April 20, 2012
President Obama has repeatedly claimed that the Boston Marathon bombing was an “act of terror” and that its alleged perpetrators are “terrorists.”Read the rest here.
It may seem pointless to quibble with this description: after all what could be more “terroristic” than setting off bombs at a peaceful sporting event killing three persons, one a child, and injuring or horrifically maiming dozens more?
But in fact how the act is described is very important in determining government, media and wider societal responses, including ramping up racism and bigotry against Muslims, Arabs or people of color.
There can be no doubt that the Boston Marathon bombing was a murderous act, but does it –– based on what is known –– fit the US government’s own definitions of “terrorism”?
It is important to recall that other, far more lethal recent events, including the mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado and the school massacre at Sandy Hook, Connecticut have not been termed “terrorism,” nor their perpetrators labeled “terrorist” by the government. Why?
Also see Glenn Greenwald's article in The Guardian entitled: "Why is Boston 'Terrorism' But Not Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson and Columbine?" (April 22, 2012).
Comment: Simply put the answer is because the Tsarnaev brothers identified themselves as being Muslim.
Calling Boston terrorism but seeing the Sandy Hook (26 killed), for example, as the act of a lone gunmen with mental deficits fits the script of a long and worn out racist narrative.
The question of a political motive is nonetheless important. But bear in mind the Tsarnaev brothers are alleged bombers and the issue of any motive let alone a political one is simply unknown.
Calling them terrorists in these terms - and denying the surviving brother his Miranda rights as an American citizen - is purely a matter of knee-jerk racism.
If they were not Muslim the state would be trying to figure out where they went wrong: what personal calamities might have played a factor and, of course, questions of mental health would be in the forefront.
The unspoken but obvious assumption in Boston is that they know where they went wrong - Islam is to be blamed. Proving guilt is reserved elsewhere.