Don’t let them use fear to lock down our rights: How political establishment is trying to exploit the Boston bombings
April 22, 2013
The hunt for the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings is over, but the consequences will continue to be felt, affecting everything from the character of mainstream politics; to the scaremongering about “radical Islam,” both abroad and on U.S. soil; to the question of civil liberties and whether they should be violated if authorities decide there is a “terrorist threat.”
Three days after Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout and brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was wounded and arrested hours later, we still don’t know the motives of the two suspects—whether, as the media implies, based on speculation, that their decision to inflict such terrible carnage was connected in their minds to their identity as Chechens or Muslims or both.
What we do know is that there will be a rush to score political points—and that rush will invariably come at the expense of our rights.
The Boston Marathon bombings were a sadistic attack, designed to maim, and targeted against people who bear no responsibility for the ills of society. But now those bombings are being used as a justification for furthering an agenda of violence and political repression.
It may not be popular to do so, but those who oppose war, racism and injustice need to speak up and question the rush to judge and scapegoat—and challenge those who will try to exploit the horror of the Boston bombings as an excuse to take away our rights.
All of the racist assumptions about “terrorism” that simmer below the surface in the U.S. media and political establishment came bubbling up in the past week.
In general, the media were initially hesitant to label the Boston bombings to be the work of Middle Eastern Islamic extremists. But there were exceptions even in the first days after the tragedy—like CNN anchor John King reporting that the suspected bomber was a “darker-skinned” male with a “possible foreign accent.”
No publication sunk as low as the New York Post, which first falsely reported that a “Saudi national” was in custody for the bombings—and then ran a front cover with an image of two men and the headline “BAG MEN: Feds seek these two.” Those men were not the Tsarnaevs, and had nothing to do with the bombings. But because they had brown skin, the Post felt justified in painting a target on their backs.
The Post later claimed to stand by its story since it “did not identify [the two pictured men] as suspects.” Gawker.com’s Tom Scocca called that excuse “legalistic horseshit.”
Behind it all was the prejudices of the media—and the political establishment beyond them—about what gets called “terrorism”: acts of violence committed by people of Middle East origins who identify as Muslims.
It wasn’t long before the impact was felt. In New York City, on the night of the bombing, Abdullah Faruqu, a Bangladeshi man, was attacked by several men calling him a “fucking Arab.” Heba Abolaban, a young Palestinian doctor and mother, was assaulted in Malden, Mass., two days after the bombing, while walking with her children. Her assailant punched her in the shoulder and shouted, “Fuck you, Muslims!” and “You are involved in the Boston explosions.”
Once the Tsarnaev brothers were identified as suspects—and their background, including their emigration to the U.S. from Chechnya and their Muslim faith, came to light—the racist scapegoating really got underway.
Republicans led the baying for blood, of course. New York Rep. Steve King called for a new McCarthyism, telling the National Review that police must “realize that the threat is coming from the Muslim community and increase surveillance there.” New York state Sen. Greg Ball advocated torturing Dzhokar Tsarnaev, writing, “Who wouldn’t use torture on this punk to save more lives?”