When the Oregon standoff started and left-wingers took to social media to call the protesters “terrorists,” I found the name-calling ridiculous…but also a little confusing.
This was coming from the same political movement that is for providing billions of dollars to Iran, advocates negotiating with the Taliban, and whose practical solutions for Palestine always involve bringing Hamas to the table. So, naturally I assumed these social media posts were a call to bring the ranchers to the White House for negotiations or give them billions in bailouts…
All joking aside, I don’t agree with the Oregon group’s tactics, but they made clear in public statements to media they were not interested in beginning any conflict. Rather, they were carrying firearms to protect themselves in the event that government agents opened fire on them. That’s a sentiment liberals who are still protesting police brutality ought to appreciate.
More importantly, calling these people “terrorists” is outrageous. They occupied an otherwise unoccupied federal wilderness area. They literally displaced nobody in their daily routine. The actions of students at Yale, Mizzou, and Princeton were far more violent than the Oregon group. So were the protesters in Ferguson and Black Lives Matter at Bernie Sanders rallies. I haven’t even mentioned the easiest left-wing targets, like anti-Walker protesters in Wisconsin, Code Pink and PETA.
In other words, any definition of “terrorist” that describes the Oregon group will also fit groups the media (and political left) like to call “protesters.”
In short, “terrorist” is not the right word, and using it is offensive.
The word “protester” (as we currently use it) is a much better fit. However, I’m open to some sort of middle ground. The truth is that we probably need a new term that describes groups who use any form of force to silence or intimidate others who hold opposing views. Such groups should be distinguished from “protesters,” but we need a better word than “terrorist.” Even if you profoundly disagree with one of the above-mentioned groups, comparing them to Al Qaeda, Timothy McVeigh, or Hamas does not pass the smell test.
I’ll leave it to better minds to come up with a different phrase, but it seems obvious that we should distinguish violent protesters who forcibly occupy or destroy property, chill speech, and otherwise harass individuals from peaceful individuals who non-violently disagree.
Until we find that term, “protester” will have to suffice.