It wasn’t long before pundits played the terrorist card in relation to the standoff between a group of ranchers and the US federal government at Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. In the Guardian, Wajahat Ali objected to the description of the ranchers as ‘militiamen’ rather than ‘terrorists’. ‘If the Oregon militiamen were Muslim or black’, Ali wrote, ‘they’d probably be dead by now’. A Washington Post reporter, Janell Ross, asked simply: ‘Why aren’t we calling the Oregon occupiers “terrorists”?’
What’s interesting about commentators’ attempts to represent a local dispute over land as morally equivalent to a jihadist terrorist attack is the cavalier, indiscriminate way in which they apply the label ‘terrorist’.