2013-04-17 – The hours of uncertainty after an event like the Boston Marathon bombing bring up an interesting question—that is: what is terrorism?
Here we had an event that created terror. And the terror was obviously intentional. But in the initial hours we don’t have any idea who perpetrated the crime, so we don’t know whether the act was an act of terrorism or . . .
Or what? If an act of terror is perpetrated for political reasons, we call it terrorism. If the act is perpetrated for personal, possibly insane reasons, we just call it a mass murder. Why the difference?
I think the categorization is entirely political. It has to do with how we respond to these acts. If the act is political, we are free to express our anger, demanding revenge against the perpetrators. If the act is nonpolitical, we have no such outlet. Just bewilderment.
And so we wait. And in the absence of waiting, people who would never plot a bombing themselves seize the event and use it to advance their own political agendas. People like Westboro Baptist Church, who use the event to advance their anti-gay agenda; Tea Partyists, who call for the destruction of radical Islam on the assumption that the bombers were jihadists, gun-control advocates, who call for a backlash against right-wing gun nuts; nativists, who call for a crack-down on immigrants. And on and on.
What do you call people like this, anyway? Terror-beneficiaries? I guess not all people are appalled by the deaths and maiming of innocent people.
We apparently don’t know how to stop terrorists. But is there some way to stop the terror-beneficiaries?