He was a racist and a terrorist. He was an Islamophobe. He spread white supremacist memes. He used the terminology of the “alt-right.” He called Barack Obama a “lying piece of shit.”
You probably have no idea who I’m talking about, because when Matthew Riehl fired more than 100 bullets at Douglas County, Colo., sheriff’s deputies on Sunday, he was initially called the “Denver shooting suspect.” CNN described him as the “Colorado gunman.” Fox News described him as a “Wyoming lawyer.” The Associated Press highlighted his mental illness. Newsweek described him as an “Iraq veteran.”
Almost every major news outlet has reported how Riehl killed 29-year-old Deputy Zackari Parrish and wounded three other law enforcement officers outside of Denver, so you probably already know the story.
Except you don’t.
None of those outlets has called the incident a “terrorist attack.” Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock told CBS News that it was an “ambush-type of attack,” despite the fact that the Department of Homeland Security labeled a string of December shootings at Harrisburg, Pa., police officers a “terror attack.” But, to be fair, the perpetrator of that crime had a Muslim name.
Ahmed Amin El-Mofty, like Riehl, fired on cops. Authorities are still unsure of El-Mofty’s motivations, just as they don’t know what triggered Riehl. But even though there is no public evidence that connects El-Mofty to terrorism, he was an immigrant with “Middle East ties,” which automatically makes him a “suspect involved in a terror attack,” according to DHS spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton:
Law enforcement organizations have yet to attribute Riehl’s murderous rampage to the “Ferguson effect” or blame it on “Black Lives Matter.” I know what you’re thinking: “But was there any indication that Riehl had ties to Black Lives Matter?”
The answer is no. There is no evidence that Riehl was connected in any way to the Black Lives Matter movement. But there was also no evidence that Micah Johnson had any ties to the Black Lives Matter movement when he killed five Dallas policemen in 2016, except for the fact that conservative outlets made the connection even though the Dallas police chief explicitly said that Johnson had no connection with the group. Johnson never attended a Black Lives Matter meeting. He never identified himself as a member of BLM.
The charge is based on the unfounded allegations that Johnson supported Black Lives Matter in his social media posts (he did not). David Johnson, the Dallas police chief, even stated that Micah Johnson “said he was not affiliated with any groups, and the suspect said that he did this alone.”
But still, the rumor persists. This is the basis for the comparison of Black Lives Matter to the alt-right movement, or the willingness of conservatives and seasoned reporters to label it a “hate group.” Even though these conjectures are based on a lie, here’s what we know about Riehl:
We know that he posted rants about law enforcement officials on YouTube. We know he posted memes on Facebook of Pepe the Frog, a character that has been co-opted by the white supremacist online movement. We know that Riehl posted anti-Muslim cartoons that castigated diversity, a buzzword for the racist “white genocide” movement that believes multiculturalism and diversity are plots to destroy the white race.
Newsweek also describes Riehl’s online habits as sympathetic to the alt-right:
On his Facebook page, Riehl also posted articles from Breitbart News, which the outlet’s executive chairman, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, has called a “platform for the alt-right.”
Riehl also called President Barack Obama a “lying piece of shit” and posted photos of weapons training he received from Colorado’s Kenaz Tactical Group.
Before reading this article, did you remember Micah Johnson’s name? Did you even know about Ahmed Amin El-Mofty? Without an assist from Google, can you recall the name of the New York bicycle-park bomber? How about the Pulse nightclub shooter in Orlando, Fla.? Do they even have names? But I bet you remember Stephen Paddock. I bet you know who Dylann Roof is. They have names because they are singular white men who get the benefit of white individuality.
So if Riehl committed the same acts as a “terrorist,” then why isn’t he referred to as such? Why is he described more often as a mentally ill veteran and lawyer than as an anti-cop, white supremacist terrorist? He has as many “ties to the Middle East” as a man being investigated by Homeland Security. Riehl’s relationship to the neo-Nazi movement is more defined than Micah Johnson’s was with Black Lives Matter. Why does he get to even sidestep the label of “mass shooter”?
Because Reihl’s skin is not black. Because he doesn’t have a Muslim name. Because he doesn’t look like a bogeyman. Because Matthew Riehl gets the benefit of the doubt from the law, the general public and even the worldwide “liberal” press that black, brown and Muslim men are never afforded.
Because ... America.