CNN’s debate Tuesday night was billed as a debate focusing on national security, foreign policy and terrorism. As CNN‘s Wolf Blitzer said as he introduced the questioning:
Since you last debated, Americans have witnessed terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. The FBI director says the country now faces the greatest terror threat since 9/11. You all have different approaches to keeping the country safe. And that will be the focus of tonight’s debate.
A large part of the two-hour ordeal was consumed by “Islamic terrorism” and the threat posed by the Islamic State, nominally in response to the Paris and San Bernardino attacks. The candidates fell over each other to see who could be tougher on “radical Islamic violence,” pushing for more bombing (in the case of Ted Cruz, more “carpet bombing”), more surveillance, more racial profiling and more curbing of free speech.
Missing entirely from this debate, however, was the very real threat posed by white terrorism. (“Terrorism” is a term thinking people could in general do without, but for purposes of consistency I’ll use it here to describe sub-state political violence.) The justification for this omission is entirely unclear.
Certainly it wasn’t, as some proposed, because the debate was focused on “foreign threats.” Indeed, this would have excluded the San Bernardino attack, which was homegrown, according to the FBI–yet merited 18 mentions. Indeed, Ben Carson began the debate doing his best James Cameron impression and calling for a somewhat awkward moment of silence for the victims of the San Bernardino killings.
None of CNN’s moderators, nor any of the nine candidates, mentioned the very real threat posed by white political violence. None mentioned the racist terrorism of Dylann Roof, who killed nine African-Americans in Charleston South Carolina. None mentioned the Christian terrorism of Robert Dear, who attacked a Planned Parenthood last month, killing three and injuring 14 others. None mentioned that fact that in the 14 years since 9/11, white terrorism has killed more Americans in the United States than Jihadist terrorism.
In a two-hour debate with over 20,000 words spoken, there was not one mention of “Charleston” or “Planned Parenthood,” or any reference to white or Christian terrorism. For CNN, the issue of terrorism is limited only to those who exercise political grievances violently and also have brown skin.
Also left unmentioned was gun violence and climate change–both a threat to safety and global security. (John Kasich did make a disparaging reference to the recent UN summit on global warming: “And when I see they have a climate conference over in Paris, they should have been talking about destroying ISIS.”) With the exception of Rand Paul, who made a passing reference to Obama flooding Syria with arms, no candidate–and, again, no CNN moderator–mentioned America’s epidemic of gun violence or the pending dangers of global, catastrophic climate change.
This can be expected from the GOP, who live in an alternate reality where neither gun violence or climate change exists, but what’s CNN’s excuse? The cable network prides itself on being “down the middle” and nonpartisan. If this is the case, then why did they accept the deluded Republican premise that the only threats facing the United States are from scary foreigners, Russia, Muslims and homegrown ISIS wannabes?
Adam H. Johnson is an associate editor at AlterNet and writes frequently for FAIR.org. Follow him on Twitter at @adamjohnsonnyc.