Was the Germanwings Co-Pilot a Terrorist?

Antara Murshed

Antara Murshed is a sophomore environmental science major.

Andreas Lubitz, a twenty-eight year old pilot, crashed a Germanwings plane into the French Alps, killing all 149 people on board. Evidence from an audio recorder in the cockpit establishes the other pilot was locked out of the cockpit and that Lubitz may have intentionally crashed the plane. The recording indicated that Lubitz ignored all of the attempts air-traffic control made to contact the plane. He also ignored the other pilot’s attempts to open the cockpit door and the screams of the passengers. Lubitz’s was completely silent and his breathing remained stable. This chilling recording and the loss of 150 lives has authorities and various media outlets scrambling to find out who this pilot really was and his possible motivation. Yet, if Andreas Lubitz was not a white man from Europe, and was a man of color instead, he would not be as widely humanized in the media as he is currently being portrayed.

It is interesting to see how different news outlets have been interpreting the little information they do have about this mysterious and devastating airplane crash. The New York Times has published various information about Lubitz, with topics ranging from his reported vision problems and hidden mental illness to the brief time he worked at a Burger King to his different romantic involvements. BBC provided that he was interested in competitive running and pop music. Is this completely relevant to the tragedy that has occurred? Other more right wing media outlets, like Conservative Byte and The Gateway Pundit have been stating outright that Andreas Lubitz used his interrupted time from pilot training to convert to Islam and that his intentional crashing of the aircraft was motivated by his involvement with extremist Islamist groups. Lubitz was not Muslim, and the idea of him identifying as Muslim came from a misinterpretation of a German blog that was speculating his religion, since terrorism was a possible explanation for his motive for crashing the plane. Far-reaching conclusions and arbitrary Islamophobia aside, the question arises, is his religion relevant? The media has shared much detail about Lubitz’s life that is now accessible by the public and allows them to draw the conclusions they want to about this man who killed over a hundred innocent people. However, the relevance of this information is questionable. Do we really need to know that he dated a blond woman for several years or that he was a punctual employee?

In most cases, Andreas Lubitz is not being described as a terrorist. We simply do not know if he is a terrorist and labeling him as such is difficult from a legal perspective because the different intergovernmental organizations define the word differently. However, there is consensus to foundationally define terrorism as the use of violence to further political aims and there is no evidence that Lubitz had political aims. However, if Lubitz were a man of color he would not be given the same humanization in news outlets. When men of color are found to be guilty of crimes, they are not given the same detailed description of their lives and are more likely to be criminalized. In this particular case, there is evidence that Lubitz really was depressed and that his pilot’s license indicated that he had a medical condition.  If there were going to any digression from the fact that Andreas Lubitz is a killer, it could be about the stigma surrounding mental illness and how investigators found evidence that Lubitz was trying to hide his illness. The somber truth is that Andreas Lubitz was depressed but what is unforgivable is that he decided to kill 150 innocent people along with himself, and regardless of circumstance, that is an atrocious crime.

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