The Boston bombings reveal a deadlier blowback

by , under Enrique

I was shocked to hear about the twin bombs in Boston and my heart goes to the victims. Two days after the incident, however, speculation has been rife about the probable ethnicity of the perpetrator. The eerie silence of the killer suggests that this was probably carried out individually.  

Kuvankaappaus 2013-4-17 kello 10.16.30
The latest story on the Boston Globe reveals no clues on who the killers could be.

Anupreet Sandhu Bhamra, a Canadian journalist who has published on Migrant Tales, read the following tweet after the bombings: ”Oh God, please, let it not be a Muslim.”

The sense of dread that was mentioned in the tweet was felt by the small visible immigrant community in Finland after we learned about the assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme on February 28, 1986.

I too hoped that the assassin that killed Palme isn’t an immigrant.

Not only was anti-immigration sentiment in Finland a fact of life back then, it was alive and kicking despite the fact that only 0.3% of the population (17,039 people) were immigrants.

Initial media coverage of the Boston tragedy revealed that US authorities suspected the killer to be a man who spoke with an accent. That man turned out to be a Saudi Arabian man who was later released by officials.

While the bombings were a cowardly act, the blowback from it proves even more devastating by revealing our prejudices and hatred of other groups.

You may have initially asked who could commit such a heinous crime in the US? It couldn’t be a white man, right?

The bombings raise an important question: If labeling, victimizing and generalizing of different groups are wrong, why do we persist in doing so?

The answer to that question should reveal the role that racism plays in our society and why the battle against this social ill is halfhearted.

Bhamra writes: ”The Oklahoma City bombing was a terrorist bomb attack in downtown Oklahoma on April 19, 1995. Initial news stories were quick to wrongly suggest Islamic terrorists were behind the attack. As a result, Muslims and people of Arab descent were attacked. Later, when the suggestions turned out to be incorrect and the suspect turned out to be a White man, the racial framework was quickly and conveniently dropped.”

On July 22, 2011, we suffered a similar tragedy when Anders Breivik went on the rampage in Norway and killed in cold blood 77 innocent victims. In the same way that initial coverage in Oklahoma pointed the finger at Muslims, some thought that the killer in Norway to be a Middle Easterner as well.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg showed exceptional leadership as Norway was mourning its victims. Contrary to Washington’s reaction to 9/11, the Norwegian prime minister said that his country’s response to the mass killings will be more openness and more democracy. According to him, Norway had become after July 22 “more tolerant, [and] more careful not to judge people” by ethnic origin.

Another tragedy that we are witnessing after 22/7 is how the media, politicians and public are collectively forgetting what Breivik did never mind its causes, which haver their roots in Islamophobia and anti-immigration sentiment.

While racism is an effective tool to divide and conquer other groups, we should never forget that it is a rabid dog on a short leash that can bite back and hard at its master.

  1. Yossie

    Blowback? Where? As far as I have seen, no one has any idea who was behind this. Where is this blowback? Share us the links on articles blaming muslims! You are just fitting this for your agenda.

    If anything, one should be concerned how the news are made in general. When ever something horrible happens, news media brings worth “experts” that do little more than guessing as there is nothing to work with yet. Then these guesses stick on people´s mind.

    If its the blowback and prejudice you are concerned, I don’t remember you being worried at all when the minority member burned down his pizza place for insurance fraud and people were yelling racism and organizing marches before anything was known.

  2. Mark

    Yossie

    I read in international media outlets that people were reporting an Arab man in the vicinity. My guess is there were people of many different nationalities, but that Arabs are nowadays associated with terrorism more easily than any other ethnicity, regardless of the truth of rates of terrorism and ethnicity. That is a problem. But of course, it’s a problem that you know nothing about because you are not of Arab descent.

    After 9/11, the Madrid attacks and the London bombings, it is inevitable that terrorism is first linked to the international network of Al Qaeda. But the responsible thing is to remain cautious until information emerges, because the rise in tensions DOES lead to more attacks and assaults on people of ethnicity following the early stages of an attack, regardless of the motives of the perpetrator. This was clearly seen after the Oklahoma bombing, and things are much worse today.

    • Yossie

      Arabs have done fine work building up the reputation with their terrorist attacks. Then again, like I said in the start. The problem I see is news media rushing in to report what ever tiniest rumor/lead they can squish out in cases like this.

      I mainly follow finnish media so I can only refer to that so for example: In finnish media there was this expert telling “it feels like a lone wolf” Like really? By that time he could only be guessing as there was hardly any information. Is it fine to speculate stuff in news?

    • Mark

      Yossie

      Arabs have done fine work building up the reputation with their terrorist attacks.

      Sounds like a cynical and racist comment, Yossie. You realise that Europe suffers greater threats from home-grown terrorists and separitits. The Arab world consists of 422 million people Yossie. How many have been involved in terrorist attacks? A few hundred, possible a few thousand in the broader network of extremism. And yet you feel justified to refer to ‘Arabs’ as a generalised category of people responsible for a reputation for terror?

      You have just illustrated exactly the problem that Enrique touched on, regardless of what you think about the Boston bombing being a lone wolf.

      So rather than ask Arabs how they actually suffer from this stigmatisation, you actually take a step sideways and instead say why it’s justified. I guess you’ve pinned your colours to the mast, right there!

    • Yossie

      My apologizes then. Would had been more accurate to refer it as Al-qaida and groups inspired by it.

      Then may I ask how fair is it then to say something like:

      “blowback from it proves even more devastating by revealing our prejudices and hatred of other groups.”

      How many of “us” has done or said anything that would be counted as “blowback”?

      Also, what I said didn’t meant I consider it to be a lone wolf. I don’t consider anything as it would be only guessing and nothing good comes out from guessing. That was my point.

    • Mark

      Yossie

      Would had been more accurate to refer it as Al-qaida and groups inspired by it.

      Exactly.

      “blowback from it proves even more devastating by revealing our prejudices and hatred of other groups.”

      How many of “us” has done or said anything that would be counted as “blowback”?

      That’s a fair comment. Maybe Enrique would like to explain why he used that wording. There is a very good argument that ‘we’, meaning our society, needs to take a collective stand on issues of prejudice, beginning with a clear admittance that it is a problem, that it is unfair and that society should be seen to stand up to it. Beyond that, it is not right to all people feel responsible for the actions of others.

      The reason we need society to make a collective stand on prejudice is because it attacks society’s inclusiveness, and only a state-wide action can repair the damage, first through legislation to outlaw particularly harmful forms of prejudice and second, through a clear stance on the values of inclusiveness and rights that underpins the moral opposition to prejudice like this.

      The same cannot be said for Muslims who are held accountable in the same way for the actions of other Muslims, or indeed, ethnic groupings in Finland being held accountable for the actions of people of the same ethnicity abroad. There is no easy black and white here. After the terrorist attacks in the UK, significant moves were made to pressure the Islamic community to do more from within to counter radicalism. Momemtum has grown, but such efforts are only likely to gain ground when Muslims are treated as part of the solution as opposed to part of the problem.

  3. Farang

    On July 22, 2011, we suffered a similar tragedy when Anders Breivik went on the rampage in Norway and killed in cold blood 77 innocent victims. In the same way that initial coverage in Oklahoma pointed the finger at Muslims, some thought that the killer in Norway to be a Middle Easterner as well.

    Actually this is outrageous misinformation. Nobody at any point suspected a muslim.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      –Actually this is outrageous misinformation. Nobody at any point suspected a muslim.

      Farang, you have to read the news and be informed. Check out what common Norwegians started to do in Oslo when they saw a Muslim. Some were out for blood. Why do you think Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said that we should not label people because of ethnic background?

    • Mark

      Farang

      So, you think that nobody at any point suspected a Muslim? Let’s see how you jump to qualify that statement after you read these:

      Washing Post: Jennifer Rubin quoted the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies‘ Thomas Joscelyn and AEI scholar Gary Schmitt, saying the attacks were the result of Islamic terrorism.

      Wall St Journal: “in jihadist eyes, [Norway] will always remain guilty of being what it is: a liberal nation committed to freedom of speech and conscience, equality between the sexes, representative democracy, and every other freedom that defines the West. For being true to those ideals, Norwegians have now been asked to pay a terrible price.”

      Even when the WSJ found out it was a Norwegian, they still insisted on calling it an ‘Al Qaeda copy-cat attack’.

      New York Times: the New York Times did the same think, calling it a mirror attack of Al Qaeda’s brutality. In fact, the NYT even took out the word terrorist after Breivik was identified and referred to him thereafter as a ‘Christian extremist’.

      The Sun (UK): The Sun described the attack as an Al Qaeda massacre and Norway’s 9/11.

      Atlas Shrugs: Pamela Geller, publisher of Atlas Shrugs and executive director of Stop Islamization of America, wrote on her website shortly after the attack started to filter through the news: “You can ignore jihad, but you cannot avoid the consequences of ignoring jihad.”

      The Norwegian Prime Minister said at one point that terrorism could not be ruled out, which many took to mean Islamic terrorism, rightly or wrongly.

      It’s hardly misinformation. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it is outrageous misinformation to claim that Muslims were not suspected and that this was very visible in all forms of media.

      Wrong YET AGAIN Farang!

    • Farang

      It was almost immediately known that attacker was Norwegian.

      Mark, no point in referring to foreign magazines which are full of misinformation anyway.

      Nobody in Norway or other nordic countries suspected a muslim.

    • Mark

      Farang

      Mark, no point in referring to foreign magazines which are full of misinformation anyway.

      You are one prize fucking idiot!

      Nobody in Norway or other nordic countries suspected a muslim.

      And there is the qualification! I’ll leave it to our Nordic friends to prove you wrong!

  4. Farang

    Mark

    And there is the qualification! I’ll leave it to our Nordic friends to prove you wrong!

    I’m not holding my breath waiting for that proof 😀

    • Mark

      No doubt you won’t accept proof anyway. I think that this event was reported internationally and therefore both US and UK high end media outlets can be regarded as having a global influence. But you shifted the goal posts, as predicted, so that you wouldn’t have to deal with a direct contradiction to your ridiculous claim that NOBODY blamed the Muslims. I didn’t see any mention of the word Nordic in there.

  5. Enrique Tessieri

    Thank you Mark for those links, which show beyond any doubt the speculation surrounding what happened in Boston.

    • Yossie

      The references to articles about norway´s massacre proves your point about Boston? How many articles are there that blame muslims for Boston? How many articles are there that say nothing is known so far?

      Sure you might find someone pointing the finger at muslims but at the same time conspiracy theories and what not are in full run already. I can’t see any blowback you are refering as there is hardly anything known.

    • Mark

      What you can see is not important. It is what Arabs see, as they are the one’s that feel it. Can you acknowledge this point?

  6. Farang

    Mark

    Okay. Here Veli discusses the press reaction and the reaction on Hommaforum in the first few paragraphs of this article. It’s in Finnish. Nordic enough for you?
    http://deduco.wordpress.com/tag/hyokkays/
    Nobody?

    Where is the evidence? There is only Veli making claims with nothing to back those up. Please, any link to hommaforum to show that the discussion actually took place?

    • Mark

      lolol.

      So you dismiss this person’s views as merely ‘claims’. So he was deluded, was he? I’ll dig some more, and sure enough, I’m certain that we will find the twitter responses, the newspaper responses etc that you are asking for from the Nordic region.

      Likewise, the simple fact is that Veli is not a ‘nobody’. You claimed NOBODY thought it was Muslims. Well Veli did think that.

      And like he said, anyone that says they didn’t suspect Muslim terrorists is either mentally retarded or lying. I think that sums it up.

      The question is what that linking of terrorism to Muslims does to the vast vast majority of peaceful and law-abiding citizens in Europe? It makes them vulnerable and a target. It undermines their dignity and their right to take part in society on an equal footing with all other citizens, regardless of ethnicity or religion.

    • Farang

      Mark

      Likewise, the simple fact is that Veli is not a ‘nobody’. You claimed NOBODY thought it was Muslims. Well Veli did think that.

      No. Veli did not think it was Muslims. He only claimed that someone else thought it was Muslims. And as there is no evidence on that, result is that nobody has thought it was muslims.

    • Mark

      Farang

      No. Veli did not think it was Muslims. He only claimed that someone else thought it was Muslims.

      I think we’ll have to disagree about that. I think this is pretty convincing when it comes to what his first thoughts were.

      Kuka oikeasti ihan rehellisesti ei pitänyt tätä vaihtoehtoa kaikista todennäköisimpänä? Jos vastasit “minä” niin valehtelet tai olet älyllisesti vajavainen.

      And as there is no evidence on that, result is that nobody has thought it was muslims.

      And the Hommaforum discussions he refers to? He made them up did he?

  7. Farang

    The question is what that linking of terrorism to Muslims does to the vast vast majority of peaceful and law-abiding citizens in Europe? It makes them vulnerable and a target. It undermines their dignity and their right to take part in society on an equal footing with all other citizens, regardless of ethnicity or religion

    How?

    Even if I would suspect that the terrorist attack was by muslims and even if it would be revealed that it actually was muslims, it wouldn’t still affect anyway how I see muslims or how I treat muslims.

    • Mark

      Farang

      Even if I would suspect that the terrorist attack was by muslims and even if it would be revealed that it actually was muslims, it wouldn’t still affect anyway how I see muslims or how I treat muslims.

      Are you really trying to extrapolate from you own personal views and experience to this entire effect of stigmatisation. Arabs and Muslims feel it. The harm is clear – people should be free to shop, free to walk down the street, free to read the newspaper, free to take part on an equal basis with other people without fear of being labelled or suspected of terrorism. When you lose that safety of being an accepted and respected member of society, you have lost something often intangible, but which is typically referred to as ‘dignity’.

      So, more fingers in ears and “blah, blah, blah” when it comes to the effects of stigmatisation and Islamaphobia? Are you really denying that there is no Islamaphobia in Europe or in Finland? Or just that this hate propoganda has no victims, as you have done in the past?

    • Farang

      Why is it only the speculation of terroris being a muslim in causing harm to muslims?

      How come speculating it was a white american is not causing harm to white americans?

    • Mark

      Farang

      How come speculating it was a white american is not causing harm to white americans?

      Because if he was white American, then it is unlikely that his ethnicity would garner much more than a passing reference. If he was Muslim or Arab, then this would generate a great deal of ‘them and us’ rhetoric, which the emphasis on hostility towards the perceived ‘them’.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      Farang, here is a comprehensive story on the Guardian about the wrong leads that the law and newspapers have followed when looking for suspects.

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/16/boston-marathon-bombings-misreporting

      This is what they write about Breivik:

      “In July 2011, when a bomb exploded in a building in central Oslo at the same time as a gunman opened fire on children at an island camp, news reports were quick to link the attacks to al-Qaida and militant Islamists. But it emerged that the mass killer was a blond Norwegian, Anders Behring Breivik.

      Breivik was convicted of terrorism and pre-meditated murder, after killing 77 people, and sentenced to 21 years in prison. He pleaded guilty and said the attacks were needed to prevent the “Islamisation” of Norway.”

    • Farang

      So, once again we see that you demand different treatment based on ethnic background…

    • Mark

      Farang

      So, once again we see that you demand different treatment based on ethnic background…

      Read the explanation again, and again, and again…and hopefully you will not find yourself in this dead-end logic, ONCE AGAIN.

    • Mark

      This well illustrates the problem. Now let’s see how often the ‘Middle Eastern’ gets repeated and remains part of the news story. If these men were white American, the ethnicity would be replaced by a political label, such as ‘white supremacists’, or ‘extremist Christian’. The ethnicity disappears. This will not happen in this case. That is the effect of white privelege. Every time the ‘Arab’ ethnicity is mentioned, it reinforces the idea that the ethnicity was in itself responsible for the attack, when in fact it was the political identity specifically that motivates to violence.

      In other words, a political question becomes ethnicised! That is the effect directly of racism!

    • Farang

      Notice the difference in Finnish media. In Finnish newspapers they don’t mention the ethnicity at all.

      Anyway, I acknowledge the problem and I agree with you. When a white person commits a crime, he is treated as an individual, but when a black person commits a crime, situation is seen as “damn those black people, always committing crimes”.

      That is not right. I think this is one reason why Finnish media don’t say the ethnicity of the criminals. But this has also one side effect: Some people will anyway dig out the ethnicity and then the hell gets loose and media is accused of protecting the criminals and this is used to create even more hatred towards the ethnicity.

    • Mark

      Farang

      That is not right. I think this is one reason why Finnish media don’t say the ethnicity of the criminals. But this has also one side effect: Some people will anyway dig out the ethnicity and then the hell gets loose and media is accused of protecting the criminals and this is used to create even more hatred towards the ethnicity.

      Exactly. You put it very well.

    • Mark

      However, I would add that allowing or encouraging the media to ‘ethnicise’ crime reporting just because a minority of racists deliberately do that and get some mileage out of it is not the answer. Society cannot be blackmailed into ethnicising politics and social issues by those who are most likely to then exploit that ‘institutional’ racism once it was allowed to run rampant.

  8. Klay_immigrant

    The media has the obligation to give facts and that includes the suspect’s ethnicity. What people’s reaction to the facts shouldn’t be of any concern because whether you think highly or lowly of Arabs the suspects are still Arabs and that won’t change.

    The witholding of any facts by the media that are completely objective and with no involvement of opinion is censorship plain and simple.

    • Mark

      What a load of bollocks!

      The ethnicising of crime, or terrorism and of politics is not an ‘objective’ approach in the least. It entails a specific form of pathalogical bias called racism!

  9. Farang

    If ethnicity has no relevance for the crime, then why should it be relevant information to publish as a fact?

    I don’t see media reporting for example what kind of car does the criminal own, what kind of food does the criminal eat, or how many girl friend the criminal had in high school.

    Those are all facts but have nothing to do with the crime. What makes the ethnicity a kind of fact that needs to be published?

    If the crime itself is a racist crime, for example white man assaulting black people because he hates black people, then the ethnicity has relevance for the case and publishing it gives relevant information about the crime.

    Am I making any sense?

    • Mark

      Farang

      Those are all facts but have nothing to do with the crime. What makes the ethnicity a kind of fact that needs to be published?

      There are several reasons a media outlet would be tempted to mention ethnicity. The most powerful is the sense that a perpetrator is not ‘one of us’ and that it wasn’t an ‘illness in the family’. In some ways, this can be comforting to people, as comprehending how ‘one of our own’ can turn on us is far more difficult. Breivik is a good example. In the end, people look for short-hand explanations – insanity, extremism etc.

      The other reason is that international terrorism is often perceived as an attack of one ethnicity on another, or one nationality on another, or one religion on another, with various blends possible.

      Another reason is that some countries in the world resent the financial and political power of Western countries, and so it’s a kind of short-hand for ‘our brother who is resentful and unhappy with how the inheritance was shared out.’

      The other problem is the mixing of religion and politics. I plan to write an MT article on this later today.

    • Farang

      There are several reasons a media outlet would be tempted to mention ethnicity. The most powerful is the sense that a perpetrator is not ‘one of us’ and that it wasn’t an ‘illness in the family’. In some ways, this can be comforting to people, as comprehending how ‘one of our own’ can turn on us is far more difficult. Breivik is a good example. In the end, people look for short-hand explanations – insanity, extremism etc.

      That is still not an acceptable reason. We are all human beings, therefore we shouldn’t be feeling different based on the ethnicity of the perpetrator or the victim.

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