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Terrorism 3, Boston 1

Updated on May 14, 2013

When Terror Wins; What is Terrorism Anyway?

Terrorism came out of Boston as the only winner in the overly-amped, maudlin media circus that followed the Boston Marathon bombings. The two Chechen perpetrators did nothing but hurt any larger causes, such as Chechnya's independence movement or gaining worthy converts to Islam. Still, the effects of their amateurish explosives can only encourage would-be terrorists. Despite claims to the contrary by politicians and media types - "We can't change our lives dramatically or the terrorists win" - the terrorists won in Boston.

Any claim to the contrary is wishful thinking. And not because of the physical violence that resulted. Three deaths and 180 injured are not to be dismissed, but based strictly on numbers, the fertilizer plant explosion two days later in West, Texas, dwarfed what happened in Boston yet received less than a tenth - and probably far less than that - of the media coverage from Boston. In the Texas explosion, 14 died and more than 200 were injured.

On pure statistical comparison, the Richmond Hills housing addition blast on the southside of Indianapolis last fall, perpetrated by two apparently greedy airheads, nearly equaled the destruction of the Boston bombing. Two died in Richmond Hills, while 32 homes were destroyed. The home blast story - a fraudulent attempt to collect insurance money via a gas leak explosion - seems every bit as criminal, gutless, and unnecessary as what the Chechen brothers unleashed on Boston. Yet, one act is labeled "terrorism," while the other is not. One act leads the media into a ceaseless feeding frenzy while the other doesn't. It made me wonder why, especially given that the explosion in Texas had actually eclipsed the horror in Boston by a great margin.

Okay, the Boston Marathon is a sporting event but to call it a "major sporting event," as the media did repeatedly, seems a stretch. When's the last time you thought or cared about the Boston Marathon? Unless you're a long-distance running phenom, the answer would be never. [Quick, name one winner of the Boston Marathon, ever.]

The frenzied coverage afforded this event would seem to attract, rather than detract, potential zealots toward similar future acts. Any disaffected asshole with an ax to grind can look to Boston as a blueprint for a low-cost, low-tech, high impact exercise in solid public relations for his or her cause. The perpetrator of mindless violence then becomes martyred to others globally and domestically with similar axes to grind. And the city of Boston did itself no favors either in playing out this sordid episode. Celtics NBA game canceled, Red Sox baseball game canceled, the city under lockdown for an entire day, the blast area closed for business for a week. The more daily life was allowed to be disrupted, the greater the victory for terrorism. Meanwhile, the 24-hour news cycle relayed the coverage non-stop, serving as the PR wing for terrorism.

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Words have power; no doubting it. "Terrorism" is a slippery concept to define and various people disagree on its meaning. Generally, a random act of violence has to be designed to make a political point for it to be labeled 'terrorism,' according to most sources. I have trouble with this criteria on several fronts. First, it absolves the military of ever committing any terrorist acts against civilians - instead, that's labeled as "total war," "friendly fire" or "collateral damage," in a clear attempt to buffer the horror [yes, the terror] inflicted and to keep the state the sole arbiter of 'legitimate force,' as if the actions of armies were elevated above terrorist considerations. It's a power play, and states attempt to monopolize power, but the notion that a misfired missile by an army doesn't terrorize the populace it kills and maims is obscene.

"Terrorism" implies a spread of fear, a lack of control over one's fate. The Texas fertilizer company explosion would seem to fit that category at least as much as the acts of the two Chechen extremists. Sandy Hook was terrorism, the Aurora theater shootings certainly were, and so is Richmond Hills by any reasonable interpretation of the word. But to be labeled so by the media here, its purveyors need some sort of perceived political/ religious aim, or simply be a Muslim. Note that the white US vet who shot up the Sikh temple in Wisconsin was never labeled a terrorist, nor generally are the Oklahoma City bombers, Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols. despite their obvious anti- US government stance.

I'm never sure which masters the US media ultimately serve. Corporate entities who pay their bills? The US government who ultimately issues FCC license to broadcast? Not sure, but in the case of Boston, it's more than a little perplexing. And as the lethal corporate misdeeds in the Texas fertilizer explosion were all but ignored by the media, it added to the curious mix even more.

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