Like the massacre at Sandy Hook School, the Boston Marathon bombing was an act of extreme violence that resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians. Obviously there were differences between the two attacks, and not only in a matter of degree but in motive: The Newtown shooter’s crazed reasons for opening fire on an elementary school, whatever they might have been, died with him, while the testimony of the surviving Boston bomber and information gathered so far point increasingly to Islamic jihad.
But MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry looks for deeper differences. And in her Saturday show, the Tulane political science professor shares her insights:
This week, when two young men allegedly committed a callous and calculated act of mass violence that resulted in the loss of American lives, we didn’t know right away what caused them to do it. But many decided almost immediately what to call it: They called it terrorism. And we use the word terrorism to describe events like Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings, and when we do we’re not just categorizing an act; we’re enabling a catalyst that provokes the state into action….
But this is the very same week when we watched the final round of the political tug of war that began with another callous and calculated act of mass violence. Only the events of that day fell short of the mark for what we call terrorism. And the state’s response in this case could most accurately be described as inaction.
So, to sum, Newtown, by Harris-Perry’s lights, was met with “inaction,” while the Boston bombings brought decisive “action.” And this, couched in terms of her default grievance, is yet another example of inequality, which she sees as the curse of present-day America.
Usually her complaints break along racial lines, but this time her beef is ideological. When an act of violence is deemed terrorism, the nation pulls out all the stops — which is how conservatives like it. It is another opportunity for “wingnuts” to defame a peaceful religion and its practitioners in the name of national security. And the government can be counted on to play along. Early last Friday, for example, “no fewer than 20 different law enforcement agencies and more than 1,000 officers” descended on the Boston metropolitan area.
But what happens when 26 victims, most of them young children, are brutally gunned down? Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
It seems not to have occurred to Harris-Perry that Newtown shooter Adam Lanza died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound immediately after his attack, whereas the Boston bombers vanished into the crowd. The only reason that these two men were able to bring “the country’s tenth largest metropolitan area to a complete standstill” is that they were at large and considered by law enforcement to be armed and dangerous. If Lanza had fled after his shooting spree, does anyone seriously doubt that a manhunt involving “different law enforcement agencies” would have ensued — that Newtown and neighboring communities would have been locked down?
Has Harris-Perry forgotten that Adam Lanza’s history was meticulously searched and that people who knew him even vaguely were questioned in an attempt to explain why he did what he did?
When Harris-Perry harrumphs that there was “inaction” after Newtown, she means that the kind of “action” she would prefer was not taken.
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