around, with a religious person carrying out the attack, it would be labelled as terrorism. The media wouldn’t even think twice then – they would immediately call it a terrorist attack.”

Wingylam, Hong Kong, school student

“No, this is not terrorism and the media shouldn’t call it that. Yes, people were killed because of someone acting on their beliefs, but I’m pretty sure terrorism is about more than just that.”

Ben, North West England, university student

“Yes, this is definitely terrorism. It was an attack directed at a specific religion and the culprit has links to white nationalism. Failing to refer to it as terrorism and making out that mental health issues or gun laws are to blame, as the media often does in cases such as this, undermines the real threat posed by white nationalism.”


Featured image: Governor Tom Wolf, Flickr