Explainer: Why the western media refuses to call the Germanwings pilot a ‘terrorist'

Published: March 28, 2015

Twenty-eight-year-old German Andreas Lubitz was the co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525, flying on March 24 from Barcelona’s El Prat Airport to Dusseldorf Airport, when it crashed approximately 100 kilometres northwest of Nice in the French Alps.

A French prosecutor later said that information from the black box indicated that Lubitz locked out the other pilot, Patrick Sondenheimer, and then deliberately crashed the plane, killing all 144 passengers and 6 crew members on board.

Since then, the Western media has been trying to dig into Lubitz’ past and his beliefs in an attempt to find the motive for his actions, which come at an age when deliberately crashing a plane would usually be equated with a terrorist act by the international community, especially Europe and North America.

Here are some reasons why the media, especially in the West, is trying very hard not to label Lubitz a terrorist:

1. He is white and European. Not a brown-skinned Arab, Yemeni, Pakistani, Indonesian, Egyptian, Jordanian, or Syrian.



2. He is German; not a citizen of any Middle Eastern or Asian country dominated by those who profess the Islamic faith.

PHOTO: Telegraph

3. His first name is Andreas, not Omar, Osama or Ayman — and his last name is decidedly European-sounding. Even Obama would have a better chance of being branded a terrorist than someone whose last name is Lubitz.


4. The German pilot is not a member of the Islamic State, or al Qaeda, or the Taliban or any other group commonly associated with terrorism.


5. He doesn’t have a beard. By all accounts, and from the pictures circulating on the Internet, Lubitz never had a beard. In fact, the picture of his most widely circulated on the Internet shows him standing in front of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, smiling away — hardly terrorist material, one would say.


6. Lubitz suffers from depression and in fact his doctor is said to have indicated that he was unfit to be a pilot, a fact, media reports say, he hid from his employer. Seemingly, suffering from depression disqualifies you from being labeled a terrorist, even if your actions kill the lives of 149 other innocent people. Lubitz is in good company — before him Norwegian Anders Breivik, despite killing 69 Norwegian children at a summer camp in 2011 was hardly labeled a “terrorist”.


7. True to form, much of the Western media seems to have gone along with the line that if at all, his actions were solely his own and were not guided by any political agenda. This is usually referred to as the ‘lone wolf’ theory and suggests that the perpetrator of a major crime involving the killing of several people usually acts on his own.

The site of the Germanwings crash. PHOTO: QZ

This theory usually applies in the case of white males, and has been particularly successfully applied by the western media in cases of mass murder and killing in America. Take for instance the 1993 bombing in Okhlahoma, which leveled a US federal building, killing 168 people, and its perpetrators — Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols — were described by the media as lone wolves, despite the active presence of many rightwing/white supremacist militias in the US. The same kind of label was applied in other instances of mass murder in America carried out by white males, such as the Columbine school, Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook shootings.

Contrast this with the act of a lone gunman in Canada’s capital Ottawa on October 22, 2014, by a Muslim convert killing two people. The Canadian prime minister called the action by the perpetrator, a habitual offender and drug addict, an act of terrorism.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (29)

  • woody
    Mar 28, 2015 - 8:19PM

    Another shallow article implying that Western media is biased and picks on Muslims. No mention that this guy was mentally unstable and had been secretly seeing a psychiatrist, taking medication and hid a note from his Doctor which would have disqualified him from flying. Recommend

  • Abu Ali
    Mar 28, 2015 - 8:25PM

    He is not being labelled a terrorist because he is not a member of a bigger movement waging a holy war, spreading fear among the masses, in order to establish a new world order based on fear.Recommend

  • Khan
    Mar 28, 2015 - 8:49PM

    We are all due an apology! Either from Merkel or the head of the Jewish community. Rupert Murdoch will do too, but we need it now!! They need to accept the fact that these terrorists are one of them.Recommend

  • Pushtun Voice
    Mar 28, 2015 - 10:20PM

    I want an apology from that old shrivelled up prune, that waste of human skin, that energy sucking parasite called Rupert Murdoch.Recommend

  • Kaleem
    Mar 28, 2015 - 10:28PM

    According to the British press he did have a larger agenda. He wanted to be famous!Recommend

  • Lord of the Ring
    Mar 28, 2015 - 10:53PM

    Western media did not even recognize Anders Behring Breivik the mass murderer in Norway

    who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011 as a terrorist despite the fact that he was

    never proved to be “really” suffering from any psychological issues

    Even the Norway Government did not call that as

    an act of terrorism Recommend

  • tina
    Mar 28, 2015 - 11:59PM

    What nonsense!Recommend

  • BlackJack
    Mar 29, 2015 - 12:49AM

    Simple. Terrorists have a recognized cause and adopt outrageous means to further that cause. Even the Canadian ‘lone wolf’ had a cause. Did this co-pilot have a ‘recognized cause’ or a mental problem? The latter, I think. Are there individuals or organized taking credit or at the least inspired by his act? No such statement in the public domain. And while people in Europe grieve over the loss of innocent lives, people in Pakistan are up in arms because a white man wasn’t labelled a terrorist. Take a good look at yourselves in the mirror, and ponder on why non-Muslims find it difficult to ascribe human values to you people.Recommend

  • Dr. Asad Sadick, Germany
    Mar 29, 2015 - 12:57AM

    It’s paranoid to label Lubitz as a terrorist. Terrorists have an agenda, driven by wrong understanding and interpretation of Islam. Lubitz acted alone and it is still to be established whether he was so mentally deranged to act the way he did. He surely had a psychiatric disorder. Investigations are still ongoing.Recommend

  • Mar 29, 2015 - 3:32AM

    Actually, there’s just one reason the media refuses to call it terrorism. Because it doesn’t fit the definition. Terrorism needs a political motive. Lone wolf is beside the point.

    There is one standard. Any act to coerce and terrorize that has a political motive is terrorism. Simple murder does not equal terrorism, no matter how gruesome or massive. Lone wolf acts can be terrorism (Timothy McVeigh or Anders Breivik or the Boston Marathon bombers or the Charlie Hebdo massacre) if they have a political motive. Which they did.

    Sandy Hook had no political motive, it was just sick and tragic. It wasn’t terrorism.

    If the terror does not have a political motive, it is not terrorism. If the German pilot’s acts lacked political motive, it’s tragedy. Simple. Why is that so hard to understand?Recommend

  • David Salmon
    Mar 29, 2015 - 3:34AM

    A terrorist is a person who deliberately attacks innocent people for the purpose of promoting, through terror, an ideological or political cause. This purpose distinguishes him or her from ordinary mass murderers, such as the Norwegian mass murderer and this pilot. None of the characteristics named in this article are pertinent to terrorism except number 7 and perhaps number 4. Terrorists can be white, beardless, or depressed, and still be a terrorist if they have a political or ideological/religious motive.

    Likewise, a soldier is not a terrorist even if he kills innocent people, provided he follows the laws of war, which permit killing the innocent when incidental to a legitimate military object, but bar deliberate killing of prisoners and civilians except as incidental to a military purpose.

    It would help defeat terrorism if people understood this distinction, instead of mixing soldiers, murderers and terrorists in an apparent effort to excuse the terrorists among them by claiming the West has a double standard. It does not. It has several standards, each appropriate to its context.Recommend

  • Iqbal
    Mar 29, 2015 - 3:36AM

    The Oxford dictionary defines terrorism as:
    “The unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims”
    Andreas Lubitz was a loner and did not have any political agenda. Therefore, he was not a terrorist under the terms. However, it seems that under the definition of some medieval times he may be but he is NOT under the definition of the Oxford dictionary.
    I have accepted he was not a terrorist (unlike OBL who had a political agenda) and it is time readers accepted that.
    I note the author has not been named. I assume who ever wrote this article has an IQ of single digit. He or she wanted to play the race card. That is a little rich in a country where non muslims do not have the same rights as muslims.Recommend

  • reader
    Mar 29, 2015 - 3:54AM

    I think problem is not with Western media. But problem is, that you don’t know the correct meaning of the word “terrorism”. In fact, even all dictionaries of the world are ignorant of correct meaning of word “terrorism”.
    Word “terrorism” correct definition is:

    Any act of violence done by Muslim person or entity which may be utilizable in defaming Muslims or Islam; or, any such act done by any other entity but with sufficient consensus among mainstream media to attribute such act to Muslim person or entity. (e.g. 9/11 acts)

    Therefore, this GermanWings was not an act of terrorism; you are not aware of correct definition of term “terrorism”.Recommend

  • Jack
    Mar 29, 2015 - 6:28AM

    Worst article ever.

    Implicit in the term terrorism is the notion of inciting a reaction from the population as a result of the terrorist act. It doesn’t have to be religious it can be merely political, or have elements of both. Take for example the IRA.
    Re ‘white’ lone wolf attacks. Virginia Tech? The guy’s name was Cho Seung-Hui and he was Korean.

    This article is a disgrace. Recommend

  • rama
    Mar 29, 2015 - 6:38AM

    First author has to understand, terrorism/terrorist are the once that was driven any ideology. Get the facts before commenting on any events .Recommend

  • TooTrue
    Mar 29, 2015 - 6:52AM

    What unmitigated rubbish. And what on earth is an “Explainer”? The English language refuses to recognize it as one of its own.Recommend

  • SAM
    Mar 29, 2015 - 8:20AM

    Why the western media refuses to call the Germanwings pilot a ‘terrorist’ – because he didn’t do it for 72 virgins.You genius! Recommend

  • observer
    Mar 29, 2015 - 9:23AM


    “The Oxford dictionary defines terrorism as:
    “The unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims””

    Ideological pursuits should also be included in the definition. Recommend

  • yo2da2
    Mar 29, 2015 - 10:44AM

    @woody: I agree. There have been too many blogs (the author of this was not even identified) based on nothing but a twisting of straight news into some sinister or dark “plot” by someone out there (including a monolith called “news media”) that somehow defames or undermines or disagrees with some gatekeeper’s orthodoxies or biases. I am glad to see so many commenters shred the very premise of the blog to pieces. That’s a service in itself.Recommend

  • Shivalingam
    Mar 29, 2015 - 11:32AM

    Simply change the name of the pilot from Andreas Lubitz to Ahmed Bin Laden and he would easily qualify to be labelled as a ‘terrorist’ according to the western media standards regardless of his medical or psychological conditions or lack of any political motive.Recommend

  • Shivalingam
    Mar 29, 2015 - 11:40AM

    As per western standards of morality there are two kinds of bad guys.

    1) Bad bad-guys
    2) Good bad-guys

    To earn a Bad bad-guy label you have to kill hundreds of innocent people and MUST be a Muslim at the time of the crime

    To earn a Good bad-guy label you have to kill hundreds of innocent people and MUST not be a Muslim at the time of crime

    Therefore, Andreas qualify for the number two slot.Recommend

  • Ammar Zaheer
    Mar 29, 2015 - 6:06PM

    I believe the important thing to note here is that terrorists are also psychopaths and just have a bigger following or group to associate to. I wouldn’t call this person a terrorist, but i would like to call people who killed innocent children in Peshawar (etc. etc.) as individuals with mental problems.

    The only way to eradicate the so-called terrorism is to understand the root cause for this MENTAL PROBLEM.Recommend

  • Mar 29, 2015 - 9:34PM

    @Lord of the Ring:
    Google “Anders Breivik terrorist” and see how wrong your comment is. He is labeled as a “terrorist” on his Wikipedia page and throughout countless news articles from around the world. Government officials from Norway to the USA also refer to him as a terrorist.Recommend

  • p ram
    Mar 29, 2015 - 9:55PM

    So how does everyone automatically know this guy did not recently convert to Muslim and is a lone wolf? The point is if his skin were brown those suspisions would be there ubless he was prove innocent. This Pos gets the benefit of the doubt from his white brothers though. Recommend

  • Faraz Talat
    Mar 30, 2015 - 1:21AM

    The lack of creativity in this article is astonishing.

    1) He’s European
    2) He’s German
    3) He’s white
    4) Did we mention he’s white?
    5) Did we say he’s both white and German?
    6) He’s non-Muslim.
    7) Is this list not over yet? How much longer till the word limit? Perhaps I should summarize.

    A veritable clap-trap for the masses hoping to flaunt their victim-hood card. The eight reason, of course, is that the media isn’t being hypocritical this time. The person had no discernible political/religious motives; no affiliation to a terrorist organization; no demands. They refuse to call him a terrorist, because he isn’t.Recommend

  • shaharyar
    Mar 30, 2015 - 9:03AM

    Please correct that ‘Take for instance the 1993 bombing in Okhlahoma The bombing of Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City happened on April 19, 1995 and not in 1993. Thanx.Recommend

  • Martin
    Mar 31, 2015 - 1:47AM

    @Dr. Asad Sadick, Germany:
    Really? Solely and only “of Islam”? Why not of Hinduism or any other faith?Recommend

  • Jamal Gill
    Mar 31, 2015 - 4:08AM

    I wouldn’t call him a terrorist. Better yet I will call him a coward. He wanted to kill himself and instead took the lives of 149 innocent people along with him. I want all you bloggers to tell the families of those 149 people who maybe never even saw him, that he didn’t commit a terrorist act. Did his act not terrorize many many families by ripping their love ones from them so sudden and untimely. For me folks i think that is terror. We are always so quick to comment when the shoe is not on our feet. As far as I am concern Lubitz and his employee – by lacking due diligence – committed a horrible act on that day. May those other 149 people rest in peace.Recommend

  • Zafar
    Apr 2, 2015 - 4:52PM

    Because he is white and white is right …. they cannot be terrorists!!!Recommend

More in World