Wednesday, 17 April 2013


by Andy Nowicki

If the Boston Marathon bomber had a Facebook avatar, his picture would be a Rorschach blob. The authorities, who are surely “pursuing all leads,” as cops always are, nevertheless still appear to know little about him at this point (though most of them, like me, presume that the person in question is indeed a “him”), so the American public can only project our fears and fantasies upon this so far reclusive mystery man with no discernible agenda, whose murderous motives are as yet unexplained.

Fears, fantasies… and most strangely of all, hopes. It is sickeningly stunning, though unsurprising, to observe how baldly partisan many commenters are about this subject. Mainstream conservatives very badly want this guy to be an Al Qaeda-affiliated Islamist, while liberals yearn ardently for him to be some type of right-wing anti-big government angry white male. One Salon scribe has even made his preference on this score explicit. But regardless of the identity of the perp (or perps), what is really to be gained by wishfully positing the bomb-man as your ideological enemy? Does anyone really think that either the wild-eyed, Koran-wielding jihadi community or the red-necked, gun-toting Middle-American militia contingent will be significantly affected with a massive influx of intolerably poor PR if yet another of their ranks proves to be terroristically-inclined?

Did we not learn that pissed-off white men from the heartland can be deadly and remorseless killers way back in 1995, when Tim McVeigh, with the help of Eric Nichols, blew up the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, or soon afterwards, when Eric Rudolph detonated his own IED at Centennial Park in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympics? And didn’t we have to conclude on September 11, 2001, that Middle Eastern men with a hard-on for Allah can do some very nasty things indeed if they put their minds to it?

Or is it merely the notion of getting to gloat over the other side having to be embarrassed and defensive, instead of one’s own side? But surely one knows that any indulgence in Schadenfreude (“Ha ha… one of your guys did it, not one of ours… so suck it, bitch!”) amounts to little more than a silly and juvenile display of schoolyard taunting, rendered particularly lame by the triviality of the circumstances. After all, even if the latest shackled man in orange being led away by troopers happens to be a representative of an opposing tribe, clan, or orientation, does this fact in any sense take away from the fact that people on your side are culpable as well? Do you have less cause to be ashamed just because the latest perpetrator of violence doesn’t claim to play for your team?

Then again, before I get on my high horse too much about the impermissibility of violence against non-combatants (a doctrine to which, I’ll admit, I sincerely subscribe), permit me to note one final, scorching irony which further highlights the useless rhetoric which surrounds events like the Boston marathon. President Obama, of course, had to say something about the mayhem in Beantown, and what he chose to tell the nation was this: “Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it’s an act of terror.”

Bravo, Mr. President! And surely, as the architect of the far-ranging new technology which has wiped out innocent civilians all across the world, you don’t at all mean to indict yourself here. For certain, it’s totally different when drones are used, rather than bombs. That’s not terror; that’s completely kosher, in fact! Yeah, that’s the ticket….

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