IT’S STRANGE HOW some things really catch on and go viral and others don’t. These days, nothing quite makes a story blow up — no pun intended — like the president’s fixation with it. That’s why it’s so peculiar that what sure looks like an attempted terrorist attack was narrowly thwarted at an American airport this past Friday without so much as peep from Donald Trump about it. No tweets. No nicknames for the alleged would-be-terrorist. Nothing. You’ll see why in a minute.
On past Friday morning, at 12:39 a.m., security footage from the Asheville Regional Airport in North Carolina showed a man walking through the front doors wearing black clothing and a black cap, while carrying a bag. “Based on a review of the video, the individual walked near the entrance to the terminal, went out of sight momentarily, and was then seen departing the area without the bag,” according to the criminal complaint.
Following the Transportation Security Administration’s protocols, airport security allowed a bomb dog to sniff the bag for explosives and the dog signaled to the team the presence of dangerous materials in the bag. The concourse was then shut down. The street leading to the airport was shut down. And Asheville Regional Airport officials found themselves in a dangerous emergency situation.
What investigators eventually found in the bag was AN/FO (Ammonium Nitrate/Fuel Oil) explosives that, according to the criminal complaint, have been used “in a number of terrorist-related incidents around the world. When AN/FO comes into contact with a flame or other ignition source it explodes violently. Nails or ball bearings are often items added to the device so as to increase the devastation inflicted by the explosion.”
In fact, sharp nails and bullets were found in this improvised explosive device. Whoever built it designed the bomb to cause horrific bodily harm. Before disarming it, authorities discovered that the alarm attached to it was scheduled to go off at 6:00 a.m. that morning just as a fresh round of travelers was scheduled to arrive at the airport.
The man who planted it, it turns out, openly admitted to authorities that he was “preparing to fight a war on U.S. soil” and that this bomb was but one part of that war.
I bet you never heard about it. I keep an eye on these types of incidents closely and I didn’t hear about it. Someone who follows me online who happens to live in Asheville sent me the story this morning — shocked that it hadn’t gotten any play at all beyond a few mentions in the local paper and some isolated pickup by a few national outlets.
As soon as I clicked on the article, it all made perfect sense.
The story didn’t go viral and Trump didn’t tweet about it because the bomb was not placed by an immigrant, or a Muslim, or a Mexican. It was placed there by a good ol’ white man, Michael Christopher Estes. Unlike the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock, whose motive is still hard to discern, Estes wanted to be very clear that his ultimate goal was to accelerate a war on American soil.
Sorry if it sounds like you’ve heard this story before. I’m as tired of writing it as you are reading it, but you know good and well that if Estes was a young Muslim — hell, if he had ever even visited a mosque in the past 25 years — that Trump would be tweeting about him right this very moment to tout how essential a Muslim ban is for American safety.
A Muslim attacker’s mugshot would become a meme across the conservative media. Mainstream American outlets would be covering the heroic bravery of those who thwarted the terrorist plot. We’d all be seeing footage of the perpetrator being walked from the police car to the jail and from the jail to the court room. Out loud, people would talk and tweet about the man’s family and friends and networks — wondering where he was radicalized, and if anyone else feels the way he does.
In this case, though? Crickets. We hear nothing at all — almost exclusively because the man who planted an improvised explosive device, just like ones that have been used to murder and maim people all over the world, was white. His guilt starts and stops with him. His actions aren’t an indictment of his whole faith, political outlook, and race. White people aren’t, thanks to Estes, suddenly labeled terrorists or seen as a threat to American safety in the way that would almost certainly happen had it been anybody other than a white man.
This isn’t me calling for all of those things that happen to Muslims and immigrants every single day to now happen to Estes and white people all over the country. It’s me saying that the fundamentally bigoted double standard by which it is done to virtually everyone except for Michael Christopher Estes and other white men has to stop.
Top photo: A collage shows Michael Christopher Estes and a view of Asheville Regional Airport. (Photos: Google Maps, Buncombe County Detention Center)