The Boston marathon terror bombings have revealed again the extensive – and typically negative – role American media plays in such attacks. Regardless of the extent of the damage, regardless of the real impact of the event and inevitably regardless of any sense of perspective the media outlets, especially the television news channels, play any attack for all its worth, indulging in an orgy of strained and meaningless coverage and righteous indignation. To be sure, this sort of thing also happens when students are massacred, especially children, but the attention only comes when the casualty list is long and fades without any action taken by government.
Nothing obliterates all other news in America like a “terrorist” attack. More than a week later and with the bombers killed or captured CNN was still devoting all its airtime to this single issue; even ESPN and the NFL channel bumped their programming for a day or two to talk about the incident. This meant seeing the bombing videos over and over and over and being treated to increasingly vapid and uninformative interviews. And everyone felt obliged to put their own touch on the story: CNN of course trucked out the heavies, Blitzer, Cooper and Gupta, while my local media scored a couple of New Mexico runners who had been at the marathon. The unending expressions of grief and outrage could hardly fail to become unconvincing. Does Wolf Blitzer actually pray for the victims in the news, as he says he does?
The down side of all this media fawning is of course that we are in effect rewarding the terrorist scum with seemingly endless air time and vastly exaggerating the impact and importance of their petty (in the great scheme of things) murders. This is the dramatic overreaction that accompanies any attack involving an apparent foreign enemy, though the perpetrators themselves might actually be Americans. Reason and perspective fly out the window, and the deaths of four or five people become a national tragedy, even though such would be a slow day for murder in many American cities. The suggested message is clear: we can slaughter dozens of our own neighbors, but you foreigners watch out. And murdering on behalf of some weirdo notion of Islam means “foreigner,” even if the criminals are Americans. A clear sign of this distinction: donations to the Boston victims have reached $14 million, while those for the victims of the Texas fertilizer explosion, which killed fourteen, wounded hundreds and devastated an entire town, are up to only $1 million.
As Europe has observed, our rage and retaliation in the wake of such acts seems way out of proportion to the damage actually done. Granted, two skyscrapers obliterated and some 3000 people dead is serious business, but the reaction was two essentially pointless wars and several hundred thousand Iraqis and Afghanis dead, not to mention the squandering of American lives and treasure. Worse, 9/11 was our Reichstag moment, beginning an ongoing assault on American civil liberties and accepted international law, which has only escalated under the Obama administration. The Patriot Act, unread by those who voted for it and containing clearly unconstitutional provisions, was a product of fear, ignorance and pressure from the country’s security apparatuses. To be sure, it falls short of the 1933 Enabling Act that formed the foundation of Hitler’s power, but it has tremendously increased the power of the executive, particularly in the areas of domestic surveillance and detention and waging war independent of Congress.
This time the governmental response has been far more measured, perhaps because the casualties were so limited and the perpetrators were so quickly dealt with, but Rep. Peter King, a man who is as blatantly anti-Muslim as one can be and still hold office, is already calling for increased surveillance of the already over-surveilled American Muslim community. And of course the petty beings who inhabit Congress are carping about who is to blame and making demands for a level of security that could only be achieved by the complete abnegation of the Constitution. In contrast the Middleton school massacre has resulted in absolutely no action, even though an incredible 90% of Americans support better gun control. The jihadist lobby obviously lacks the clout of the NRA.
“National security” has always been the clarion call of political oppression, and now the threat of “terrorism” has allowed for a never ending crisis justifying a never ending period of emergency measures and war. The definition of these two terms is also deliberately left vague. In the most obvious meaning of the term there has not been a serious threat to our national security since the Japanese Empire and the USSR, and even terrorists with nuclear weapons could not really threaten the destruction of the state. Now, however, blowing up a single American raises the issue of national security as readily as an invading army heading for our shores, so long as that individual is blown up by a Muslim or a foreigner. I seem to recall that Timothy McVeigh did not elicit cries of national security. Nor was he generally called a terrorist, though destroying innocents to make a point is the typical understanding of terrorism. You simply must be acting for a foreign cause, which in the American mind means Islam.
There is of course in all this a huge element of hypocrisy and double standards. Presumably every national/ethnic group considers its own people more valuable than others, but with its superior technology the west was able to take the “wog” idea to extremes: “Human life is cheap for them.” Well, we may plead self-defense as we assassinate people around the world, but the “just wogs” attitude is perfectly clear in our disregard for the innocents we are killing daily. Because of the staggering amount of secrecy – they only acknowledge the drone strikes because an exploding missile is difficult to cover up – accurate numbers are difficult to obtain, but even allowing for the most conservative figures we are on the average slaughtering with each strike far more innocents than the Chechin brothers did. But of course they killed Americans. The President and his spooks are just killing wogs, who probably intended to hurt us anyway.
My poor country. What happened to us?